Small Rewards In Public Trump Big Rewards In Private

If you buy a new car and then a week later your neighbour buys a better model of the same car, your satisfaction level with your car plummets.

If you get a pay rise and then a week later your coworker gets a bigger pay rise, your happiness has been turned to anger (perhaps fury).

After the Grenfell fire tragedy in London, I remember listening to a radio show where callers in the nearby area said they were disgusted by the idea survivors might be given new homes in their building. Apparently, callers had “worked really hard” for their home and it wasn’t fair.

Much of the anger and satisfaction we encounter in managing communities is based upon members comparing themselves positively or negatively to other members. The absolute value (points, rewards, punishment) is of lesser importance than how members relate it to the points, rewards, and punishments experienced by other members.

We once ran an interesting (if rather uncontrolled test). We gave top members in one community a big reward in private and top members in another community a much smaller reward in public. It wasn’t even close, the latter group engaged far better (and appeared far happier) with their small reward announced in public.

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