Tribune. In many companies, employees whose work does not satisfy the hierarchy are subject to sanctions. But these practices, despite their frequency, remain in the shadows. Human resources departments minimize the use of these punishments and specialists in work motivation, who regard them as vestiges of the past and ineffective methods, hardly bother to discuss them.
This taboo must be broken. No, the productivity of employees is not only increased by positive incentives, mobilizing speeches or bonuses. Our research show that the threat of punishment is also quite effective, that it does indeed increase productivity (“You are free to choose. . . are you ? Organizational punishment as a productivity incentive in the social science literature », Tom McNamara, Debrah Meloso, Marco Michelotti, Petya Puncheva-Michelotti, Human Relations, April 3, 2021). And this demonstrated effectiveness should, in our opinion, encourage discussion and regulation of this “rational” recourse to sanctions.
A company can compensate employees for performance by offering bonuses, individual or collective, when certain objectives are reached. It can also motivate the troops with good working conditions, a narrative on the social role of the company, taking into account the individual needs of employees. All of these methods have been studied extensively by psychology researchers to increase engagement.
But the company can also aim in the same way for good productivity by threatening with punishment those who behave unwanted and / or do not obtain the required results. By compiling 150 studies, experimental, theoretical or in the field, in European, Chinese and American firms, we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of such methods.
Thus, one of these studies, carried out in high schools in the United States, shows that the results of students in mathematical tests improve when teachers are ordered to return part of their salary in the event of poor performance in their class … Another study indicates that, in a consumer electronics company in China, the threat to workers of losing part of their financial benefits if targets are not met has resulted in a marked increase in productivity.
Such financial sanctions are not authorized by law in France, but management by threat can take many forms: very short contracts, lasting a few days, which will not be renewed if the work is not satisfactory; contracts offering few hours of work per week, the scope of which will be further restricted if the employee does not struggle.
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