It’s the age-old question for parents, pet owners, employers, and managers alike. When it comes to getting the behavior you want, to motivating and engaging and growing, is the carrot better or the stick? As far as pets and children are concerned, that’s a whole other conversation, but for employees, the carrot always works better than the stick. We’ll look at why that is and how you go about applying it.

You can incentivize the exact kind of behavior you want to see

Rewards, from cash bonuses to an extra day off to something like crystal awards give people a sense of value in their job. They know they’re doing something right, but the important thing for a manager is that others know they’re doing something right as well. Use rewards to exemplify the qualities in work that you want to see, and others will want that experience as well. Sure, some people might just get jealous and sulky, but spotting those kinds of personalities is helpful as well.

People get confident

Positive reinforcement early, being open in helping people fix mistakes and taking it easy on newcomers is very important. Without it, people start off on an uneven foot and the rest of their path in the business feels shaky. That sense of unease, of insecurity, is a big cause of excessive stress at work leading to real burnout. Helping them get confident by being more patient with them makes them much more likely to actually grow into the level of competence you want.

They want to know they have an impact

If you want your employees to make a difference, to get engaged and to use their heads, you have to recognize when they do actually make that difference. If you focus only on the negative and whipping them into shape, they will feel like they’re just getting shaped into another brick in the wall.

Cushioned criticism is more likely to work

There is definitely such a thing a softening the blow too much. Be too positive when you’re trying to hand criticism, and people will focus almost solely on the positive and think little of making the changes you request. Instead, you should find a balance. Highlight their good points, yes, but make it clear that their mistakes or weaknesses are holding them back. Talk about their potential and what fixing those issues could really do for them. Make it clear the future for them looks bright, but only if they take the criticism on board. However, too much focus on the negative and people aren’t likely to see that potential. Instead, they might see an attack and fume over it. It’s human nature to get defensive. You need to get those defenses down first.

Less reason for people to quit

That defensiveness, the feeling of unease mentioned above, the lack of respect and recognition. These are all reasons that people are going to quit their job. Simply put, the majority of people do not bend under the stick, they break. In return, your business suffers, as does the morale of the rest of the team. Retain them and reshape them, instead.

The few times the carrot doesn’t work, it’s likely that the stick isn’t very well going to work either. If an employee won’t fix their ways with positive reinforcement, you can rest assured that threats won’t be a permanent fix either.