'Drive' Not Always Explained By Rewards
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Just a few weeks ago, lots of employees got a year-end bonus - a few hundred, a few thousand; in a very few cases, maybe millions extra for 12 months of hard work. For decades, businesses have operated under the theory of carrots and sticks. If you reach that goal, you'll get a reward. If you come in late, we'll dock your pay.
In a new book, Daniel Pink argues that for most of us, most of the time that theory is flat-out wrong, that people work harder and more creatively when bosses give them freedom to work on their own, pursue projects unrelated to their day-to-day jobs. They'll be happier, more innovative and more productive. Tell us how your workplace rewards its employees and be specific, please. Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later this hour, the comment section on Deborah Howell's obituary was inexplicably ablaze with cruelty. The same for articles about Rush Limbaugh's recent hospitalization. We'll talk about where that incivility comes from.
But first, Daniel Pink joins us here in Studio 3A. His new book is "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." Thanks very much for coming in today.
Mr. DANIEL PINK (Author, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us"): Neal, it's a pleasure to be on the program.
CONAN: And you basically say there have been - well, only a couple of basic motives for human beings throughout our long existence: the first, obviously, back on the savannah: survive.
Mr. PINK: Sure. That's our first drive, our biological drive. That's part of what it means to be human. We eat when we're hungry. We drink when we're thirsty. We reproduce to satisfy our sexual urges. But that's obviously not all that it is to be human.
CONAN: And that's not all that it is to be human. And then within the last hundred years or so - well, a lot of people looked at workplaces, particularly office workplaces, and said wait a minute. We can organize things differently if we have carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments. We can get people to do what they should doing, when they should be doing it.
Mr. PINK: Absolutely. That's the second drive. We respond - as human beings, we respond exquisitely to rewards and punishments in our environment. Typically, if you reward something, you get more of it. You punish something, you get less of it. And our businesses have been built for the last 150 years very much on that kind of motivational scheme.
CONAN: Yet, you say this is, in fact, a theory that holds that work is something to be - well, despised, loathed, something you wouldn't do unless you either get rewarded for doing it or punished for not doing it.
Mr. PINK: I think that's true for a lot of work, where you're turning the same screw the same way over and over again, in a factory. I think that's not - that kind of work isn't necessarily inherently interesting. I think it can be made inherently interesting. But less of us are doing that kind of work. And it's not, Neal, only what I say. I looked at 40 years of science, 40 years of research into human motivation. And what it says, over and over again, is that these carrots and sticks, they absolutely work, but in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. And particularly for creative tasks, for conceptual tasks, they don't work very well.
CONAN: And more and more of those turn-the-screwdriver jobs, they're being sent overseas. And...
Mr. PINK: Well, even turn-the-calculator jobs are being sent overseas and being automated. A lot of white-collar work requires less of the routine, rule-based, what we might call algorithmic set of capabilities, and more of the harder-to-outsource, harder-to-automate, non-routine, creative, juristic - as the scholars call it - abilities.
CONAN: And those kinds of creative jobs - well, there are things that you really can't send overseas so easily.
Mr. PINK: They're harder to send overseas. It's not impossible. But what's clear from the science, 40 years of motivation, is that the if-then motivators - if you do this, then you get that - the classic motivational scheme within an organization doesn't work for creative tasks. Period.
CONAN: Another thing you are - you say science is very critical of is when you set goals, those sales goals - sell 40 Chevys by February 15th, and that's the goal.
Mr. PINK: Well, goals are OK. Goals are not inherently bad. I write about a group of scholars who wrote fabulous paper called "Goals Gone Wild."
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. PINK: And what they say is that we see goals as this kind of uniform prescription for all that ails us. And in fact, goals should come with a warning label. A lot of times when you have very short-term goals with a high payoff, nasty things can happen. In particular, a lot of people will take the low road there. They'll become myopic. They'll crowd out the longer-term interests of the organization or even of themselves.
CONAN: Let's be clear. When you say low road, you mean cheat.
Mr. PINK: Cheat, sure.
CONAN: Yeah. And one should point out, there's an awful lot of corporations in this country where there is a very short-term goal, and that's the - of the quarterly statement.
