While plenty of research has proved that intrinsic motivation is more effective than extrinsic motivation yet the trend seen across organisations throughout the world is that organisations are channelising bulk of their effort towards extrinsic motivational factors than intrinsic.

There could be two primary reasons for the same. The first one is that extrinsic motivation yields immediate results compared to intrinsic motivation processes. Most organisations today want immediate results and therefore extrinsic factors of motivation like rewards and recognition form the basis for motivating employees.

The second reason could be that the methods to counsel and motivate employees intrinsically is highly subjective and ‘intrinsic’ to an individual, for example, curiosity, self-actualisation, taking work as a challenge, high self-esteem are factors which are difficult to be counselled and brought out from within an individual.

Research done on intrinsic motivation has shown that childhood conditioning plays a major part in motivating someone intrinsically along with many other factors. This makes it extremely difficult for an organisation to motivate employees intrinsically inspite of research proving intrinsic motivation to be more efficient and effective than extrinsic.

Most of the factors leading to a need for extrinsic motivation in an individual stem out of fear and need (also greed as a form of need) and therefore do not have a shorter shelf life. Even if a successful effort is made to quench the existing need, another one stems out leading to a continuous need to fuel the motivation in the employee to work.

Organisations have to incur a huge tangible and intangible cost too to motivate their employees extrinsically. Their need for instant gratification of their efforts and the difficulty in the process of intrinsic motivation keeps them trapped into pouring in efforts like rewards and punishments.

But there are a couple of places where organisations lose in this process. One, as per Herzberg’s two factor theory of motivation, motivators become hygiene factors very soon. As per the definition of hygiene factors, the presence of these factors do not motivate the employee as much as needed but its absence surely demotivates them; and that’s where most organisations are trapped today!

So if an organisation created a reward based scheme for increased performance, after a while those rewards may not motivate as much as they did earlier but their absence will surely demotivate them now. Another example can be a Saturday leave given earlier and now cancelled or an air conditioner removed from the office after being installed a few months ago.

Organisations get imprisoned by having to constantly provide extrinsic motivating factors or face demotivated employees leading to lesser performance, foul atmosphere at the workplace and increased attrition, all leading to the bottom line of the organisation bleeding. The organisation ends up being on its toes all the time to add more cost in ways to keep the ‘not so worthy’ employees happy.

Organisations also end up using means to force performance through applying pressure on the employees in the end and balancing it usually with monetary or recognition rewards which as mentioned above make the system entrapped in the vicious circle.

While on the surface extrinsic rewards look good and healthy, the reality deep down is that this is neither good for the organisation nor for the employee. The employee also becomes a victim of never ending stress and greed and running the rat race which doesn’t have a finishing line. By keeping the system on ransom, he may seem to gain something but loses more in the area of happiness and job satisfaction.

End of the day, an average employee in the corporate sector is not a happy individual. He doesn’t like his workplace and so rejoices a weekend and dislikes the weekdays, he loves the small breaks at the chai ki tapri and doesn’t want to work a bit late and postpone urgent work for ‘tomorrow’. This is inspite of the organisation spending efforts and resources on trying to motivate the employee extrinsically.

The vital question that also arises here – why the heck does an organisation need to motivate an employee to work and even spend money to deploy a bio metric attendance machine to get the office on time??? Work gives meaning to a human life, except if the only purpose of life is the scarcity driven mindset to earn a livelihood.

Categories: Workplace


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