Money Matters More Than Social Recognition

If you're any kind of creative person, maybe you've wrestled with the idea of selling out. Some research has even suggested that linking money to creativity harms the latter. That's flawed from outset, according to a new study at the University of Illinois. When it comes to spurring innovation and inventiveness, the poet Rihanna has the best summation: "Pay me what you owe me."

Ravi Mehta, a professor of business administration at the University of Illinois, just published research showing that employees would rather receive financial incentives and compensation for good work, rather than an office party or a plaque.

"We found that if you tell people to be creative and then give them monetary rewards, they will be more creative," he said in a press release. "But wouldn't the same be true of all rewards? If you tell people to be creative and then give them a social-recognition reward instead of money, then they'll be just as creative as those you reward with money, right? We found no empirical evidence for that."

While previous studies have shown some negative correlation with financial rewards and creativity, those were conducted with children. For adults who don't want to seem too weird and out-of-the-box, being offered money to be more creative is just what we need to break out of social norms. It's ironic that we need both permission and a guaranteed reward to be transgressive, but it does seem to work.

Not that we don't love social recognition too. No jokes about participation trophies, but social rewards at work aren't nothing. They just ought to be paired with a bump in pay or a project-based bonus. If you do good work, you deserve that raise — so ask for it. That's way better than selling out.