Mr. PINK: Oh, well that's - I mean, I think that's a - I think that's one of the reasons for the dysfunctions that we've seen in the economy over the last 10 years. We - here we are in the first few days of January, and we look back on the past decade, and it was a decade of spectacular underachievement. I think that's partly because of the short-term, high-stakes rewards, and no sense of enduring value over the long haul. And what's interesting is that there's research out there that shows that companies that spend the most time providing quarterly guidance for their earnings, that spend the most time in resources providing guidance, they have lower long-term growth rates than those who don't.
CONAN: For one reason, you point out, because it does not do you an awful lot of good, in the short run, to spend money on research and development.
Mr. PINK: Absolutely. They end up sacrificing research and development. And so I think that what we need in our businesses today is a - kind of an updated operating system that goes beyond carrots and sticks and recognizes that human beings are not simply horses, and that if you treat people like people, the science shows that people will respond. They work at a very high level and both individuals, organizations - and the economy, I think - can be better off.
CONAN: And the first principle you establish in treating people like people, you say, is to, well, let people be self-directed. Don't monitor them. Don't sit on their head. Don't have that time - punch card on them. Let them keep their own hours, where practicable, and do things on their own time.
Mr. PINK: Absolutely. One of the important drives that we have - this third drive to do things because they're interesting, because we want to do them - is this drive for autonomy and for self-direction. This is - comes out from the research of two brilliant scholars at the University of Rochester named Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. And what you're seeing now in a lot of companies, and plenty of companies you haven't heard of, is that providing individuals with enormous amounts of autonomy leads to a more satisfied, more engaged, more productive, more innovative work force.
CONAN: In fact, people work harder.
Mr. PINK: They can - they often do - well, they work better. I mean, in some ways, working harder is part of the whole carrot-and-stick thing. I mean, what we want is, we want people to do great things. It doesn't necessarily mean we want them to be - that being there for 16 hours is better than being there for 12 hours. And so, you know, they are great examples. For instance, there's a software company called Atlassian, an Australian software company. Once a quarter, they say to their software developers, go work on anything you want, anyway you want, with whomever you want. You just have to show the results to the company at the end of 24 hours.
CONAN: And by the way, we own it.
Mr. PINK: Oh, absolutely. There's no question about that. These - autonomy does not entail giving away the intellectual property rights.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. PINK: We're still - you know, it's a largely capitalist system here. But what's interesting about that is that that sparked a whole array of innovations in that company - ideas for new products, upgrades of existing products. And it runs afoul of how we typically think we motivate somebody. We say we need people to be innovative; let's give them an innovation bonus.
Mr. PINK: Give them $500 if they're innovative. And instead, what they did is they gave people autonomy, and these - one day of intense autonomy produced a huge array of really interesting innovations - so much so that they now do it once a quarter.
CONAN: We're talking today with Daniel Pink. His new book is "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." We want you to tell us how people, workers are motivated in your office. Be specific, please; 800-989-8255. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's start with Elizabeth, Elizabeth calling us from Jackson in Michigan.
ELIZABETH (Caller): Hi, there. How are you today?
CONAN: I'm good. Thanks.
ELIZABETH: Thank you. I worked for Starbucks for two and a half years, and one of the things that I really liked about it - I know it's not an office, but they had these Mug Awards and other little cards that other partners - you know, each employee's called a partner because they had a share in the company. And each employee could give other anonymously or, you know, by name, appreciation cards. And it was a wonderful way to really appreciate each other. And there wasn't really a reward other than you - sometimes you got a pen. But it was great way to, sort of pat each other on the back and not expect, you know, a major reward for it.
CONAN: Non-monetary; there was no cash involved.
ELIZABETH: Well, and it wasn't from a superior. Oftentimes, you know, it was just partners giving each other partners - or a reward or, you know, shift supervisors receiving one from somebody underneath them, and it was really a nice way to do it.
CONAN: All right, Elizabeth, thanks very - you stopped, you're no longer in the coffee business?
ELIZABETH: I'm not. I'm graduating from college and moving on in my life, but it's one of those systems that I would love to see put in place in any office that I work in.
CONAN: All right, Elizabeth, thanks very much for the call. Good luck to you.
ELIZABETH: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Is this a good example?
Mr. PINK: It's a great example because here's what it is, Neal. That is not the classic kind of carrot and stick. The classic kind of carrot and stick is what I call an if-then reward: If you do something great, then we're going to give you something. That's what - this - the reward that Elizabeth is talking about comes after the fact, it's non-contingent, and it's also peer to peer.
