That a bonus is considered an incentive presumes that people are moved by material gains. Yet, a bonus might not work everywhere with the same intensity. Sainthood acts as a gravitational force in the Iberian culture — admiring saints not least for their refusal of material comforts, occasionally to the point of martyrdom. One could hardly take a bullfighter for a saint, and yet, one finds a similar sense of sainthood in the bullfighter´s acceptance of the challenge to put his life at stake for what would seem a pittance to the pragmatist. For whatever reasons, impractical bullfighters and saints are admired in the Iberian Peninsula. Both express a quality called desapego in Iberian cultures. Desapego is hard to translate into English. Dictionaries will usually translate desapego as detachment. However, it is closer to separation than to lack of considerations of personal advantage.
The difficulty to translate desapego into English happens partly because conceptual refinement expresses a culture’s interest on what concepts to refine and associate words to. Lack of interest in personal advantage, conceptualized as in desapego, might be more intensely cherished in Iberian cultures than in English-speaking ones that are so steeped in British pragmatism. However, most mainstream management techniques were developed in North-Atlantic English-speaking cultures. Could it be that pragmatic managerial tools such as the bonus, may be relatively alien to Iberian cultures, and consequently failed to achieve similar following in Iberia? Worse, could it be that bonus-oriented behavior helps rise to the top managers with only reluctant followership in Iberia?
Yet, what is particular to Iberia is Christianity, with its Catholic avowed proclivity to renunciation, which suggests that a culture of renunciation ought to be acceptable to about 1.4 billion Catholics, Orthodox or Romans. Furthermore, there is enough evidence to accept Buddhist and Hindu influences into early Christianity, denounced as from about the second century after the birth of Christ, but familiar enough to the point that Portuguese explorers when arriving in India twelve centuries later took Hinduism for a stray Catholic religion.
A bonus is not more likely to steer a saint than it is to steer a sadhu. Hinduism and Jainism also have an ascetic orientation and have close to one billion adherents. Buddhism also shares a similar orientation to renunciation, and there are about half a billion Buddhists in the world. One could go on adding people who share a favorable view on renunciation, but we already are at close to 3 billion people who may see no harm in accepting a bonus but might not relate it as quickly to an incentive to work, at least not as readily as presumed to be the case in conventional management.
I am not suggesting throwing the baby out with the water, but I am inviting you to meditate on the effectiveness across the world of the mainstream management toolkit.