My previous post was about motivation. Motivation is what keeps us going, learning, achieving, and creating. I have talked about incentives and how they motivate our behaviours. Incentive fall under the extrinsic type of motivators. This blog will focus on the intrinsic motivators and the Cognitive Evaluation Theory.
Have you ever felt that after you were given a project or goal that in your mind was unachievable? Were you jumping on it with excitement and readiness? Or were you taking your time and felt demotivated by it?
I work in sales and my performance at work is measured by sales goals I achieve. I have noticed a pattern, after I am given a sales goal that falls above my comfort level and seems absolutely unachievable, feeling of discouragement and the need of more time to get started comes in. When you are given an unreachable goal, you do not try as hard as you can. I give up before I start trying.
On the other hand, when my goal is pushing the limit however in my mind is within reach, I push the hardest I can, put in a lot of overtime, and often exceed the goal. The end result is better when the goal is reachable.
I have noticed that with children as well. I have a little brother who is 8 years old; watching him grow was an amazing experience, and as a much older sister I have tried teaching him things of course. My brother loves to read, he is one of those kids that have a flash light under the pillow, and instead of going to bed, he reads. However I noticed that when I ask him to read to me, he refuses.
There is a theory behind this behaviour. Its called the Cognitive Evaluation Theory. This theory argues that extrinsic rewards decrease the intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic rewards in this case could be a variety of things like monetary reward, tokens, prizes, awards, avoidance of punishment, however other extrinsic factors could have the same effect; competition, evaluation, deadlines, goal imposition are other extrinsic factors that would influence the same effect on intrinsic motivation. (Ryan, 739) If you already love what you are doing and get a lot of enjoyment out of it, and someone starts paying you for doing the same activity, then takes that incentive away, your intrinsic motivation decreases from doing the same activity.
Do not get me wrong, making a lot of money is very satisfying and enjoyable, however it does not make an activity intrinsically enjoyable, it just makes it extrinsically gratifying.
But how exactly would a company be able to increase intrinsic motivators? Kenneth Thomas analyzes how modern workplaces could increase intrinsic motivators.
A lot of tech companies like Google offer their employees time to work on their own projects. Google realized that people prefer to work on challenging activities when they are free to do so, not when they are told or asked for it.
Creative jobs are based on intrinsic motivation. External factors like time, money and pressure to get the job done only interfere with the creative minds. Performing a creative job, employees should be free to take risk. If an employee feels a great deal of pressure, the risk taking and creativity in the workplace would decrease. According to Fast Company, “Time pressure stifles creativity because people can’t deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up.”
Managers should recognize and evaluate the reward structures is order to keep employees motivated and driven. In some jobs, the existence of extrinsic rewards could decrease productivity and creativity of employees.
Therefore, employers should focus on promoting the intrinsic motivators by giving employees flexibility, challenging projects, and team building.
To conclude my research, the intrinsic rewards create a win-win form of motivation for both the business and the employees. This type of motivation is facilitates the desire to offer an effective contribution to the business. Because these rewards are performance driven, they embody the self-management and professional development demanded by younger workers in today’s economy. Intrinsic rewards are feasible when money is an issue, since they do not depend on money to generate extra effort. Moreover, intrinsic rewards do not need micromanagement, virtual work and telecommuting flourish under this type of motivation.
Breen, B. (2004). The 6 Myths of Creativity. Fast Company. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/89/creativity.html?page=0%2C1
Gagné, M., Deci, E. (2005). Self-Determination Theory and Work Motivation. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 331-362
Ryan, R. M., Mims, V., & Koestner, R. (1983). Relation of reward contingency and interpersonal context to intrinsic motivation: A review and test using cognitive evaluation theory. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology