Motivation means that we have a need to strive for a particular goal and take action to achieve that goal. Motivation explains what we strive for and why we act.
But what is the source of this? And how do we stay motivated in the long term, especially with regard to our professional careers?
In psychology, a distinction is made between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In fact, it is precisely this distinction that is revealing for understanding one’s own motivation and the associated work attitude.
The essential difference here is based on the factors from which the respective motivation arises.
If one is motivated by the challenge of new tasks or the responsibility one has to take on, the motivation is of intrinsic origin. Intrinsic motivation stands for learning, acting and working from one’s own, inner drive and the experience of it. Since intrinsic motivation is inherent in human nature, it can actually also be triggered by external incentives, i.e. extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation is based on external factors, mostly material incentives such as a salary increase, a promotion or a new watch. Mostly, the striving for positive or the avoidance of negative consequences leads. The consequences of action are therefore more central than the action itself.
Essential for the long-term positive work attitude, manner and atmosphere of an employee as well as entire teams is the presence of both motivational origins – one must be able to combine them or switch between the two.
Depending on the task, the paths to motivation differ greatly. Extrinsic motivation has a strong influence on simple and structured tasks. Tasks that are highly complex, that require stamina and will, can hardly be mastered without intrinsic motivation. It is precisely then that inner drive and a certain passion are needed
So what exactly does this mean for companies and their employees?
In terms of companies, this means making sustainable use of knowledge about the two motivational origins and paths. This means picking up and supporting employees at both levels. The communication of extrinsic as well as intrinsic motivation to employees requires fair compensation as well as communication, motivational goal setting and support, and sincere appreciation.