Carrot and Stick Approach of Motivation

Definition: The Carrot and Stick Approach of Motivation is a traditional motivation theory that asserts, in motivating people to elicit desired behaviors, sometimes the rewards are given in the form of money, promotion, and any other financial or non-financial benefits and sometimes the punishments are exerted to push an individual towards the desired behavior.

The Carrot and Stick approach of motivation is based on the principles of reinforcement and is given by a philosopher Jeremy Bentham, during the industrial revolution. This theory is derived from the old story of a donkey, the best way to move him is to put a carrot in front of him and jab him with a stick from behind. The carrot is a reward for moving while the stick is the punishment for not moving and hence making him move forcefully.

Thus, an individual is given carrot i.e. reward when he performs efficiently and is jabbed with a stick or is given a punishment in case of non-performance. While giving the punishments, the following points need to be taken care of:

  1. Punishment is said to be effective in modifying the behavior if an individual selects a desirable alternative behavior.
  2. If the above condition does not occur the behavior will be temporarily suppressed and may reappear after the punishment is over.
  3. The punishment is more effective when given at the time the undesirable behavior is actually performed.
  4. The management should make sure, that punishment is properly administered and does not become a reward for the undesirable behavior.

Thus, carrot and stick approach of motivation should be applied carefully such that, both have the positive motivational effect on the people in the organization.


  1. Zubair Reply

    Before I sat to write on ‘Carrot-n-stick’ I googled the meaning of this idiom. After visiting some sites, I encountered your page. It’s amazing and interesting.
    Actually, I knew only one meaning of this term and wanted to criticise it. I thought it might be better to treat animals with carrots and stick but not kids or other human beings.
    Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking article. I have also shared on my facebook wall.

  2. Samson Tadesse Reply

    Yeah, its clear explanation. the way you explained the ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach, helps to anyone to understand it easily. thank you!

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