Feedback and Rewards

The Will to Win at Work. Can It Be Learned?

Max Vogt asked:

Of even greater concern, however,is that the reward structure we do use in most organizations can be an obstacle to a motivated workforce and can inhibit our ability to build flexibility and foster learning. The focus of much of this research around motivation has been to identify the relative differences between the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When motivation is intrinsic, the rewards are inherent in the activity itself. Intrinsically motivated people then, are those who engage in an activity for its own sake. When a person learns a new skill, performs a challenging task that builds self-esteem, or engages in an event that fulfills that person’s need to be socially responsible (feeding the homeless, for example), the benefits can be thought of as intrinsic.

Conversely, when a person is extrinsically motivated, he or she seeks rewards that are external to the activity. An extrinsically motivated person, therefore, does something because of what he or she might receive as a result. “If you do this, you will get that” has been a popular way of thinking about this type of reward structure. Money, promotion, time off, praise, recognition programs, and a wide assortment of other benefits are all extrinsic rewards that have been used in the attempt to generate better performance.

Taken as a whole, however, the research leans heavily in favor of intrinsic reward structures over extrinsic ones if the goal is to gain greater employee commitment and improved long-term performance. Over the years, however, most organizations have attempted to influence performance largely through the use of extrinsic rewards. We have focused more on building external reward structures than on building environments where intrinsic motivation could flourish.

Paying a few bucks more or running an incentive program is simply easier than trying to recreate a work environment to ensure that jobs are challenging and meaningful. External rewards can be manipulated and can even appear to bring about predictable results. If the reward is large enough and the task do-able, the immediacy of the result can provide what appears to be a direct link between the reward and the performance. Few would argue that external incentives can result in significant short-term improvements.

There is no doubt that money motivates people. The question is, “Does it motivate them to do a better job?” The answer more often than not, is no. The right extrinsic rewards can get people to do what you want them to do – and if you want it fast, they’ll do it fast.

People want and need money. Promotions are important. We all like and need to be praised. There is, however, a danger of focusing primarily on extrinsic motivation. Managers need to ensure that the value of intrinsic motivation is not overlooked as it is this that will build the true long-term commitment and engagement we desire.

Below is a list of motivators and de-motivators (which ones exists in your organization?)


Getting feedback from my manager

To be involved in decision making

Challenging goals

To be involved in problem solving

To receive increased responsibilities

Public/peer recognition

Manager displayed confidence in me

Some social activities at work

Promotional opportunities

Development opportunities

Understanding the “big picture


Unfair management practices

Promises from management not being kept

Boring/unchallenging job

Not able to make improvement suggestions

Ideas not listened to-no follow up on the part of management

No feedback from immediate manager

No career advancement opportunities

Most of the items described as motivators and de-motivators actually cost little to no money. Good thing, since in reality not every company can just hand out more and more money-nor would that be motivating. Much of an employee’s motivation can be influenced by actions taken by his or her manager, NOW. When that happens, you begin to experience “monster productivity.”

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