Money Motivates….Or Does It?

Business Man Displaying a Spread of Cash

What motivates us (we human being types) to excel? What conditions or practices bring out the best in us? What will help us do our very best work, making a significant difference in this world? As a Leadership Coach, I’m always curious about motivation. My aim is to help my clients live out their dreams and ambitions as fully as possible. Naturally, I’m very interested in how organizations structure themselves. Each operates from a particular viewpoint regarding human motivation. Their structure reveals their perspective.

All of this is why I appreciate Frederick Herzberg’s (say that 3 times fast) and colleagues’ work. Daniel Pink, in Drive, makes good use of Herzberg’s research when describing what we have learned about human motivation in the workplace. Evidently, the great assumption most of us have made about worker motivation is false. “Hygiene factors,” like salary, security, and status are motivating in one way…they prevent job dissatisfaction. When adequate salary or money is not paid to employees, then they grow dissatisfied. On the other hand, an adequate salary by itself, is not sufficient to motivate excellent work over time. When people believe their salary or pay is adequate or fair, then at least they are not dissatisfied with their jobs. It turns out then that financial incentives, like bonuses or extra time off, really don’t motivate creative or exceptional work. These are extrinsic motivators, which the research shows, have minimal impact.

Conversely, intrinsic motivators turn out to actually be motivating. So if you are evaluating your position at work, or looking for a new position, or you are a leader who can structure your organization…look carefully at the intrinsic factors. Consider asking these questions as evaluation tools:

  • How much do I enjoy the work itself?
  • How much do colleagues in this job, or other employees, enjoy their work?
  • Does this position allow and encourage me to make a positive difference in the world?
  • Am I, or could I, contribute to the common good through this position?
  • How much challenge is present in this job – enough to keep me engaged?
  • What opportunities for skill development and learning are present here?
  • How about relationships in this workplace?
  • What’s the emotional climate like in this organization?

These questions evaluate the conditions in a position which contribute to creativity, lengthy tenures, and a more enjoyable work like. Since we spend so much time in our work, isn’t this worth exploring?

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