Employ Insight

Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivation

  • Written by EmployInsight
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  • It is important to be motivated in the workplace, but did you know that the type of motivation you employ could be either energizing or enervating?

    Take the example of two sales people, Jim and Larry. Jim and Larry both go to client meetings and do a great job talking and pitching to prospective customers. However, when Jim gets home he is exhausted and drained from the day talking with the clients, while Larry goes home recharged and excited for the next client meeting. For Larry meeting with clients is a rewarding part of his job. For Jim, it is obligatory.

    Which salesperson do you think will remain in the job a year later?

    Meeting clients is intrinsically rewarding for Larry, but Jim is externally motivated. Intrinsic motivation refers to performing a task or goal for the enjoyment of the activity rather than for an external reward or incentive. External motivation refers to performing a task or goal because of an outside reward such as money or promotion. Additionally, external motivation can also refer to the fear of punishment such as loosing one’s job. Jim has external motivation because when he meets with clients he knows that these meetings are crucial to constructing deals with clients and bringing in new business and maintaining current business.

    Intrinsic motivation is important for recovery because it prevents the worker from feeling exhausted. Meeting with clients recharges Larry’s battery and allows him to replenish the psychological resources he expended. But for Jim, meeting with clients requires more of his energy because he doesn’t personally view the social interaction as psychologically valuable. This is why psychological fit is so crucial because it assures that the employee is using intrinsic motivation for tasks instead of extrinsic motivation.


    Photo Credit: Flickr/Brianfit