HomeOpinion & AnalysisEmployee motivation: Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation

Employee motivation: Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation


IN holding trainings at companies, one thing I get from leaders or managers is that their employees are not motivated. So they ask for the best tips on how to motivate them. There are two levels of motivation — intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is from within. For example, an employee gets to work hard because they are contributing to a bigger dream and they are fulfilling their purpose. Extrinsic motivation is because there is a financial reward.

The Zimbabwean economy is in a complex state and most people are demotivated to work. What’s the role of a leader? Corporations are under immense pressure to deliver in a globally competitive environment. In our country, companies are under stress due to liquidity factors, among other challenges.

It takes an above average leader to steer the ship in these turbulent times. Business fails at times because they focus on the wrong metrics or methodologies.

At university, we were taught efficient and fast techniques for production and profits. In the same breath, it’s incomplete without the power of emotional intelligence.

Secondly, the direct supervisor or manager has the greatest influence to re-engineer employees to perform at their best. Let’s explore seven means to get your staff motivated.

Psychological factor

The leader has a role more than that of a manager. He has to praise individuals to make them feel significant and as an important and contributive organ in the institution.

Some leaders think because the staff is paid, there is no reason for appreciation, but when things go wrong, they are swift to point fingers at the employee behind the mistake.

The best is to praise in public and chide in secret. Psychology arouses self-contempt and self-confidence. Psychological motivation shapes behaviour, attitudes, mental models, and changes the inner world.


Brian Tracy, in his book The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success, says: “People are most inspired when they feel that they are working for an organisation in which excellence is the expected standard. The very best way to motivate and inspire others is for you to announce your commitment to being the best in your field or industry.”

Reward your staff

The fact that the employees know that they will be rewarded for their great contribution makes them work more and do more than expected. This also unleashes their creativity and drives their determination to work towards the improvement of the organisation. Not only monetary rewards enhance performance, but also recognitions and awards. However, these rewards might not have a long term effect.

Develop empathy

Management has to be sensitive and aware of the needs and feelings of the staff. This takes being a good listener, being considerate, cautious and caring.

It is important for leaders to listen to employees’ problems, plight, contributions, challenges and interests. It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

This is the best means to open up your team players to give you advice and ideas. Positional or title leadership at times fail in this. The influential leader motivates and inspires while the position leader controls and administers.

This also speaks to emotional intelligence on the side of the leader. University teaches us production processes, but forgets that a person is not a machine, but a collection of emotions.


Managers might want results and profits, but that starts intrinsically.

Personal development

Individuals have dreams and aspirations and as a leader, one should take special interest in the improvement. Motivate them in their career endeavours. Letting the employee know you are concerned about their future career prospects gives them the confidence in you as a leader. Take your time to influence, coach and mentor them. In addition, work roles should be aligned to personal talents and passion to avoid mismatch between role and talent.

Threats make birds fly away

Some organisations and leaders use threats to get the job done. That’s not a good thing at all. They threaten to fire you, cut your salary, demote you from your position, et cetera.

This does not work for the best. In fact, you are grooming robots that might turn against you and the progress of the company. The best leadership is influential and transformational.

Transformational leadership brings people to a higher level of performance because they have been inspired to see more and to be more.

American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adam, had this famous quote: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Led them as you would want to be lead The golden saying “do unto others as you would like them to do unto you” applies in this instance. Lead and treat your employees in the manner you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.

Parting Point: A leader’s role is to help the employee see the big “why”. When a worker knows that they are contributing to a bigger purpose they do more.

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