It's a form of recognition. And recognition is important because one of the other things that really motivates us is a sense of mastery. We want feedback. We want to know how we're doing. And in fact, I mention a company in North Carolina that does something very similar, that has these peer-to-peer rewards where, at any time, you can give a peer a reward of $50 for doing a good job.
It's not contingent, it's not controlling. It's a form of recognition and feedback. I think it's brilliant. And the other thing, from a company's perspective, is that it doesn't cost a lot of money.
CONAN: Right, or a lot of time, for that matter.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
CONAN: Let's go to Jeff(ph), and Jeff's with us from Lake Tahoe, California.
JEFF (Caller): Hi, Neal, thanks for taking my call.
JEFF: I'm in the wine business. And we have the if-then reward, but we - but I think it's two-sided, like what your panelist was saying, is that we get rewards by placing wines in certain places, a number of points of distribution, wines per account. But what it does, it does create that myopic view for the sales force, saying that I must do this, only this, instead of creating the bigger picture. And I think in the long run, it's short-sighted in terms of our other partners that we deal with in terms of the wine business, that we're not representing their brands because maybe they aren't on focus for us right now, so that it becomes so driven and target-focused that it kind of leads us maybe not creating a bigger, fuller picture.
CONAN: Well, Jeff seems to have spotted the same flaw that your social scientist spotted.
Mr. PINK: Yeah, I mean, science shows a lot of this. I mean, what these kinds of contingent rewards do - these if-then rewards - is they very much narrow our focus. They narrow our focus on what's right ahead of us, on the carrot dangling just out of our reach, and we lose sight of - I mean, when he's talking about other parts of the supply chain, other partners in the business.
It's interesting, Neal. I got an email just the other day from a company - a software company - that explained to me why they eliminated sales commissions for their sales force and found that by doing that, their total sales actually went up, which just seems like it defies the laws of behavioral physics.
But a lot of this research in human motivation shows that. It really upends certain orthodoxies about how we run our businesses.
CONAN: The most interesting orthodoxy that you upend in the book is the law firm that says wait a minute, no more billable hours. We're going to bill flat rates so the whole raison d'�tre of a lawyer's existence, the billable hours, is going out the window.
Mr. PINK: Well, I mean, the billable hours is a classic case of restricted autonomy. I mean, you're working on - I mean, sometimes on these six-minute increments. So you're not focused on doing a good job. You're focused on hitting your numbers. It's one reason why lawyers typically are so unhappy. And I want a world of happy lawyers.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: We all want a world of happy - there's a great quote from former Chief Justice Rehnquist saying: When billable hours are the goals, sometimes it's understandable that people may exaggerate those a little bit from time to time.
Daniel Pink's book is called "Drive." More about how motivation really works. When we come back, more of your calls. How does it work in your office? 800-989-8255. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We got this email from Bess in Needham, Massachusetts: I received a $5 card to Dunkin' Donuts. My employer's told me many times I'm considered a highly skilled and very dedicated employee who's highly valued. I also see more clients than anyone in the office. Is this how an employer should reward a valued employee? I don't think so.
Well, that's what a lot of us seem to believe. The more money you pay somebody, the more rewards you give a worker, the better the performance. Daniel Pink has been telling us no, not true. In fact, money can actually cause someone to work less effectively.
He's the author of a new book, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." We want to hear from you. How does your workplace reward its employees? Be specific: 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
And Daniel Pink, we should make a caveat here. You say there is a basis. First of all, the standard remuneration has to be fair and standard industry. You begin with that.
Mr. PINK: Absolutely. I mean, money does matter. If you're not - if people are being paid unfairly, if they feel like they're being treated poorly, if they're not - if they don't have enough money to support their family, you're not going to have motivation. You're not going to have this third, intrinsic drive. So you've got to pay people enough.
But in many ways, money works more as a - past a certain level, money works more as a de-motivator than as a motivator. And in many ways, again, it's very counterintuitive. The science shows that the best way to use money is to take the issue of money off the people. Pay people enough so that money isn't an issue, and they can focus on doing great work.
CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is David(ph), David calling from Brooklyn.
DAVID (Caller): Hi. The thing that puzzles me about this discussion is that it treats employment as if the goal of it were to get work done, whereas in my experience, a lot of places, the goal more is to be able to give other people orders and make them do what you feel like.
