The Basics of Motivation

Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. It is what causes you to act and involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behaviour.

People often have multiple motives for engaging in any behaviour. Motivation might be extrinsic, whereby a person is inspired by outside forces like other people or rewards. Motivation can also be intrinsic, whereby the inspiration comes from within from the desire, for example, to improve at a certain activity. Intrinsic motivation tends to push people more forcefully, and the accomplishments are more fulfilling.

One framework used for understanding motivation is the Hierarchy of Needs proposed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. According to Maslow, humans are inherently motivated to move toward expressing their full potential by progressively encountering and satisfying several levels of need from the most fundamental, such as for food and safety, to higher-order needs like love, belonging, and self actualization.

In the context of work, an understanding of motivation can be applied to improve employee productivity and satisfaction, to help set individual and organizational goals, to put stress in perspective and to structure jobs so that they offer optimal levels of challenge, control, variety, and collaboration. Motivation is a powerful energy that drives and excites employees that results in their maximum contribution.

Organizations that provide their members with meaningful, engaging work, not only contribute to the growth of their bottom line, but also create a sense of vitality and fulfilment.

Motivation in the workplace has been traditionally understood in terms of extrinsic reward such as in the form of compensation, benefits, perks, awards, or career progression.

Newer research shows however that innovation and creativity, crucial to generating new ideas and greater productivity, are often repressed when extrinsic rewards are introduced. The tricky aspect of external rewards is that they are like drugs where more frequent doses are needed more and more often. Rewards can often signal that activity is undesirable.

Interesting and challenging activities are often self rewarding. Extrinsic motivation is best used when motivating employees to perform repetitive, routine activities to boost performance whilst acknowledging that some activities are boring yet need to be undertaken.

Interesting and challenging activities are often self rewarding. Extrinsic motivation is best used

when motivating employees to perform repetitive, routine activities to boost performance whilst acknowledging that some activities are boring yet need to be undertaken.

Rewards should be given only after the task is completed, preferably as a surprise and varied in frequency as well as alternated between tangible rewards and praise. Providing information and meaningful, specific feedback about the effort (not the person) has also been found more effective than material rewards for increasing motivation.

Anticipating rewards can impair judgment and cause risk-seeking behaviour because it activates dopamine (chemical compound that comes before adrenaline) so a person may not notice or pay attention to long-term solutions when immediate rewards are offered.

Anticipating rewards often have undesirable consequences and tends to destroy intrinsic motivation, decrease performance and creativity as well as encouraging cheating and foster short term thinking.

To find out more, please contact our Principal Psychologist tijana@assuranceoflearning.com

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