Re: Incentives LO1310

Mariann Jelinek (
Fri, 19 May 1995 13:44:46 +0100

Replying to LO1297

Michael McMaster's comments about Maslow are up to his usual high
standard, and very thought provoking. However, I wonder about anothre
source for confusions about incentives. In my business education
experience (about 20 years teaching), I've typically found the "bottom
line" mentality of my finance and accounting colleagues much in evidence.
It surges and pervades thinking and discussion, sometimes to (mercifully)
receed and thus allow room for richer views than so-called "economic man"
[a sexist comment as well, since this is almost always code for "all
people who really need to be paid attention to .]. The economic motivation
model has one salient attraction: it can be calculated, and the numbers
provide a (spurious) ground for self-congratulation, that we are being
"hard-headed" (as opposed to fuzzy-headed), and thus "rational."
Behind the wide embrace of Maslow's hierarchy as an iron-clad rule
(rather than as a general guide, which may make more sense), lurks
"economic rationality." And, of course, economic rationality also implies
dismissing what cannot be measured. The dilemmas include "the tragedy of
the commons" and other system phenomena dismissed as externalities by
traditional reasoning. It's difficult to transcend dichotomous thinking
("Maslow's right!" or "Maslow's wrong!"), but if we can bear to say
instead "Maslow offers some guidance, but with limits," we may get
somewhere. Even in the '60's we used to joke that we knew starving artists
who were "learning to grin and bear it in a barren garret" as
counterpoints to interpreting Maslow's hierarchy as deterministic.
Thanks for ever-interesting comments, Mike!


Mariann Jelinek 
Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business
 Graduate School of Business, 
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Tel. (804) 221-2882 FAX: (804) 229-6135