The article by Kohn (1993) questions the assumption that rewards or incentives can do no good for the performance of employees. The article is not accepting the basic psychological assumption that underlines any incentive plan, and an explanation is given as to why incentive plans cannot work. The system of giving rewards to employees is criticized because of the ill founded assumptions. Implementation of incentive plans have been criticized previously but the philosophy behind rewards and incentives was not questioned. The empirical evidence against reward is seen as a problem with implementation rather than that of philosophy of incentive plans.
The argument given forward by the article is that rewards and incentive plans only yield temporary compliance of employees. Incentives, according to the article, do not increase the productivity or working potential of a person for a longer period of time. Rather rewards only force employees to comply with the organizational needs on a temporary basis. This effect is not at all a long term thing, and the world seems to be oblivious of the fact because of the limited research work on incentives. Studies on incentives and rewards are many but they seem to put forward the basic psychological relationship between reward and work. For many decades now this assumption has not been challenged in studies. This is why people have failed to realize that reward and incentive plans only breed temporary compliance.
Rewards and inventive plans are known for changing the attitudes of people towards something but the author contends that the effect of reward is not different than that of punishment. The effect of reward only temporary changes behavior and as soon as the effect of reward fades away, the behavior reverts back.