The surprising truth about what motivates footballers

A £12,000 win bonus might do more harm than good


Football - It's not about the money

According to ArsenalNewsReview, Arsenal’s bonus structure is very generous. £12,000 win bonus – a lot bigger than most clubs.

This led me think about this amazing lecture I heard about what motivates us.

You can hear it here:

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Anyhow, according to experiments, by various bodies like the American Federal Reserve Bank, MIT the University of Chicago and more – bonus schemes are designed to fail.

Money is a motivator as long as the task involved only mechanical simple, straight-forward tasks bonuses worked and made workers better. But once the tasks require some conceptual, creative thinking the big bonus at the end of the job did not work and actually led to poorer performance.

It has been replicated over and over and over again by psychologists by sociologists and by economists. When profit becomes the only motive it leads to bad things –like people thinking only about money and not on the job. It eventually leads to things like crappy products and unsatisfactory services.

Money is important, of course, if you don’t pay people enough they won’t be motivated because they will think about making money. However, what makes a worker better is not the promise of more money if he completes his job, but his strive to be better at what he does. It is called mastery.

I would like to think of footballers as thinkers who want to be the best they can. Big bonuses actually will lead them to focus only on the money and not on the task in hand – which is to find a way to win.

This is what might have happened at Arsenal. The players, instead of focusing on being better at what they were doing, thought too much about the £12,000 incentive – which led them to poorer performance.

Arsenal should pay their workers a lot – but only so they can focus on getting better at what they do. And on that point, Arsenal should do more to give its best players the feeling that they could be the best at what they are doing.

This means to fill the first squad with better players.

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