My take on the carrot and the stick

The carrot and the stick: in my experience, both work.

And most of my experiences – scholarly or employment – have traditionally included more of the latter. In fact, I have been in a lot of situations when until the stick was applied, the goal was not accomplished.

The homework was not done, the service was not provided, the client delivery was not made until someone did not come in waving a stick. Once the stick made the appearance and a few threatening (or in some cases, directly attacking) movements were made, things remained stuck.

So seeing the results that the stick brought, I learned to believe that it was the best way – the only way, indeed, to achieve quick and efficient results. You could say that I embraced Theory X of human motivation.

You could also say that this world view was not good for my well-being.

It was exhausting. To accomplish anything was a battle, an uphill struggle. My email breathed fire, and so did I during my meetings and conference calls.

I remember that most of the time, there were people around me who modeled the other way. The strategy of listening first and taking the time to understand the other side’s point of view and challenges. The benefits that could be gained from showing patience and faith in other people, rather than choosing to push, accuse and blame.

I also remember having conversations with my mentors, with people advising and reminding me over and over again that fighting would not take me far. That smoothing and building relationships would bring better results. And I remember arguing back šŸ™‚ because I just simply did not believe the carrot strategy would apply to my situation or solve my particular challenge.

I did try the carrot strategy several times – in most cases, because I was specifically requested to, or strongly advised that it would be the only way to achieve my goals. It felt counter-natural and insincere.

And then, I found myself in a situation that felt familiar, yet it was different. I knew, more or less, what I had to do – but the culture was different, and no-one was using the stick. Everyone operated according to the carrot theory.

It was weird. I was annoyed because everything was taking longer – because I could not just request it, I had to ask for it nicely. I did not get it. How did those people get anything done?

And yet, they did. And they seemed nice, and also seemed to enjoy their work. Hmmm.

So I tried this strange, weird communication technique. I tried it over and over again. And, to my shock, it worked. Stuff did get done. It was possible to do things in sustainable way, and focus on improving the process. People knew they were in it for a long haul, and they acted accordingly.

I learned that I could get things done in a different way, and that looking for the best in people brought it out in them.

That is not to say that my mentors don’t still occasionally remind me that there are peaceful ways to resolve my current challenges. However, this happens way less frequently now.

Wow, I came back from a blogging hiatus and wrote what feels like an incredibly personal post. And what the hell, I am going to publish šŸ™‚ Dear readers, you are welcome to share your stories of shifting world views, if you’d like. Or just say hi. Hi!

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