A Real Answer for The Challenge of Motivating Employees
The topics of motivation at work and motivating employees are not new. If you do a search for blog articles on “motivating employees” you’ll probably come up with roughly 8,940,000 results in .13 seconds. The problem is, the vast majority of these popular writings on the subject fail to address the core issue – what is good, sustainable motivation? It’s nice to have eight new ways to motivate employees with outside the box thinking – or something of the sort – but if you fail to consider why these “How tos” are (or are not) effective, you’re missing the point.
There are 2 basic sources to motivation: Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Motivation that comes from within (intrinsic motivation) is usually more pleasant and seemingly easier to do. Conversely, we tend to struggle more with tasks when the source of motivation is outside our own desire (extrinsic). Both of these motivational sources break down into positive and negative elements. That is, whether the source of our motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic, its root is either reward or fear. So, all in all there are 4 primary ways human beings are motivated: positive-intrinsic, negative-intrinsic, positive-extrinsic, and negative-extrinsic. Now, that’s a lot of hyphenated words, so refer to the graphic below and use these 4 examples to help you better understand:
Positive-Intrinsic: Ray really wants to write a blog post. Hooray!
Negative-Intrinsic: Ray doesn’t really want to write a blog post but he knows he should so he’ll do it.
Positive-Extrinsic: Ray will get a bonus if he writes a blog post.
Negative-Extrinsic: Ray will get fired if he doesn’t write the stupid blog post…
Now hopefully you understand the differences and you can start to think about what the applications might be. That will have to remain a discussion for another day but let those practicalities brew in your thinking over the next few days as you observe your own behavior and those around you. Which of these 4 is most likely to be a long-lasting strategy for motivation? That’s right, positive-intrinsic motivation is the only motivation that will create long-lasting success. Do you think casual Fridays create positive-intrinsic motivation? What about office cake & icecream parties? 6 paid vacation days a year? No. No. No. and No. You can create all the motivational programs your managerial heart desires but the only way to develop truly motivated employees is to give them a work environment where they want to be successful. Open your eyes; take a fresh look at what makes your people tick and give them the freedom to succeed.