When it comes to motivating your employees, what motivational approach do you employ, extrinsic or intrinsic?
Extrinsic refers to external things like: money, gift cards, tickets, iPods, etc.; you know - “stuff.” Intrinsic on the other hand, refers to internal, meaning from within; emotional feelings like: personal satisfaction, sense of accomplishment, recognition, acceptance, and approval. So which approach works best, or are they both effective?
I’m always amused by the request, “Come in and get the troops fired up with a motivational speech.” Ever attend one of those things? Did it get you fired up and motivated to perform your job better? If so, how long were you fired up and motivated?
For those readers who are former football players, ever get one of those pre-game motivational speeches from the coach in the locker room prior to taking the field? Of course - every single game right? Did you get fired up? Absolutely, how could you not? You couldn’t wait to break down the locker room door and get out onto the field to destroy the opposing team. So inspiring speeches and persuasion work, right? Well, that depends.
After you broke down the locker room door and took the playing field, how long did you remain fired up and motivated? That fired up/motivated feeling quickly disappeared after the first hit of the game, right? So how did you stay motivated to play hard for four quarters? That’s right; you motivated yourself (intrinsic).
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic
A lot of companies seem to be hardwired to always default to an incentive program whenever employee job performance is not where it needs to be. I guess it’s easier to throw money at the problem vs. taking the time or developing the leadership skills to take the intrinsic approach.
Incentive programs represent a slippery slope if not thoroughly thought out. Extrinsic motivators cost money, foster an entitlement mindset, hurt employee morale when cancelled, and buys you temporary compliance at best, not permanent behavior. The carrot and stick method: “Do this, and I’ll give you that,” is nothing more than control, seduction, and manipulation.
Let’s face it; no one likes to be controlled or manipulated. When you dangle a carrot in front of your employees, they’re thinking to themselves, if not consciously, certainly subconsciously, “This must be something I would not enjoy doing on my own if they have to incent me to do it with this carrot.”
Rewarding good job performance “after the fact” is a good thing. It’s the dangling of the carrot “before” the job performance that gets you in trouble. Intrinsic motivators change behaviors into habits vs. temporary compliance, foster loyalty vs. an entitlement mindset, and require an investment of time vs. money. A big reason why some companies don’t pursue an intrinsic approach to motivating their employees is because management is uncomfortable giving meaningful recognition, pats on the back, writing a personal note of appreciation, and providing a heart-felt face-to-face thank you.
There’s also the mindset among many managers that intrinsic-driven approaches to motivation are too simplistic and/or unrealistic to work. Too bad, since an intrinsic-driven approach is the only approach that does work! Extrinsic motivational strategies are a lot like some training programs, in that they are both band-aids that don’t stick in resolving job performance issues. Has your organization conducted a post motivation and training program assessment to see if the desired results were in fact achieved? When I say achieved, I mean long-term sustainment vs. temporary.
I guess in the end, the convenience of mediocrity trumps the inconvenience of change. Which is really scary, considering the world around us is changing at an alarming and accelerated pace.