Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation is key in all aspects of life, and particularly, in the workplace.

Being motivated is needed for productivity, high quality work and success.

In terms of managers and team leaders, it is important to know who is motivated within the team. More specifically, which motivation category do they fall into; intrinsic or extrinsic?

This article looks at intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and how each one affects an individual in work and daily scenarios. It will also look at what a leader or manager can expect to see in a workplace.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation comes from a person internally and the things that interest and please them. It is working hard at something to please oneself, not their boss or colleague.

For example, in the workplace, an intrinsic motivator would be someone who completes a task far ahead of the deadline because it will make them feel better and not stressed, as opposed to doing it to please their boss or colleague.

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

This type of motivation comes from outside factors, for example, to seek a reward, promotion or praise.

An extrinsic motivator does not just do something for personal satisfaction or for the sake of doing the task, but rather to seek results in another way.

Someone with extrinsic motivation would help someone in their team with a task, so that person can then help them with a role, rather than just because they want to help them.

Commonly people can have a combination of both motivations, and they can be used and nurtured at different times, depending on the situation.

Examples of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Here are some further scenarios, outlining in each which is intrinsic motivation and which is extrinsic.

Learning A Foreign Language

  • Being able to speak another language is a great skill to possess; however, people are motivated to learn one for different reasons

  • An intrinsic motivator would want to learn a new language out of interest or because they love the particular country the language is spoken

  • Somebody with extrinsic motivation would learn it because there may be business opportunities in that country or a certain role at work requires that language to be spoken

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Everything You Need To Know
Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Everything You Need To Know

Running a Marathon

  • Running a marathon is a great achievement for anybody to do; however, the reasons behind running one are different for different people.

  • Someone with intrinsic motivation would run a marathon because they enjoy running or it makes them feel good to do it.

  • An extrinsic motivator may do it for the prize or trophy they gain at the end or because of the praise they will receive from people.

Keeping a Tidy and Clean Desk at Work

  • Clean and tidy environment equals a clean and tidy mind. But people will tidy up for different motivations.

  • Keeping your desk in order and clean at work because you like to keep tidy would be the actions of somebody with intrinsic motivation.

  • Keep your desk tidy because your company has a hot desk policy so somebody else could use it when you are not there, is the actions of someone with extrinsic motivation

Keeping To Deadlines At Work

  • It can be a challenge to keep to all deadlines at work, especially if the workload is heavy and can require motivation.

  • Completing all deadlines at work on time or ahead of time because it makes you happy is the motivation behind an intrinsic motivator.

  • Ensuring deadlines are complete on time to avoid reprimand would mean extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Which Is Better?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of motivation, and each is better suited in different situations.

Many may think that intrinsic motivation is the most beneficial to an employer. Still, it does have its restraints, as this article discusses below.

Benefits Of Intrinsic Motivation

  • Long-term fulfillment – Intrinsic motivators are good for the work environment as they generally keep this motivation long-term because they are doing something they enjoy. However, that can be a challenge if the employee has to do a task that does not interest them, but it is essential to work.

  • Original and creative ideas – An intrinsic motivator is likely to produce innovative and creative work as they are doing the work simply out of enjoyment. If they are working on a project, they may want to find new ideas to develop it because they will get enjoyment out of it

  • Commitment and loyalty – Someone with intrinsic motivation is likely to stay in a role that they love because they are motivated by enjoyment and satisfaction rather than promotion and rewards. This means commitment and loyalty to a role and more opportunity for development within the role

Benefits of Extrinsic Motivation

  • Achieving goals for the company – An extrinsic motivator will help achieve short goals for the business that can lead to long term success

  • Great leadership skills – An individual with extrinsic motivation is likely to make a good leader or manager as they are motivated by their team to achieve and be a success. They are also able to motivate others within their team with praise, bonuses and rewards

  • Efficiency – An extrinsic motivator could often be motivated to complete or achieve at work, so they are not reprimanded by their peers or boss. This is a benefit to employers as it increases efficiency and productivity in the workplace

Tapping into both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation could be key to overall success in a task and extracting the best from an employee.

When focusing on a task that needs completing quickly, it is good to look at someone’s extrinsic motivation as it can encourage them to complete the job with a little reward.

However, looking at a long-term plan and encouraging someone’s strengths would require tapping into their intrinsic motivation.

Final Thoughts

It is always good to have motivation, and it is vital to achieving many factors in life.

From a manager, employer or team leader’s perspective, it is good to know which motivation an individual has for them to achieve the best that they can within their role.

It may be that an employee can be both motivated, both intrinsically and extrinsically, depending on the situation; therefore, it is recommended to know this and gauge when to encourage each one.

One way to identify one’s motivation would be to ask what motivates them at the interview stage of a role, or ask them to complete a short personality test.

Within work, it could be through team building activities that you can identify their motivation.


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