I just finished The Economic Naturalist by Robert H Frank a couple of days back and one of the questions was why managers who believed in achieving improvements in performance of subordinates through threats and reprimand rather than praise and reward were more likely to be able to prove that they are right.
Professor Frank suggests that it was because the performance of people usually varies with time but stays the same on average without special effort to improve or skive. That means that when a person perform badly it could just be his particularly down period and after getting scolded from the manager his performance tend to return towards the mean and result in the improved performance the manager was hoping for. On the contrary, a person may perform exceptionally on an especially good day and get praised for his work only to have his performance return to its mean, which means poorer than before the manager’s rewards/praise. A manager who believes praise and reward yields better returns would thus have little means of proving he is right and so is unfairly proven wrong.
The truth seems more complex than just that. As this article from Harvard Business Review suggests, sensitivity to the anger or happiness of the manager or boss depends partly to the stress levels experienced. So from the perspective of the employer or manager, it is wise to inject more praise and rewards during high stress periods. Never mind the low stress periods when employers are slacking around.
Human behaviours and the motivations behind them are great subjects to study. This gives me the chance to introduce the publication, Psychology Today, which recently featured something really useful for people working in the business world (and perhaps even in academia). Confidence in yourself and your ideas really counts when it comes to presentations. So you will really have to work on yourself to get your ideas accepted. Check out the publication site for more of such tips to help discipline, aid and make sense of your mind.