The power of intrinsic motivation at work

  • Paul Robinson
  • June 18, 2017

Motivating employees is not an easy task; the fact is that what motivates employees seems to change overtime. To say, different employees are motivated in different ways according to their needs. For example, one employee will be motivated to do his task by way of responsibility, while on the other hand another employee will be motivated by monetary rewards.

Motivation can be divided into two basic types:  intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because of external rewards such as awards, money, bonuses, incentives, and praise. This is the old ‘carrots and sticks’ practice to motivation. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because it is enjoyable and interesting.

An employee who tends to be intrinsically motivated could be motivated by internal factors such as recognition, responsibility and growth. They are driven by the mental satisfaction and the joy their work provides. As a result, intrinsic motivation tends to be very much effective in the long run as the employees perform the tasks willingly because it interests them, rather than trying to escape from it once the job is done.

Intrinsic motivation revolves around three major dynamics of human needs

# The need to be autonomous and significant: Autonomy is the urge to direct our own lives. This is self-directed behavior of employees to contribute because they love to. Google’s 20% extra time is a motivating factor for autonomy and significance.

# The need for mastery is another human need. Mastery is the desire to get better every time you do some thing that matters. This is the desire to learn and grow. A sense of mastery is a kind of perfection employees seek in their job.

# The need to be purposeful: Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. Tasks or any sort of work does not motivate by itself unless there is a purpose behind everything we do. When employees realize the purpose behind their work and the contribution they make to the society or mankind, they are motivated to contribute even more.

Having looked at both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it could be said that intrinsic motivation is far stronger than extrinsic motivation when it comes to motivate employees in the long run. This is because the intrinsically motivated employees will continue to perform better day after day as long they find the work both engaging and satisfying. It doesn’t mean that extrinsic motivation should not be used at all. Both motivation methods actually work but it does not work for everyone. You must know what motivates a person and not the entire crowd. Different strokes for different folks!!