Avoiding Pitfalls in the Employment Contract

Avoiding Pitfalls in the Employment Contract

Avoiding Pitfalls in the Employment Contract

Steven Kerr opened his articule, The folly of Rewarding A, While Hopeing for B  by saying Whether dealing with monkeys, rats, or human beings, it is hardly controversial to state that most organisms seek information concerning what activities are rewarded, and then seek to do. An organization gets into trouble when it rewards behaviour that is detrimental to the overall success. When the reward system is off, it causes goal displacement, a phenomenon where the original objectives or goals of an organization, team, or individual are gradually replaced or overshadowed by new objectives or priorities. 


The displacement of goals can occur gradually and often unintentionally. It may result from a focus on short-term gains, bureaucratic processes, or the pursuit of metrics that do not align with the organization’s core mission or values. As a consequence, the organization may find itself prioritizing activities or outcomes that are not in alighnment with its primary objectives, leading to inefficiencies or even counterproductive behaviors. For instance, employees may prioritize meeting arbitrary performance targets over delivering meaningful outcomes, leading to a disconnect between their actions and the organization’s overarching goals. 

Managers who find their employees lacking motivation should entertain the notion that their reward systems may be inadvertently reinforcing behaviors counterproductive to their intended goals. This concept, articulated by Steve Kerr in his renowned article “The Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping for B,” underscores the importance of aligning rewards with desired behaviors.

In essence, if employees exhibit certain behaviors consistently, it suggests that those behaviors are being rewarded in some capacity. Therefore, if managers observe a lack of motivation or engagement among their workforce, it may be a sign that the current reward structures are not effectively incentivizing the desired actions. When an organization creates too much red tape, creates in too much change,  engages with the self-fullfilling prophecy or over-socializes their employees they are at risk of demotivating their employees.

Too Much Red Tape

Red tape, departmental conflicts inhibiting goal achievement, and work overload impeding excellence are common obstacles faced by employees. They make good performance difficult, if not impossible. Often novice managers may overlook this responsibility, unintentionally demotivating workers due to their unawareness of the detrimental effects of their words or actions.

Too Much Change, Politics, Favortism and Unclear Expectations

Too much change, politics, favoritism, and unclear expectations can erode employee motivation by creating uncertainty, fostering distrust, causing confusion, and perpetuating a sense of inequity within the organization. 

Self-fulfilling prophecy

The phenomenon, known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, occurs when individuals conform to an organization’s expectations of them. Essentially, a manager’s expectations for an employee influence how the manager treats the employee, thereby shaping the employee’s behavior to align with those expectations. If the organization portrays doubt in an employee’s abilities, it increases the likelihood of the employee’s failure. Conversely, if the organization expresses confidence in the employee’s potential for success, it enhances the likelihood of the employee’s success.


Over Socialization


Clear expectations need to be established, primarily through thorough onboarding and setting explicit guidelines. However, over socialization is also a problem. Sometimes, organizations go overboard, micromanaging employees’ speech, dress, and behavior. If an organization excessively dictates employee behavior, individuals may become reserved and engage less. For example, placing too much emphasis on the organization’s expectations of newcomers may result in conformity and passivity. Managers may interpret passivity as a desire for more direction and control, perpetuating a detrimental cycle. This dynamic hinders both individual growth and organizational effectiveness.


Agents and brokerages tend to attract similar customer types and as a result assume clients prefer those like themselves. Fearing loss of clients, organizations seek replicas of current staff and then over socialize individuals until they resemble the existing team. However, this overlooks the unique qualities of each person, limiting the organization’s ability to attract diverse clientele.


I had an experience of this with a team I joined, my presence attracted a new type of customer, but they weren’t the type either of us were accustomed to dealing with. These customers acted outside of my and the team’s norms, causing friction in the short term. The team compensated by trying to adhere more rigidly to their norms, which further escalated the friction. In situations like this, the organization and the people involved need to adapt to the new types of clients attracted by the expanded team and undergo the growing pains associated with it.


To thrive in a rapidly changing environment, organizations require innovative, creative, and independent thinkers. Striking a balance between fostering individuality and meeting expectations is needed.


Moving Forward


If you break a promise purposely or accidentally, then acknowledge the breach and form a new agreement. If you’ve pressured somebody into confirming, it’s okay to loosen the reigns and if you’ve been acting like people are going to fail, never fear. It’s always okay to let somebody know you believe in them.


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