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Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation in the Workplace

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation in the Workplace

In the dynamic landscape of the modern workplace, understanding the different types of motivation in the workplace is pivotal. Grasping these motivational types can boost a team leader, human resources professional, or any employee’s productivity. But what exactly are these types of motivation, and how do they manifest in a work environment?

Mastering soft skills is the most important thing you can do for your career. Degrees are a dime a dozen these days and employers are looking at different factors to determine hiring choices.

This article will uncover how different types of motivation that drive human behavior and contribute to building a motivated workforce. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to harness the power of motivation that will drive your career. 

What is Motivation?

Motivation – it’s the cornerstone of a productive and positive work environment. But what does it truly entail? Simply put, motivation is the driving force that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. 

It compels team members to put in hard work, strive for new skills, and engage in their tasks enthusiastically. This concept is central to understanding the types of motivation in the workplace, a key to unlocking employee potential and enhancing overall job satisfaction.

The Essence of Employee Engagement

In human resources, motivation is not just a buzzword, it’s the backbone of effective employee engagement. Whether providing positive feedback, recognizing great work, or meeting basic needs, motivation plays a pivotal role in shaping an employee’s daily experience. It’s about creating a positive work environment where team members feel valued and driven to contribute their best work.

What are the types of motivation in the workplace?

Intrinsic and Extrinsic

At the heart of the types of motivation in the workplace are two main categories intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an internal desire to perform a particular task because it’s personally helpful. 

This form of motivation drives an employee to engage in work for the sake of personal growth, self-determination, or a sense of accomplishment. Conversely, extrinsic motivation involves external forces and rewards like impressing other people, public recognition, or gaining acceptance from someone. It’s about doing a job to earn a reward or avoid a penalty.

The Role of Motivation in Achieving Business Goals

Understanding these types of motivation is crucial for business leaders and managers. It’s not just about encouraging good work, it’s about leveraging the right motivation to achieve better results, enhance employee morale, and align efforts with the company’s mission. 

Effective motivation strategies, intrinsic or extrinsic, can have a significant impact to an employee’s performance. Finding that strategy will drive you in your performance goals. 

Understanding Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation stands at the core of an employee’s internal compass. It’s one of the vital types of motivation in the workplace, integral to understanding what propels employees to excel. Unlike external rewards, intrinsic motivation is about self satisfaction. That internal desire leads an employee to pursue a task for personal fulfillment, be it mastering new challenges, experiencing personal growth, or achieving a sense of accomplishment.

The Power of Personal Fulfillment in Work

When intrinsically motivated employees focus on the task at hand, driven by deep-rooted desires rather than external rewards. This type of motivation is fueled by personal goals, a sense of belonging, and the fulfillment of basic psychological needs. 

Intrinsic motivation is about doing a job well for its sheer satisfaction. It leads to great work, not because of a reward waiting at the end, but because the work itself is rewarding.

How can different types of motivation in the workplace affect an employee?

Harnessing Intrinsic Motivation for Long-Term Success

The beauty of intrinsic motivation lies in its long-term benefits. It’s an effective way to enhance job satisfaction and contributes significantly to employee engagement and retention. When employees find intrinsic rewards in their tasks, they are likelier to demonstrate high commitment and passion for their work. 

This internal drive results in excellent work and fosters a positive work environment. Boosting their intrinsic motivation encourages team members to pursue their professional development relentlessly.

The Role of Leadership in Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation

Leaders and managers play a crucial role in nurturing intrinsic motivation. By recognizing the intrinsic factors that motivate their team members, leaders can create a culture of motivation that aligns with the company’s mission. 

Encouraging autonomy, providing opportunities for personal growth, and acknowledging good work are key strategies. This approach boosts individual employee performance and contributes to building a motivated and engaged workforce.

An image of two employees doing a collaboration work.

Means to an End

Employers have long ignored one of the most important factors of intrinsic motivation. Employees are seeking to get something out of the job you are attempting to motivate them in. In your eyes they may be seeking money or career development, but there is always something deeper. 

Their intrinsic desire might be to be a good mom and they need money to do that. A person attempting to climb the corporate ladder might actually desire to move abroad and they see a promotion as means to running the Paris office. Finding out the intrinsic reason behind the career goal is the key to retaining that employee long term.

In-Depth Look at Types of Intrinsic Motivation

1. Competence and Learning Motivation

Competence motivation is about mastering new skills. Employees driven by this are always learning and growing. They tackle new challenges to enhance their abilities. This type is pivotal in the workplace. It leads to personal growth and better results.

2. Creative Motivation

Creative motivation drives innovation. Employees with this motivation seek to express their creativity. They find joy in bringing new ideas to life. This motivation is key for problem-solving and innovation in the workplace.

3. Achievement Motivation

Achievement motivation focuses on setting and achieving goals. These employees aim for high performance and often exceed expectations. They find satisfaction in accomplishing difficult tasks. This motivation type boosts overall workplace productivity.

How can different types of motivation in the workplace change the office?

4. Attitude Motivation

Attitude motivation is maintaining a positive outlook where everyone feels they did a good job. Employees with this motivation contribute to a positive work environment. They motivate others and handle challenges well. This type is essential for team morale and collaboration.

