Introduction to Motivation
Motivation is the energy that catalyzes behavior. This article describes the how motivation manifests itself in the workplace. The goal of most managers is to get their employees to work as productively as possible. Many prescriptive models of motivation have been developed to help managers achieve this objective, but we will only focus on one. Self determination theory (from the work of Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, both of the University of Rochester) is an especially useful model. 1 When applied appropriately, this model can help managers achieve greater results. Here’s the challenge in attempting to motivate employees: Most motivational strategies are applied from the outside to the individual and therefore, they are controlling. When the employee is coerced, manipulated, or influenced to do a task, there are long-term negative consequences.
It is easy to understand how money and other tangible rewards can be manipulative. Value systems, cultural concepts, and organizational structures can also be manipulative. When a motivating strategy is controlling or manipulating, its benefits are only of a short duration. More importantly, these strategies distract the employee’s attention from the desired behavior.
Our goal as motivating managers should be to come as close as possible to creating an intrinsically motivating environment. Such an environment occurs when an employee feels capable of performing a task and then freely chooses to do it.
Types of Motivation
Let’s explore the idea of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation more deeply. The idea of internal and external motivation is easy to grasp. If I do a better job because my employer offers me a bonus, I have been externally motivated. If I do a better job because it makes me proud of myself, I have been internally motivated.
The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is more complex – and more useful. When you are motivated, either internally or...