Why Peer Recognition Works Better Than Bonuses

Social validation is the most effective way to motivate employees, yet it is largely ignored by companies.

Lance Ng
4 min readAug 22, 2021


Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered what motivates netizens to post knowledge and answers to platforms like Wikipedia, Reddit and Quora?

An overwhelming need to share their knowledge? Or just too much time on their hands?

Probably just the desire to receive social validation.

It is one thing to occasionally contribute to an online forum among like-minded members. It is quite another to be consistently helping to answer questions or edit wiki pages for free; and for the benefit of complete strangers.

Yet there are many netizens who do that, day after day, year after year.


Because human beings instinctively seek out social validation and peer recognition, regardless of status, wealth, race, nationality, religion, gender or intellectual capabilities.

It is the sole reason why Facebook and their little ‘like’ button has fueled a whole era of social media businesses, leading to wildly popular apps like Instagram and Tik Tok — and a whole new profession called ‘Influencers’.

In the early days, before you could monetize being an ‘Influencer’, most of these avid social media users post content religiously simply to win and keep the attention and adoration of strangers on the internet!

But can social validation or more accurately, peer recognition (which reduces the scope to socially connected individuals rather than internet strangers), really replace cold hard cash as an effective tool to boost employee satisfaction and motivation?

If you have it, flaunt it

Consider this. When we go out to buy that convertible sports car, or that Hermès limited edition bag with that big bonus we have just gotten, we are actually seeking satisfaction from the looks of envy and admiration that we draw from others.

Ultimately the bonus in and of itself serves limited purpose if we keep it in the bank or keep whatever we buy with it absolutely private.



Lance Ng

Venture Capital | Startups | Founders. My newsletter at www.3linepitch.com