People were asked to match pairs of letters on a piece of paper. They were paid 55 cents for the first sheet. Then, they had an option to continue for 5 cents lesser each time. So, 55c, then 50c, then 45c and so on. There were 3 groups – “acknowledged,” “shredded,” and “ignored.”
Group 1 (acknowledged): Once they finished, the experimenter looked at their paper carefully and said “Aha.”
Group 2 (shredded): The paper was immediately shredded. They were then asked if they want to continue.
Group 3 (ignored): The experimenter simply put the paper to the side and asked if they’d like to continue.
When people were asked what difference they’d expect between the groups, they all expected some difference between the number of matched sheets per group. But, not much.
In reality, the “acknowledged” group matched 2x the number of sheets.
Similar experiments involving engineers building Lego toys for a small payment showed the same result. And, a simple thank you text from the boss to chip factory workers at Intel performed much better than gifting a pizza coupon or giving a cash bonus.
“In some ways, we never grow up. We seek to be connected with our workspace, to be acknowledged and to know how our work impacts someone down the road. Companies and managers are pseudo-parents – they can choose to be quashing or nourishing.” – Dan Ariely (paraphrased)
Source and thanks to: Payoff by Dan Ariely
PS: Of course, none of this is an excuse for not paying people enough. However, once money is off the table, goodwill counts for a lot.