Missing the long weekend? Wishing it was Friday? Hoping Easter would come around a little quicker?
The consequences of poor motivation are well documented, particularly in the workplace. Amongst other things, lacking motivation can lead to reduced engagement, lower productivity, poorer communication, reduced customer satisfaction and ultimately higher turnover. For businesses this is not only financially very costly, but it can also harm what would otherwise be a great workplace culture.
Aside from the impact on business, having no motivation (and the underlying reasons behind this) can strongly impact an individual too. You might feel stuck, apathetic, undervalued, lost, angry, unable to face challenges and it might be a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. It’s no wonder you’d be looking forward to Easter already! Thankfully, understanding the different types of motivation, what affects them, and what we can do to improve them can help us take control and regain our motivation once again.
There are many different theories surrounding motivation, what impacts it and how to cultivate it. In this article, we are going to focus specifically on the sources of motivation and how we can target these specifically to have us bouncing into work on a Monday morning!
Renowned Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan have distinguished between two types of motivation that shape who we are and how we behave: Extrinsic Motivation and Intrinsic Motivation.
Let’s break this down a little…
Extrinsic Motivation is the type of motivation which is influenced by an external source. It refers to behaviours that are driven by either external rewards or punishment. For example, Roger Federer might be extrinsically motivated to win the Australian Open for the four million dollar reward he would receive. Or he might be extrinsically motivated to win to avoid losing his $40 million sponsorship from Barilla Pasta as punishment! You don’t need to be a famous sports star to be influenced by extrinsic motivation though, and extrinsic motivation doesn’t necessarily need to be tangible. For the rest of us, extrinsic motivators at work can come from things such as a paycheck, a bonus, a pat on the back from your boss or even the fear of being fired.
Extrinsically motivated people are generally more focussed on the outcome of their actions, rather than the emotions associated with them. You might think that extrinsic motivation sounds inherently bad if someone is only motivated to do something to receive a reward or avoid punishment. Whilst this may be true to an extent, extrinsic motivation can actually be a quite effective strategy to improve someone’s motivation. This type of motivation can be particularly important when people need to complete something that they find difficult or uninteresting, such as a boring homework assignment or a tedious work-related project.
What an employer can do:
First and foremost, as an employer it is extremely important to understand what it is that motivates your employees, whether it be extrinsic or intrinsic factors. It is certainly easier to target someone’s extrinsic motivation by offering incentives and rewards, so if you are going to target this type of motivation it is important to also understand WHAT will extrinsically motivate someone. You don’t want to risk rolling out an ineffective and costly incentive that your employee doesn’t care about it. Instead, you need to ask them what it is that would improve or maintain their individual motivation. It might be money, time, going to a conference, fun or another type of reward. It can be difficult to offer different rewards for different individuals but this targeted approach will have the best outcome for the business. To ensure the rewards are fair between individuals, you may wish to set a value limit on what the reward can be. You might offer someone a $1,000 bonus and offer someone else the opportunity to attend a conference to the value of $1,000. This ensures that everyone is motivated without resulting in some individuals being rewarded unfairly compared to others.
What an employee can do:
As an individual, you might feel as though extrinsic motivators are out of your control, and that it is completely up to your employer to incentivise you. Good news though – there is something that you can do as an individual to improve your extrinsic motivation! Firstly, YOU need to understand what you’re motivated by and what would incentivise you – ask yourself these questions and then set yourself goals. If being able to go out to buy a new handbag will incentivise you to work harder to get that bonus, then set yourself a goal and allow yourself the reward of a new handbag when you reach it!
Another strategy is to ask yourself why you are working in your current position. If you took a job there so that you can save up to buy a property then it is important to remember this bigger picture. If necessary, you can use this reminder to motivate yourself to work hard so that you can buy the house of your dreams.
