Workplace Motivation

In this blog post I wonder where the working-life motivation comes from and how it relates to the most common of all motivators – money.

For every employee in every job their motivation is the key. It is something that drives people forward and enables them to perform well. Without motivation one’s pursuits are often characterized by a lack of enthusiasm resulting in a worse-than-optimal outcome. This is why companies and employers should incentivize their personnel. The thing is the chosen incentive is often not working too well.

I believe many employers use external motivators i.e. “carrots” that do not successfully translate to internal motivation for the employees. One of these unsuccessful external motivators is money. Money itself is very useful, it makes life easier and makes it possible for us to pursue the lifestyle we want. The problem is that if we have some, we do not need it as much as if we didn’t have any. In other words money has a diminishing utility. Having more of money increases one’s utility but at a diminishing rate. The studies also say that after a certain threshold money does not seem to increase our happiness. In some cases money can even be harmful.

It was pointed out by Dan Pink that using money as a motivator in simple tasks increases one’s efficiency, but if used in more complex activities the results actually seem to get worse. The reason being that having money as the “goal” narrows one’s focus, in which case the complexity of the problem cannot be adequately addressed. Thus if we also assume that the complex jobs get paid more, and the bonuses and perks are paid in monetary terms, we got a situation where extra-money brings only slightly utility, narrow’s your focus and does not work well as a motivator.

Personally I have found that my motivation mainly comes from the team-spirit, competitiveness and sense of belonging in the working place. I need to be able to evaluate my performance with those of my peers to see how I am doing. I have to be able to trust those I work with and I need to feel like belonging to the “team” which ultimately has the same goal. Additionally if the tasks are more demanding and diverse my motivation-level tends to be higher. I think the last point is just to avoid getting bored at the job which eventually demotivates you by a great deal.

I think the optimal solution to make people motivated would be something like the following. Pay people well enough to make the job appealing, but do not use the money as the main reward. Instead, focus on providing a dynamic, competitive but still a strongly team-spirited workplace where one does not get bored and one feels like he is part of something greater.

By Lauri Henrik Mustonen

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