Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chapter 9 - Why isn't extrinsic motivation effective?

As we learned in class, intrinsic motivational proves to be more effective than extrinsic motivation. But what I left thinking was why. The majority of companies use extrinsic motivation with the exception of the overused example that is Google. But still, millions of employees main drive to work is reward. I realize that extrinsic motivation is effective during mundane, robot-like tasks, but it seems as though those aren't the only jobs that extrinsic motivation is used for. My question now is this; why doesn't extrinsic motivation work? Bonuses, incentives, and even a threat to ones job seems to all be an effective way to ensure superior performance.

To find out why, I turn to an article by Alfie Kohn. I found my answer in one simple sentence: "If a reward — money, awards, praise, or winning a contest — comes to be seen as the reason one is engaging in an activity, that activity will be viewed as less enjoyable in its own right." It all seems to make perfect sense now. Perhaps this is why I always hear people saying something along the lines of "Don't let your favorite thing to do become your job, or it won't be fun anymore." If you love traveling yet your job is to continuously travel for work day in and day out, it would probably hinder your enjoyment for it.

Perhaps that is why extrinsic motivation isn't so effective. People just don't get enjoyment out of it. Even the power of money as a reward doesn't counter balance out the lack of enjoyment. Enjoyment seems to always have the upper hand when it comes to productivity.

Another question in life answered.

Kohn, Alfie. "Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator." (1987): 1. Web. 14 Mar 2010.


  1. I agree that extrinsic motivation isn't as effective. I feel this way through experience in working at a store in which the employees were treated not that well, and the only reason most of them stayed was because of the pay. However, you can tell at work they didn't enjoy the job. Many of the workers had no connection with the supervisors due to the mistreatment. It's important to create an equal relationship with employees and employers in order to help effectively work out. Having strictly just rewards will eventually tire out and lose its meaning.

  2. Going off of what Sam said, yes, they might have stayed for the pay, but if they're not treated well then they will not treat their work with respect. Extrinsic motivation can cause employees to lose pride in their work if they are led to believe that they cannot get anything further out of it then being paid.

  3. It's interesting to read how and why intrinsic motivation proves to be more motivating and successful than extrinsic motivation majority of the time. With that said, extrinsic motivation can surpass intrinsic motivation when it comes to certain projects including (as we now know)tasks that involve simple directions and no real creativity.