I hope you enjoy the biases and prejudices as well and take them as per your sensibilities; as much as I enjoyed expressing them in writing.
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SMOKE, MIRROR & SHADOW
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Is Threat a Motivator?
We respond to threat or fear very naturally.
In fact fear seems to be our topmost motivation. Smart leaders know this and they implement it around them very well. And the "heads" side of the coin is that it is a very good motivator. Let's discuss with a few examples why it is important to consciously realize the importance of fear perception as a motivation.
Let's consider the cleanliness quotient of any city in an advanced nation—say the US. The quotient (high or low) is largely determined by the people of the city, residents or visitors. Someone knows that to maintain order, a perception of threat against cleanliness violators is required. Why? It's an easy assumption that not everyone has noble intentions. People with noble intentions will keep the city clean anyway. Others will not unless there's some fine, some punishment, pain, or embarrassment in some form. This threat, if perceived as real, works wonders; the credit goes to the way it is implemented, spread as a rule and followed. The leadership here mainly cares about noble actions, as they know they cannot expect miracles in expecting noble intentions from everyone—certainly not an overnight change of heart. A threat perception of punishment!
Let's say a team of 22 software developers gather to deliver a project of 18 months duration in a software company. The leader understands that there's a mix of people—not all are passionate about the progress of the company, etc. For appropriate and consistent output, the leader has to implement a threat perception that goes beyond the general HR rules. It may be some variant of performance-based growth in a role or introduction of smaller period bonuses etc. Consciously or subconsciously, every employee would welcome the extra recognition, extra money, as it would perhaps satisfy some real need or validate their ego or simply make them happy. Whatever it might be, ambitious people caring only about themselves would attempt to contribute more for fear of losing out on the extra bonus or extra goodies put in place by the leader. This increases the probability of the project being well executed—problem solved. A threat perception of competition!