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When it comes to motivating your employees, are you the good cop or the bad one?

Or, to put it another way: Do you tend to rely on the carrot, or the stick?

For a long time, there has been disagreement over how best to engage and inspire a team—and while positivity has become increasingly favored, there’s still a sense that it’s really just a matter of subjective, personal opinion.

I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case.

The Science Behind Positive Motivation

In fact, there is scientific research that confirms that supremacy of positive motivation—and you can read all about it in a recent article from Entrepreneur.

According to the article, which cites a Harvard Business Review study, “Positive reinforcement actually motivates employees better than punishment. Not only is it more effective at motivating change, but it’s also less damaging to the employer-employee relationship.”

And it makes sense, right? In an environment where bosses punish rather than praise, it’s only natural to feel like you’re not really trusted or valued.

Different Forms of Positive Motivation

Now, it’s important to be clear that, when I talk about positive motivation, I’m not merely suggesting that you give VISA gift cards to every employee who produces good work. Perhaps there is a time and a place for that sort of thing, but it’s important to be aware of other, equally valuable (but more budget-friendly) forms of positive motivation.

Continually reminding your employees of the big picture and their role within it—the company’s goals, and how their job contributes to that goal—is essential, and doesn’t cost you anything.

Providing each team member with a sense of purpose, and a way to use their strengths in a way that moves the team toward the goalpost is a must.

And allowing employees opportunities to learn, develop, and grow—showing that you’re invested in their futures—is a powerful form of positivity.

There are many ways you can be the good cop to your employees—and if science is to be believed, you’ll get much better results that way than you would otherwise.