Workplace Motivation - A Lesson in Human Action

A while back I was introduced to this video (by Jake at The Voluntary Life) describing a slightly more nuanced and considerably more accurate account of workplace motivation than I had heretofore encountered.  I don't endorse the video in its entirety, and I have not researched any of the reference material for myself.  I had to put aside the fact that some of the research was funded by the Federal Reserve, the "mainstream of the mainstream" according to the video.  Just shudder and move on.

In spite of a few qualms, I do find the explanations regarding incentivisation to be in line with my experience.  I have, for the longest time, been walking around with this Homo Economicus model in my head when it comes to how people should be compensated and treated at work.  But the fact that humans are not purely rational, profit-maximizing John Galt machines, flies in the face of this viewpoint.  People are complex creatures with a wide array of subjective wants and needs who cannot be characterized by linear relationships of reward and behavior.  To paraphrase the video, we are purpose maximizers and each with his own purpose. 

Let this be a warning to central planners of all parties, personal autonomy is a requirement for the fulfillment of human aspirations, whether it is in the workplace or outside of it.  Narrow-minded, linear incentivisation schemes intended to 'nudge' a society toward some optimum state of behavior, besides being morally flawed, is almost certainly going to fail in predicting some nuanced aspect of human action. 

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