Motivation in the Workplace

what's stopping you?

Having the ability and skill to understand what motivates people to reach their highest potential can be useful in more areas outside of the basketball court or the baseball diamond.  In many professional settings, the ability to understand what motivates all types of people can ensure very efficient groups.  The industry of Human Resources has seen a dramatic shift s recent trends suggest that most employees no longer receive the same level of motivation from money and instead value other forms of inspiration to increase productivity.  More Human Resource teams are searching for prospective employees by applying knowledge of motivational psychology in order to create a winning environment with more efficient motivational plans.

Some human resource teams are applying Self-Determination Theory to motivate their employees to work much harder than the averagely motivated person. Self-Determination Theory is rooted in the assumption that humans are inherently proactive and desire growth.  Even though people naturally work to develop and grow, however, the right social environment is needed to create optimal functioning. Difficult settings, in contrast, will lead to negative consequences and ultimately inhibit people from activity and improvements. Self-Determination Theory demonstrates the importance of positive social environments to build a strongly motivated workplace.

Self-Determination Theory also highlights the differences in extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation.  By distinguishing between extrinsic motivation (e.g., working hard in order to reap monetary benefits) and intrinsic motivation (e.g.,competing in sports for the love of the game) companies can accurately control each type in the workplace to ensure ultimate efficiency.  This comparison appears in college sports. The athletic divisions of the NCAA provide varying degrees of athletic scholarships to their athletes.  While Division I programs are able to help their players by granting full scholarships, most Division III program  provide no financial assistance to their players. Despite the lack of a tangible incentive, Division III athletes are nevertheless passionate and hard-working. One could argue that Division III athletes are motivated for intrinsic reasons, such as the love of competition or the joy of playing a particular sport.  Some Division III schools also help their student-athletes flourish by providing a supportive environment that encourages a more balanced lifestyle between academics and athletics.

Self-Determination Theory emphasizes that the best type of motivation is self-motivation, which is strongest in situations that allow it to flourish. Focusing resources on enhancing employees’ self-motivation will thus help boost productivity and satisfaction.


Undergraduate research assistant and blogger for the Moral Communities Project. **The opinions and views expressed are my own and do not reflect the official positions of The Moral Communities Project or its funders.

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