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Image ©

It’s a well-established principle of motivational psychology that “carrots are better than sticks” – that is: motivating people works better when there is something in it for them than when there is a punishment.

This works whether the “carrot” is a nice word or a cream bun, or whether the “stick” is an electric shock or a scream from a distant room.

When I pay attention in most meetings I have been to, the messages and feedback given are generally either neutral or negative – cases that didn’t go so well, complaints, the need to improve turnover, sell more dog food, sell payment plans, etc. 

It has been rare to hear “good catch!” or praise for a situation well-managed.

I sometimes get thank you cards from owners – and it’s often from the most unexpected ones. They mean an awful lot to me and I have kept them all. But such obvious displays of gratitude can be rare from our colleagues, managers and principals.

59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot
59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot” (2010), by Richard Wiseman

One of the practices I’ve been happiest in was one where I felt my “value” was actually measured in my abilities as a vet. The partners would say “nice job” every so often, and “thank you” when I stayed late to attend emergencies. More than anything else that made me feel good for days.

Richard Wiseman, in his book 59 Seconds, states that random or unexpected bonuses are more effective than a system – and unexpectedly getting an extra day off, or an experience reward, are more effective than money for most people.

In this profession I think most of us are motivated not only by compassion, but by learning; most of my colleagues get a real kick out of trying something new, saving a life, or catching a rare diagnosis – and for most that is all the reward they need to keep them coming in day-to-day.

So I wonder what you would consider to be suitable “random bonuses” for nurses and vets?

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