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Motivation By Donuts: Using food to motivate employees

By Erica Bartlett

Four businesspeople at boardroom table with breakfastI recently attended a call about improving workplace productivity. The moderator was addressing the challenge of getting people to show up to meetings on time so you’ll be more efficient and can finish earlier.

What would be a good way to motivate them? How about sending a reminder? Perhaps you could start promptly instead of waiting? Or what about offering donuts? And not just any donuts. What if you had a few really good ones from a specialty store but the rest were ho-hum. The employees who arrive early get the good ones.

Motivating employee’s with donuts? Really? I was glad all the listeners were muted so no one could hear me sputter. I couldn’t quite believe what I’d heard!

Using food to motivate employees

Is this really how we want to get people to attend meetings, by luring them with donuts, or other treats of choice? Is that treating your employees and colleagues with respect? How does this incentivize people who don’t want donuts–or didn’t until you offered them? Is this any way to encourage workplace wellness, especially if, like me, you have five or six meetings a day sometimes? How many donuts would you eat mindlessly, and most likely when you weren’t even hungry? And doesn’t that just reinforce the “food as a reward” trigger for overeating?

Consider a different approach

If people aren’t showing up on time, instead of using food as bait, find other ways to motivate them:

  • Start the meeting with a good joke or two. Everyone present and on time would get a good laugh, leaving others curious as to what they’re missing.
  • Instead of spending money on donuts, put the same amount in a jar and have a drawing for those who arrived on time.
  • Or, after a certain number of meetings, take what would  have been the donut fund and allow punctual employees to choose a local charity to donate it to.

Or, how about just running a good, productive meeting, starting and ending on time, and engaging everyone in attendance. In my mind, any of these options are better than the using food to lure them in.

We all find motivation in different ways, and while I do appreciate a good donut, it is something I want to enjoy mindfully, on my own terms, not as a way of being tricked into showing up to meetings.

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About the author

Erica Bartlett discovered mindful eating in her early 20's, and it changed her life. Not only did it allow her to lose half her body weight and maintain that loss for over ten years, it also helped her discover many new things that she loves in addition to food. One of these newer passions is working with others who have food and weight concerns, which is why she is now a licensed Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating facilitator and a certified Health Coach. Her website is www.rediscoveringfoodmaine.com, and she keeps a weekly blog at www.losingbattle-erica.blogspot.com

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