Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Rewards: What's a Better Motivator?
16Jul, 2021

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Rewards: What’s a Better Motivator?

Do you belong to an intrinsic camp or an extrinsic camp of motivation?

Studies have shown that offering too many rewards to motivate someone who is already intrinsically motivated to do that task can backfire where the individual now might consider it as regular work and no longer feel motivated. 

Motivation statistics indicate that many employees are motivated by financial gain, career and promotion opportunities, training and development opportunities, flexible working conditions and additional paid leave. Companies with motivated employees are more productive than others. The Hay Group study of employee motivation shows that the most committed employees in the office are 43% more productive. 

Motivation is not such a complex concept, but it sure is very difficult to ensure employees stay motivated throughout their work tenure. What insights can we tap into? What do we need to revisit? Perhaps the answer to employee motivation in the virtual workplace lies in going back to basic motivation concepts.


What is Intrinsic Motivation?

The American Psychological Association defines intrinsic motivation as “the incentive to engage in a particular activity that generates pleasure in the activity and is of real interest to the subject regardless of the external benefit of obtaining money or course credits”. 

When we are motivated, we do what we want to do, because the act of doing so gives us a sense of joy based on our natural interest, value, or passion. 

In short, intrinsic motivation is to perform an activity for its own sake, without the desire for external rewards or pressure. You are naturally motivated when you do an activity because you enjoy it and you are personally satisfied with it. Intrinsic motivation is based on internal incentives such as pleasure and interest, while extrinsic motivation is external incentives to engage in a particular activity motivation that arises from the expectation of punishment or reward, such as performing an unloved job for a fee. 

Examples of intrinsic motivation:

  • Reading a book because you enjoy stories
  • Exercising or meditating because you want to relieve stress
  • Cleaning your space because it makes you feel organized
  • Learning to dance because you love to groove
  • Organizing tasks and scheduling work because you enjoy being organized
  • You exceed your set targets because you love to win


What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Simply put, extrinsic motivation refers to the behavior of a person who is rewarded from the outside by performing a task or learning a new skill. In contrast, intrinsic motivation is the inner power of personal growth and the desire for success that fuels your urge to get a job done. 

For some people, the benefit of external rewards is enough to motivate them to deliver high-quality, continuous work. The type of reward plays an important role in determining the effectiveness of extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivations can be used under all circumstances, and if a reward is used correctly, it does not lose its effect. 

Studies have shown that an external reward for an activity can make it more rewarding. Without external rewards, researchers have found that people are less creative, less productive, and do a better job when they are motivated. At work, external rewards can be especially valuable if you find a task or activity uninteresting. After all, every job has a mundane aspect to it as well.

Examples of extrinsic motivation:

  • Reading to prepare for a test
  • Exercising to lose weight
  • Cleaning your space to prepare for visitors coming over
  • Dancing to win a competition
  • Achieving sales target for reward
  • Assisting team with work because you love appreciation & recognition 


Intrinsic Motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation: What motivates you to get out of bed and start working

Motivation is the combination of internal and external factors that promote the desired energy of an individual. Your motivation inspires you to get out of bed, complete tasks and achieve goals throughout the day.  Take stock of your motivation, which one are you leaning on. Knowing what motivates you and what kind of motivation it is, will change the way you perceive and perform tasks.

If you are motivated by a task and at the same time by an external reward, you run the risk of losing your intrinsic motivation to get the job done. For example, people with external motivation will do work tasks or school tasks that they are not interested in. Intrinsic motivation decreases when external rewards are given for completing a particular task or minimal work. So maybe you don’t need extrinsic motivation for certain tasks. 

It might seem like being intrinsically motivated is better than being extrinsically motivated. But, realistically as we don’t live in such a motivation-Utopia, being extrinsically motivated comes naturally to human beings and doesn’t mean it’s bad. Find out, for what tasks or when you need extrinsic motivation. 


When Extrinsic Motivation Is Best And How To Use It Productively

Experimental research that began in the 1970s has shown that creating extrinsic motivation by rewarding a person for a pleasant activity can undermine a person’s subsequent intrinsic motivation to engage in that activity. Inducing extrinsic motivation through reward has positive performance effects that produce greater effort and production, and risk inducing learning can lead to less enjoyment, creativity, mental flexibility and conceptual learning. Extrinsic motivations involve operative conditioning, that is, you condition yourself to behave in a certain way if you are rewarded for it. 

On the other hand, even in the presence of extrinsic rewards, athletes can still feel they have control over their behavior. Although more research is needed on this topic to determine whether external rewards undermine intrinsic motivation. Although external rewards are an important tool for motivating behavior, experts warn that they should be used with caution, particularly in children. 

As a human resources manager, use external incentives to motivate your team to take on new responsibilities or to achieve high goals. Use extrinsic motivation like bonuses, commissions, awards and prizes to foster interest and complete a particular task. 

Extrinsic motivation is when rewards are used as incentives such as praise, fame or money as a motivation for a particular activity. Exceptional rewards such as bonuses, commissions, awards and prizes are often the only thing that can foster interest in a particular task. 


When Intrinsic Motivation Is Best And Powerful Ways To Promote It

Intrinsic motivation is preferred to extrinsic motivation because it is self-determined and does not depend on reinforcement by the environment. Motivated behavior is not dependent on external rewards or penalties, and involves self-directed motivation, so it is stronger and lasts longer in the face of challenges. And individuals who are naturally motivated are more likely to approach tasks with enthusiasm and creativity, who have no sense of pressure to get things done within a certain time or in a certain way and are likely to explore unique ways to solve problems. 

Intrinsic motivations are seen as strong incentives for behaviors that require long-term implementation. As a human resources manager, use elements like leaderboard, badges and learning zone to motivate employees.


Pivot your reward at the workplace and motivate your team with Buzzz

Understanding the wide range of motivations can help employees stay motivated in the workplace, and help leaders find new ways to support their teams to excel. No matter what kind of motivation you use, finding insights on what type of motivation works for your teams can help you discover a long-term plan that fits you and your team. 

And once you know the right type, Social Recognition platforms like Buzzz helps HR and organization leaders motivate their employees by rewarding them and recognizing them. A platform like Buzzz offers multiple options that HR can choose from to keep employees engaged and motivated in the workplace.

Employee motivation is a crucial aspect of the workplace that leads to performance in all departments of the company. No matter how big or small the company is, employee motivation is one of the biggest employer goals. 

To learn more about the reward options adopted by the companies worldwide connect with us at contactus@letsbuzzz.com.

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