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Mutual Reward Theory

With proper care, you can create working relationships that will turn out to be mutually rewarding. The mutual reward theory (MRT) states that a relationship between two people is enhanced when there is a satisfactory balance of rewards between them. In a good MRT relationship, both parties come out ahead. In fact, if a working relationship is to remain healthy over a long time, it must contribute something of value to both persons. When one individual suddenly discovers that she (or he) has been contributing substantially more than she has been receiving, the relationship can quickly weaken. However, when there is a balanced reward system between people, the working relationship can thrive. The cases of Gina and Molly illustrate this theory.

Gina. Gina was a quiet, timid, serious worker with outstanding job knowledge. A co-worker, Joe, on the other hand, was a very outgoing person with great personal confidence but less job knowledge. They worked next to each other in identical jobs and, despite their differences, they slowly built a strong relationship.

How did it happen? Gina made a patient effort to teach Joe as much as possible about the job and took care of some mistakes he made without the supervisor’s finding out about them. What did Joe do in return? He helped Gina develop more self-confidence and become a more outgoing person. He paid her well-deserved compliments, introduced her to co-workers from other departments, and generally gave her a feeling of acceptance that she had not been able to develop by herself. Because each party contributed to the success of the other (both eventually became supervisors), their relationship became strong and permanent.


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