Finally, communication with your employer is also very important. If you’re feeling demotivated in your current role and you’re not excited by any bonuses or rewards that are on offer then have that conversation with your employer. For the most part, employers will be very happy to consider making changes if it means that you’re going to be more productive, motivated and less likely to resign in the future. Having this conversation can be a win – win for both parties!
Intrinsic Motivation is the type of motivation that comes from within. It refers to when a person’s behaviour is influenced specifically by internal factors, such as enjoyment, learning, fulfilment, relaxation and personal satisfaction. Let’s talk about Roger Federer again. He might be intrinsically motivated to win the Australian Open because he enjoys beating Rafa, he feels a sense of satisfaction and achievement from performing at his best, and because he loves playing tennis. For the rest of us with a 9-5 day job, you might ask how it is that we could be intrinsically motivated at work? Interestingly there are a number of factors which can influence our intrinsic motivation. You might be motivated to come to work because you enjoy the challenge, you feel appreciated by your manager, you feel a sense of belonging, you feel a sense of purpose or you enjoy learning new things. These are all great things to feel when being motivated internally however, you may not recognise these motivators or be able to define them as easily. By finding meaning in the work you do and want to see opportunities for personal and professional growth and development you will be able to identify what motivates you internally.
What an employer can do:
You want a highly-committed and motivated workforce and you know when your employees are healthy and engaged, your business performance is better, customer satisfaction increases and eventually, your revenues and profits grow. Here’s what you can do to promote intrinsic motivation within your team:
- Increase curiosity; employees who are challenged in a positive way intrinsically push themselves to be their best. Encourage them to problem solve or think outside the box.
- Autonomy; Employees crave control and allowing them to take responsibility for their tasks will empower them to take ownership and pride in their work.
- Recognition; Regular feedback and acknowledgement goes a long way and when someone is feeling appreciated creates a system where they are able to constantly improve their performance.
- Belongingness; Employees who are involved in the decision-making process have a sense of camaraderie and view themselves as being a valued member of the collective team and that intellect and input is noticed and appreciated.
Motivating employees intrinsically is largely about getting to know them, their goals and their needs where then you can create incentives to satisfy them. Understanding these basic tools and recognising the desires of your employees ensures your culture and workforce is hyper-focused on building a positive and productive environment.
What an employee can do:
To be more aware of what intrinsically motivates you, first you have to know it’s a positive emotional reaction and not a physical reward. It comes from a deep internal desire to perform and execute job related functions. Similar to what employers can do, you also have a part to play in understanding what drives you internally too. Start by asking yourself these simple questions;
- When I take on more responsibility, do I feel satisfied knowing that I am progressing in my workplace and that I am trusted to do additional tasks?
- When I am being recognised for my good work and efforts, does this make me feel my worth is important and I continue to stay motivated to keep doing a great job?
- When I accomplish something, am I likely looking back and proud of what I have achieved so far?
- Do I feel supported by the team around me and are we working toward a common goal?
Once you understand your core desires for being motivated intrinsically, you will soon realise the enjoyment that is experienced is enough to make you want to perform the activity in the future and possibly get better at it each time. While you might not be doing something that could lead to winning an award or physical incentive, this is not the primary motivation. Be conscious of what gives you intrinsic motivation so you are able to live a happy life and enjoy what you are doing each day.
At the end of the day, different people are motivated by different things, whether they be intrinsic or extrinsic factors and it’s a matter of finding a balance between the two. As an individual, it is important to be aware of what it is that motivates you (and to be honest with yourself!) so that you’re producing the best work that you can and so that you do wake up excited for the day ahead.
Equally, it is important for employers to be aware of what their employees are motivated by so that they can implement tailored strategies to ensure they are getting the best out of everyone. If you’re not sure what your employees want – ask!
Being happy and motivated will result in people working more efficiently, feeling more engaged, communicating more effectively, bringing more energy to the team and getting involved in cultural activities. Overall, there will be less turnover, improved productivity, happier customers, increased revenue and a positive environment for everyone to enjoy.
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