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVID: And it's more that it's there for social control rather than for getting things done.
CONAN: So self-actuated workers would be harder to control.
DAVID: Yeah, people who have self - people who have mastery of something have a tendency to want to be treated with decency and respect, and that doesn't fit in well for a lot of people. They make bad employees.
CONAN: Where do you work, David?
DAVID: I work for a very large company. We get rewarded, and I joined there because sometimes I get extremely interesting problems on which to work. But a good chunk of the time, the goals are set bureaucratically and driven by political winds in which I, of course, have no say. And so it ends up being alienated labor, or just a waste of my time and the company's.
CONAN: It sounds like David's read your book.
Mr. PINK: It sounds like David could benefit from reading the book. David, if you're still on the line, what would be one thing you would do to improve the situation at your workplace?
DAVID: Typically, some kind of contractual relationship with our superiors that they'd be unable to get out of, so that if they tell us one month that we're going to have to get something produced in six months, that we would know that it would stay the same thing in six months.
Mr. PINK: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the only thing worse than a hard-to-reach goal is a hard-to-reach goal that moves every week. But I think David is actually making a very, very important point about the nature of organizations, and he's really talking about management.
And we say that word, and we teach it in our schools, and we tend to think that management is some kind of force of nature, like it's a cloud in the sky, that it just exists. But it's something that we invented, OK?
CONAN: It's a technology.
Mr. PINK: It's a technology, and it's a technology that's terrific for getting compliance, as David is suggesting. It's not a very good technology for getting engagement. And what you want, especially for highly skilled workers - but even for workers who just want to enjoy their job and might not have the exact, same skills - you want to have engagement. And one of the things that's so troubling about the workforce today - these declining numbers of engagement on the job.
Now, what's curious about that is that as those engagement numbers come down, other forms of engagement are going up. Volunteer work is going up because people are yearning for that sense of purpose and sense of engagement. Participation in open-source projects, which carrot-and-stick motivators simply say isn't possible - where you're basically giving away your labor and giving away the product. That participation is up because I think that there is - as David is expressing, this deep-seeded yearning to do something that matters, to get better at things. And in many ways, management as it's currently constituted doesn't do that very well.
CONAN: David, are you still there?
CONAN: When you do get those very interesting problems, don't you find the day goes quicker and in fact, you leave with a smile on your face?
DAVID: Oh, of course. There's that whole concept of flow and it's, you know, one - to a certain extent vanishes, and all the problems that are inherent in having an ego go away at the same time, but...
CONAN: Not enough of those days, apparently.
DAVID: Yeah, it just all seems like such a waste.
CONAN: All right, David. Thanks very much; good luck.
CONAN: Here's an email we have from Doug(ph) in Massachusetts: Jacob Bronowski said the most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skills. He loves to do what he does well, and having done it well, he loves to do it better.
Mr. PINK: Three cheers. I mean, that is - that's part of what it is to be human. We get better at stuff. And here's the thing, Neal. You know, in our businesses, we're neglecting this third drive, this drive of intrinsic motivation, and yet you see it everywhere.
Let's take - you know, this past weekend, there was somebody here in Washington, where we are, or in St. Louis or elsewhere who was spending the weekend playing the clarinet, OK? That's not going to do much for the first drive. It's probably not going to get him a mate, and it's probably not going to make him any money. Well, why is he doing it? Because it's interesting. It's fun. It's cool to get better at something. And I think that the more we recognize that and understand there's a science beneath it, the more, I think, we can begin to rejuvenate some of our companies, make them both more humane but also more effective and productive.
CONAN: You point out in the book there is an example of very wealthy people in Britain who will take time off on their own to drive trains or buses because they enjoy it. If you paid them to do it, they wouldn't enjoy it.
Mr. PINK: Absolutely, absolutely.
CONAN: Let's get Jerry(ph) on the line. Jerry's calling from O'Fallon in Missouri.
JERRY (Caller): Good afternoon. This is a great topic. This is part of my past, when I worked for a company in the airline business, where we were continually financially troubled. We were paid well below the industry standard.
The division I worked in, after about 14 months, went from about 40 people to about 16 or 17, and all of a sudden, we had to do the same amount of work, and it gave me the opportunity to branch out into things like accident investigation and video production, things that have made me more marketable today. But the thing was, every day was a surprise.
