Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation in the Workplace

by Jagg Xaxx; Updated September 26, 2017

An understanding of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is useful to managers in the workplace because it helps them to maintain high employee morale. While high pay and good benefits are important to employees, a positive workplace and interesting work can do as much if not more to keep employees motivated and interested in their work.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation relates to people who work more for the love of their job than for the money they receive. People who have a job that they love make a living from something that they find inherently satisfying. People more commonly find intrinsic motivation in careers that involve high levels of skill and creativity, aspects that increase a person's absorption in their work.

Extrinsic Motivation

Employers provide extrinsic motivation in the form of pay, benefits and other programs designed to appeal to employees. A worker motivated by extrinsic factors may be there solely for the money and other benefits. This doesn't mean that people in high-paying jobs lack intrinsic motivation, but that extrinsic motivation in terms of pay and benefits may be enough to keep them working at a job even if they don't like it. The ideal situation for most employees is to find a job that features high levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

The Role of Management in Motivation

Methods of motivating employees are a central point of concern for managers and owners of businesses. Extrinsic motivation is inherently easier for management to provide than intrinsic motivation. The latter form of motivation is a far more complex and internal state of being, involving idiosyncratic levels of satisfaction and accomplishment. While some progressive managers attempt to instill intrinsic motivation in their employees, it is much more common for managers and owners to rely on extrinsic factors such as pay increases and other financial benefits.

Employee Identification With Work

Alienation in the workplace is a difficult and common problem that undermines productivity, employee morale and the sense of intrinsic satisfaction. Companies will find it difficult to motivate alienated employees to perform at their highest level. Employees who identify closely with the work that they do take pride in its quality that is independent of how much they earn or how others evaluate their skills. Intrinsic motivation emerges out of identification with the work. When an individual views an activity as an expression of his inner self, he will take care to do it well and take satisfaction in the work.

About the Author

Jagg Xaxx has been writing since 1983. His primary areas of writing include surrealism, Buddhist iconography and environmental issues. Xaxx worked as a cabinetmaker for 12 years, as well as building and renovating several houses. Xaxx holds a Doctor of Philosophy in art history from the University of Manchester in the U.K.