Why Paying People can Make them Less Influential

Most of us operate in a world in which we get paid to do a job. However, did you know there is one specific scenario in which paying someone can both reduce their performance as well as how much they enjoy the work?

This week I’ve got 2 really interesting examples of when paying people can get in the way of altruistic behaviour such as charity fundraising or pro-social behaviours such as picking up litter.

Psychologists in the UK and the U.S looked into how paying someone to do something that they’d be happy to volunteer to do negatively affected their performance. In one experiment a group of people (some paid and some not) were asked to create a charity fundraising message. The messages of those who had been paid were less successful and generated fewer donations and yet those observing them had no idea if the message had been crafted by someone who was or wasn’t being paid. One observation that the psychologists made was that the messages had appeared less sincere.

In a separate study a group of people were asked to pick up litter for a few hours. Some were purely volunteering and some were paid. Those who were paid were seen to have enjoyed the activity less than those who weren’t with the suggestion being that, because they didn’t get paid much, it suddenly didn’t seem worth it.

These insights could be useful if you are in charge of a CSR project at work or a fundraising event in your community as it seems that paying people can sometimes reduce their performance and enjoyment of activities that they would be happy to do without remuneration anyway – i.e. causes that they really believe in.

I’ll be back in a week’s time with some more Meetology®, helping you thrive professionally and personally by making people skills one of your superpowers.

See you next week, until then take care,


Jonathan Bradshaw
The Meetology® Lab


Barasch, Alixandra, Jonathan Z. Berman, and Deborah A. Small. “When payment undermines the pitch: On the persuasiveness of pure motives in fund-raising.” Psychological science 27.10 (2016): 1388-1397.




About the Author:

Jonathan Bradshaw presents and trains internationally on the fascinating psychology powering exceptional interpersonal communication. He is Founder of the Meetology® Lab and leads the company’s team of behavioral psychologists in collating and sharing cutting-edge research on exceptional people skills. As an experienced and engaging keynote speaker Jon has presented at conferences and business events in over 30 countries and is an award-winning columnist and blogger. Learn more about him speaking at your next event via www.meetology.com or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.