It was extremely challenging, sometimes maddening, but I look back at that as some of the most rewarding work experiences I've ever had because we were really pushed to the limit. You did pretty much - I wouldn't say have the - you know, you certainly didn't want to fail. You would eventually succeed, but you had the opportunity to do something your own way because there was - if you weren't going to do it, it wasn't going to get done. And if you failed at something, there was no stigma attached to it, as long as you just dug in and started again.
CONAN: Yeah, but that challenge every day sure kept it interesting.
Mr. PINK: Jerry's talking about autonomy and mastery. I'd like to see Jerry paid more, though, because if you're getting paid less than the industry average, that can end up being very de-motivating, but...
JERRY: Well, I can tell you that I left the company for financial reasons, and I got brought back at a little bit higher pay than when I left, but not certainly what I was making. But I went back strictly for the challenge of it and because it was, and remains, a very challenging, yet a very interesting, business.
Mr. PINK: And what's curious about that is that classical economics says, Jerry, you're not allowed to do that.
JERRY: Well, you're right but you know, you're spending a lot of your time at work - you know, a third of our - half of our waking lives, I guess. And it was - there was a real, fundamental satisfaction. And in these subsequent years, I've done a lot of volunteer work, and I've worked harder for no money than sometimes I worked for, you know, for good money.
But it's that satisfaction that you get from especially, trying something new, and you succeed.
CONAN: In fact, you say the social science supports the idea that we have our most interesting and peak moments at work.
Mr. PINK: Sure. One of the callers, I think it was David, mentioned this concept of flow, which is a concept created by the great psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
CONAN: Easy for you to say.
Mr. PINK: Those moments - I call him Mike - those moments when the challenge is so exquisitely matched to the task that our sense of self and time kind of dissolves. We all know what that's like. That's one of the best moments of being human. And the big surprise in some of his research is that we're much more likely to experience those moments of flow at work than in leisure -particularly passive leisure.
CONAN: All right. Jerry, thanks very much for the call. Good luck to you.
JERRY: Thanks very much, interesting topic.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email from April(ph) in Minneapolis. After a particularly stressful week or three, our higher-ups will bring in cake. This usually happens around 8 a.m. I would prefer a raise to cake for breakfast.
Mr. PINK: Me, too. Me, too. There's a reason why, on these sitcoms, face cake and the provision of cake in offices is routinely parodied.
CONAN: Let's get Dan(ph) on the line. Dan's calling us from the pike in Pennsylvania.
DAN (Caller): Hi, hello.
CONAN: Hi, Dan, you're on the line. Go ahead, please.
DAN: I was just listening to the show. I've never called in, but I was fascinated by this book, and I think I'm going to buy several copies and provide them to senior-level managers at the company I work at.
CONAN: No, just buy one and Xerox it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAN: A much better idea. I was promoted to, you know, sort of upper-level management about six months ago. And one of the first things that I tried to do was change some of the ways that we provide rewards for our employees. And I've met with just stiff, stiff resistance every step of the way. As a bit of background, I spent 20 years in the Navy and one of my jobs in the Navy was teaching leadership at the United States Naval Academy.
One of the things that we focus on in teaching leadership is obviously the section on motivation and the various theories in motivation, you know, Herzberg's and McGregor's theory X and theory Y, theory of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And it sounds like this book is very focused on some similar intrinsic motivation rather than the extrinsic. And it sounds like a book that I definitely want to get my hands on because it sounds like it sums it up very, very succinctly.
CONAN: When you try to - he does talk about some of those theories in the book and the ideas that build on them. But when you try to suggest these new, different kinds of management techniques, what do your fellow managers say?
DAN: Well, it's funny, I mean, it's just - I meet a lot of resistance along the lines of, well, it sounds crazy and I'm sure that works well in the military, but it's not applicable here. And we've always done things this way here.
CONAN: Well, always done it this way, but the military's not famous for its managerial flexibility sometimes. But anyway, Dan, thanks very much for the call. Good luck.
DAN: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. But you say throughout this book, these ideas have been proven by social scientists and, in fact, they are ignored by managers across the country - indeed, across the world.
Mr. PINK: Yeah. It's not like they're actively ignored. It's just that I don't think they've made the migration from the laboratories in the academy into the world of business. But I think the heartening part for me is that people, I think, have a good understanding of this in their gut.
