Carrot and stick

Exercise 1:

Have you ever heard of the “carrot and stick” approach? Below you can see 4 various definitions, match the idiom to its definition:

a)    manipulation attempt
b)    not an easy task
c)    offering people things in order to persuade them to do something and punishing them if they refuse to do it
d)    expression used to point out that one has to struggle or suffer to achieve his goal


attempt – próba
persuade – przekonać
refuse – odmówić
point out – zwrócić uwagę
struggle – walczyć

Exercise 2:

Complete the sentences below with the words from the table:

incentivize;    motivate;    reward;     incentive

  1. If you want people to perform better, you __________ them.
  2. Bonuses, commissions, their own reality show. __________ them. That’s how business works.
  3. You’ve got an __________ designed to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity.
  4. Our business operating system – how we __________ people, how we apply our human resources – it’s built entirely around carrots and sticks.


commission – prowizja
accelerate – przyspieszyć

Do you agree with the sentences above?

Let’s imagine you give your staff a simple task – provide them with a candle, a box of thumbtacks and a book of matches. Now, tell them that their task is to attach the lit candle to the wall (using the resources given) in such a way that the wax doesn’t drip on the floor or table (whatever’s below).

The image taken from (Dan Pink’s speech on motivation).

What do you think is the key to success here? Would you maybe try to stick the candle to the wall using the thumbtacks? Or would you try to melt some wax and try to attach the candle to the wall by means of the wax? But, you see, the wax will still drip on the surface below… So what is it that you need? I’d say – thinking outside the box (literally and metaphorically speaking ;-).


provide with – dostarczyć, zapewnić
thumbtack – pinezka
attach – przyczepić

Exercise 3:

Match the expression “to think outside the box” with the correct definition (below):

a)    to  attempt to improve a system that already works
b)    to  think in an imaginative and creative way
c)    to realize the truth
d)    to have different roles or tasks to perform

Now, what do you think of this solution:

The image taken from (Dan Pink’s speech on motivation).

Didn’t I tell you that thinking outside the box was the solution ;-)?

Below, you can find a very inspiring speech on motivation by Dan Pink.

Exercise 4:

Watch a fragment of the speech (at least for the purpose of the exercise – I truly recommend you watch the rest of it) from 01:50 to 06:18 and answer the questions:

  1. What is functional fixedness?
  2. Did the second (incentivized) group solve the problem faster or did it take them longer? Why?
  3. What do you think, why did the incentivized group succeed in solving the problem in the second experiment?

Now, you can/should watch the whole speech, but for the purpose of this last exercise, you just need to watch the wrap-up (17:25-18:40):

Exercise 5:

Watch the last fragment of the speech and complete the sentences:

  1. One: Those 20th century rewards, those __________ we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.
  2. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy__________.
  3. Three: The secret to high __________ isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.


if-then – jeśli-to (jeśli to zrobisz, to otrzymasz coś…)
intrinsic – podstawowy, nieodłączny

For more English for HR go to

Ex. 1
The correct answer is c)
a) refers to “smoke and mirrors”, b) – “no picnic”, and d) – “no pain, no gain”
Ex. 2
1-reward; 2-Incentivize; 3-incentive; 4-motivate’
Ex. 3
The correct answer is b)
a) refers to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; c) – “see the light”; d) – “wear many hats”
Ex. 4
1. The way of thinking in which you are limited to using some objects only for their intended purposes; 2. It took them longer, because the incentive blocked their ability to think in a creative way; 3. Because the task was presented in a different way.
Ex. 5:
1-motivators; 2-creativity; 3-performance;

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