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9 Different Types of Motivation in the Workplace

There are many different types of motivation in the workplace.

Being able to identify different types of motivation in the workplace can help leaders launch inspiration and create a plan to sustain success.

Motivation is simply the reason, or reasons, that someone has for acting or behaving in a certain way. Those reasons then affect their overall desire and willingness to do something.

Understanding workplace motivation, or knowing what motivates employees, can be a very powerful tool for leaders to leverage.

The Power of Motivation in the Workplace

Motivation can serve as a catalyst to help individuals and teams reach their full potential.

Motivated team members are engaged team members. And engaged team members feel a sense of ownership over their work which, in turn, positively impacts the overall goals of the organization.

But according to a recent Gallup survey, global employee engagement levels are just 23%. Disengaged employees, or unmotivated team members can cost organizations millions of dollars a year in the form of time and money.

Figuring out what motivates employees is no longer a “nice to know” for managers and executive leadership.  Understanding workplace motivation is now crucial to increasing levels of productivity, job satisfaction, retention, and the overall bottom line of any organization.

Different Types of Motivation in the Workplace: Intrinsic Motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation

There are two different forms of motivation in the workplace: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is driven by personal fulfillment or a desire for personal satisfaction.

Extrinsic motivation shows up in the form of external factors and is influenced by reward and punishment.

Both types of employee motivation are very different from one another, making it a key factor in performance management. And keeping employees engaged and productive hinges on understanding which type of motivation inspires them.

The importance of intrinsic motivation

A 2016 McKinsey survey found that professionals who were intrinsically motivated had a 46% higher job satisfaction. And an increased job satisfaction means a more engaged workforce!

Intrinsically motivated employees are aligned with self-determination, which stems from Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human needs. If your team members feel that their work aligns with their own personal goals and values, they are more likely to be self-motivated to perform well in the workplace.

Motivation remains high when these types of employees can see the impact or benefits of their contributions or best work. Intrinsically motivated employees experience:

  • Higher retention rates
  • Better workplace mental health, overall well-being and work-life balance
  • Pride or a sense of ownership over their work
  • Greater sense of loyalty to their organization
  • A growth mindset or higher levels of personal growth and personal development

The importance of extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation has an important role in the workplace and should not be automatically considered negative. The use of external rewards can be a great form of motivation for people or teams when completing tasks that are difficult, boring, or tedious. 

While it is important to balance the use of extrinsic rewards and not overly rely on such factors to motivate, leaders can use such incentives to quickly show appreciation during difficult times. Extrinsic motivators can also be used to dissuade negative behavior, such as workplace tardiness.

9 Examples of Different Motivation Theories

There are 9 different motivational theories found throughout the workplace. The list below breaks down the different types of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, as well as respective examples.

Intrinsic Motivation Theories in the Workplace

1. Competence Motivation

Competence motivation theory, also called learning motivation, focuses on the concept that people are driven to participate in activities to develop new skills or demonstrate existing talents.

Example of competence motivation in the workplace: a team member uses their free time to learn a new skill so they can take on additional responsibilities.

2. Attitude Motivation

Attitude motivation centers around a driving force to seek different ways to help others, make people feel good or change the way they feel in a more positive direction. Attitude motivated individuals tend to perform great work and thrive in a positive work environment.

Example of attitude motivation in the workplace: a team member chooses to organize employee volunteer opportunities or work social events is motivated by helping others through demonstrating a positive attitude.

3. Creative Motivation

Creative motivation is present when there is an internal desire to express inventive or innovative thinking that leads to increased satisfaction or productivity. Creatively motivated individuals feel a great sense of accomplishment when called upon for out of the box ideas.

Example of creative motivation in the workplace: a group of team members chooses to participate in a company hackathon to brainstorm new products.

4. Personal Achievement Motivation

Personal achievement motivation centers around an individual’s desire to build up their skillset so they can reach a higher level of potential. Professional development opportunities are sought after by people with high levels of personal achievement motivation.

Example of personal achievement motivation in the workplace: a team member that wants to improve their public speaking skills asks for more presentation opportunities.

5. Physiological Motivation

Physiological motivation focuses on the most basic needs of an individual. Maslow’s hierarchy of the five levels of human need shows physiological needs as the foundation for all other types of motivation.

Example of physiological motivation in the workplace: a team member that keeps a tidy, organized workspace demonstrates a desire for cleanliness and good hygiene factors in the workplace.

Extrinsic Motivation Theories in the Workplace

6. Affiliation Motivation

Affiliation motivation is a motivation theory that centers around the desire to belong to a group or organization. Experiencing or maintaining close relationships with other people fulfills a need for involvement. A sense of belonging to something bigger, or more well-known, is important for these team members.

Example of affiliation motivation in the workplace: an individual has two job offers.  Offer “A” includes a great salary and good vacation time but it is a solo department. Offer “B” includes a bit less salary and vacation time but the department has a team of ten employees.  The individual chooses offer “B” because they are motivated by belonging to something bigger.

7. Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation theory suggests that individuals will engage in certain behaviors, or achieve better results, based on the ability to gain rewards. These external rewards often show up as positive reinforcement such as money, bonuses, work-from-home days or even a small gift card.

Example of incentive motivation in the workplace: a team member who works holidays because there is an increase in pay for those shifts is motivated by incentive.

8. Power-based Motivation

Power motivation theory suggests that people have a desire for prestige and reputation or to influence others. Individuals motivated by power tend to like visibility and are well-known. Power-motivated people may also enjoy building alliances.

Example of power-based motivation in the workplace: a team member who desires more decision-making ability and visibility applies for promotion to run their department.

9. Fear-based Motivation

Fear-based motivation is when an individual engages in certain behaviors to avoid punishment or negative consequences.  While fear-based motivation is often seen as a negative way to encourage desired behaviors, it can be effective for certain aspects in the long run.

Example of fear-based motivation in the workplace: a team member with a long history of tardiness becomes compliant once human resources places fines on late arrivals.

The Best Way to Identify Different Types of Motivation

Make sure you are talking to your team! No matter your leadership style, the best way to identify which type of motivation inspires your employees is to ask them.

The good news is that there are tons of great ways to check-in with your team members and engage everyone in positive employee motivation strategies. By asking a few of the right check-in questions, leaders will uncover individual motivators as well as team motivators. Get a comprehensive list of the most engaging meeting check-in questions now!