5. Affiliation Motivation

Affiliation motivation revolves around social connections. Employees with this motivation value relationships and teamwork. They thrive in collaborative environments and contribute to a strong company culture.

6. Physiological Motivation

Physiological motivation is linked to fulfilling basic needs. Employees motivated by this focus on job security and stability. This motivation type is fundamental for sustaining long-term commitment and loyalty in the workplace.

7. Goal Motivation

The motivated person sees a difficult task as means to an end. First and foremost they want to reach their personal goal. Performing work at a high level is a good way for them to get closer to their own desire. 

Can leader identify the types of motivation in the workplace?

Exploring Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is another type of motivation in the workplace. External factors and rewards drive this form of motivation. It’s about achieving a task to gain visible tangible reward or avoid a negative consequence. 

Extrinsic motivators are powerful tools that make an employee happy in the short term. They can significantly influence employee performance and engagement.

Understanding the Role of External Forces in Motivation

In a typical workplace setting, extrinsic motivation is often seen in different forms. It could be bonuses, promotions, and other types of external rewards. These forms are effective ways to encourage employees to complete a specific task or reach a certain level of performance. 

Intrinsic motivation is about internal satisfaction. However, extrinsic motivators focus on offering something external as a reward for good work or as a deterrent against poor performance.

Balancing Extrinsic Motivators for Optimal Results

The key to leveraging extrinsic motivation lies in finding the right balance. While it’s a great way to get immediate results, relying solely on external rewards is not recommended. It can lead to decreased intrinsic motivation. 

Leaders must combine extrinsic motivators with intrinsic factors. They must ensure employees aim for the reward and find personal value in their work. This balance is essential for maintaining long-term employee engagement and motivation.

An image of employees having a meeting.

Extrinsic Motivation as a Tool for Achieving Business Goals

Understanding extrinsic motivation is essential for devising effective employee engagement strategies. Motivations include recognizing and rewarding excellent work. Title inflation is a common no cost external source of motivation. In addition, employers can also offer financial incentives and create a positive working environment. These are the different ways to harness the power of extrinsic motivation.

Managers can effectively use external rewards to drive their teams towards achieving business goals. Managers can also enhance overall performance and foster a motivated workforce.

In-Depth Look at Types of Extrinsic Motivation

1. Reward-Based Motivation

External rewards drive reward-based motivation. Employees motivated this way respond to financial incentives, bonuses, awards, or promotions. They perform tasks to earn these external rewards. This motivation type is effective for short-term goals and immediate results in the workplace.

2. Power-Based Motivation

Power-based motivation centers on gaining authority or status. Employees with this motivation strive for leadership roles or positions of influence. They are driven by the desire to lead and make decisions. This type is crucial for developing leaders and shaping a positive work environment.

An image of employees and managers in the middle of a meeting.

3. Fear-Based Motivation

Fear-based motivation is driven by the desire to avoid negative consequences. Employees motivated this way work to prevent job loss, criticism, or failure. This motivation requires careful management to be effective. It should be balanced with positive motivators to ensure a healthy work environment.

Best Practices for Motivating Different Workplace Roles

Not all parts of the workforce respond similarly to one kind of motivation. Here are the best practices for improving specific parts of the team. 

Motivating Employees

Personalized Motivation is key. Understand each employee’s unique drivers. Some may thrive on extrinsic rewards, while others value internal factors like a sense of achievement. The best way to motivate is by aligning tasks with their intrinsic or extrinsic motivators. 

Regular performance reviews can help identify these preferences. This approach ensures long-term engagement and great performance. Employees are not always very self aware about what types of motivation will be most effective for them in the workplace, but a good manager can guess pretty accurately after working together for a while.

An image of employees celebrating after making a breakthrough.

Motivating Managers

Leadership Development is crucial. Encourage managers to adopt leadership styles that foster team building and employee empowerment. A good manager knows that different forms of motivation work for different team members. 

Try to blend positive motivation, external regulation, and internal encouragement. This leads to motivated teams and high-level performance. Understand that all types of motivation in the workplace should be routinely utilized for maximum results.

Motivating in Education

Professional Growth is essential. In education roles, continuous learning and development are vital. Using a mix of motivational strategies, like offering opportunities for skill enhancement (addressing physiological needs) and providing positive reinforcement, can be highly effective.

This approach addresses the hierarchy of needs and taps into self-determination theory, ensuring motivated, lifelong learners. Utilizing both types of motivation in the workplace doesn’t have to be adversarial, it can be collaborative and mutually beneficial when done correctly.

FAQ: Types of Motivation in the Workplace


  • Veronica Hanson

    Veronica Hanson blogs from whatever country she happens to be in at the time, currently she's hanging out in Japan. She's been living as a nomad remote entrepreneur with her family since 2020.

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  1. I always learn something new from your posts. This one was insightful and well-written.

  2. Hey Veronica,

    I found you on pinterest, and loved them.
    Motivation is important to succeed in life.
    Your tips and tricks will help me sustain a wonderful work ethic and life ethic.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely insight.