I mean, if you ask people, what are you motivated by? Very few people will say, oh, I only want to stick or I only fear the lash of - I only want a carrot, or I only fear the lash of a stick. They talk about their own sense of self-direction, their own desire for mastery, their own sense of purpose. And so I think that in many ways, the good news for the science is that our gut instincts confirm what the science tells us.
CONAN: And that - there's a third element we've talked about in your 3.0 motivational system. The third element - we talked about the desire for mastery, we talked about the desire for autonomy. The third one is to feel like you're part of something greater than yourself, that there's a bigger purpose to what you're doing.
Mr. PINK: That's enormously important. And one of the things you hear from interviewing people inside of, especially, large companies is that they feel like they are not making a contribution. They feel like they're not sure what it's for. And the sense of purpose is so salient and so important in people's lives.
And I think one of the things that's interesting is that there are a whole array of new business models, even new business forms that are about profit maximization to some extent, but also about purpose maximization. And these really intriguing new types of businesses - there's something out of Vermont called the low profit, limited liability corporation where your charter says, we're not about profit maximization. We're about making profits, but we're also about having some kind of impact on the world. Or you look at a really, really interesting venture like Tom's Shoes. At Tom's Shoes, if you buy a pair of shoes from Tom's Shoes, this online shoe store, they'll give a pair of shoes to someone in the developing world.
Now that's a very strange business model. Is that a charity that finances its charitable contributions with shoe sales? Is it a for-profit company that is willing to forgo profit to do some good? Well, it's neither and both. It's basically a profit maximizer and a purpose maximizer. And I think that we've woefully understated the purpose motive in business.
CONAN: We're talking with Daniel H. Pink. His new book is called "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.� You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And here's an email sent anonymously. How do you give people autonomy and not have them take advantage of it, i.e. engage instead of being too laid back? How do you set up and keep standards?
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think people need to be held accountable. There's no question about that. And people need to deliver results. Part of this depends on what you think people's - in some ways, their natural status. I mean, if the only reason people are coming in and doing anything in your office is because you're giving them a paycheck, I'm not sure you have the most productive workplace there.
And I think it does require, as the anonymous emailer is implying, some degree of trust. One of the things that's interesting from the experiments of super autonomy, like the FedEx days that I mentioned, are that people end up actually working a little bit harder and not actually using all of their time. Because they have obligations to their teammates, they want to do a good job.
CONAN: And one of the companies you use as an example of this is Google, and I guess everybody would understand that. There are call-out - call centers that use some of these principals. And I found those examples fascinating.
Mr. PINK: Yeah. I mean, you know...
CONAN: This is a - talk about dreary work.
Mr. PINK: Right. It's a very difficult, not particularly interesting job where you're essentially following a script on a screen and reading it into a telephone over and over again...
CONAN: To angry people.
Mr. PINK: ...to people who are not calling you to shoot the breeze and give you compliments. And what this company, Zappos, another shoe company, has done is liberate its call center workers and say, no scripts, no monitoring, no time measures on the call. Go forth and conquer, solve the problem the way that you want to solve the problem. And lo and behold, big results from a company like Zappos, especially in customer service.
CONAN: Here's another email. This from Cullin(ph) in Florence, Kentucky. When I worked at Proctor & Gamble, there was a lot of talk about rewards, much of which matched what we hear today, typically referred to as Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Non-monetary rewards, public recognition, opportunities to present to management, so on, were the kinds of rewards. Strangely, though, this kind of activity did not - only applied to the worker, not to upper management...
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: ...who are extremely well-compensated.
Mr. PINK: I think that's a very fair point. And I think that when you look at executive compensation, there's a lingering resentment, where someone at the very, very top is getting paid - sometimes several hundred multiples of what the typical worker at that company is doing. And the worst part about that, again, violates the norm of fairness, is that a lot of times these top executives, if the company does well, they make a lot of money; if the company does poorly, they make a lot of money. It's heads, I win; tails, you lose. And I think we've seen the, you know, the downside of that and the lingering resentment that creates in the workplace.
CONAN: So, my managers are getting my copy of your book, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." Daniel Pink, thanks very much for being with us in the studio.
Mr. PINK: Neal, it's been a pleasure.
CONAN: Daniel Pink was here with us in Studio 3A. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.