Extrinsic Vs Intrinsic Theories of Motivation

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Every organization has a main objective. Most profit-making organizations have one main objective, which is, to minimize costs and maximize profits. To achieve this objective, they hire employees to work hard in different roles, but all geared towards the achievement of the organizational objective. Employees, however, come in with their own personal objectives and goals. A good manager or leader should be able to match the two objectives, that is, the organizational objective to the employees’ objectives. Amongst other things, motivation is one of the ways to achieve goal congruence. A good leader will use different ways (extrinsic and intrinsic) to motivate employees towards achieving their objectives and the organizational objective.
Keywords: Organizational objective, goals, congruence, extrinsic, intrinsic, motivation.

Motivation is one of the forces that lead to performance. Motivation is defined as the desire to achieve a goal or a certain performance level, leading to goal-directed behavior. When we refer to someone as being motivated, we mean that the person is trying hard to accomplish a certain task. Motivation is clearly important if someone is to perform well; however, it is not enough. The ability or having the skills and knowledge required to perform the job is also important and is sometimes the key determinant of effectiveness. Finally, environmental factors such as having the resources, information, and support one needs to perform well are critical to determine performance. At different times, one of these three factors may be the key to high performance. For example, for an employee sweeping the floor, motivation may be the most important factor that determines performance. In contrast, even the most motivated individual would not be able to successfully design a house without the necessary talent involved in building quality homes. Being motivated is not the same as being a high performer and is not the sole reason why people perform well, but it is nevertheless a key influence over our performance level (Saylor, 2012).


Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence. When intrinsically motivated a person is moved to act for the fun or challenge entailed rather than because of external prods, pressures, or rewards. The phenomenon of intrinsic motivation was first acknowledged within experimental studies of animal behavior, where it was discovered that many organisms engage in exploratory, playful, and curiosity-driven behaviors even in the absence of reinforcement or reward (White, 1959).

Extrinsic motivation occurs when one is motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment. In this case, one engages in a behavior not because he enjoys it or because he finds it satisfying, but to get something in return or avoid something unpleasant (Cherry, 2018).

The main difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is that with extrinsic motivation, one is moved to act or perform by factors external to their person. These factors emanate from one’s desire to get something in return as a reward for good performance. Meanwhile with intrinsic motivation, one is moved to act or perform to avoid something negative in return as punishment for bad performance.
With extrinsic motivation, one is given something to motivate them to achieve a high performance. For example, money, benefits, promotion etcetera. With intrinsic motivation, one is motivated from within himself to do whatever they do very well at a high level. He enjoys what he is doing regardless of external factors.

Irrespective of whether one is motivated intrinsically or extrinsically, all behaviors are motivated by rewards. One moves to do something because he seeks to gain some satisfaction for achieving an objective. At some point in time, one’s desire for satisfaction may be based on the type of activity being carried out and on the other hand, it could be based on their psychological state of mind at that time.

Specifically, because operant theory (Skinner, 1953) maintained that all behaviors are motivated by rewards (that is, by separable consequence such as food or money), intrinsically motivated activities were said to be ones for which the reward was in the activity itself. Thus, researchers investigated what task characteristics make an activity interesting. In contrast, because learning theory (Hull, 1943) asserted that all behaviors are motivated by physiological drives (and their derivatives), intrinsically motivated activities were said to be ones that provided satisfaction of innate psychological needs.

Extrinsic rewards do not just involve bribery (although bribery can work). In some cases, people may never be internally motivated to complete a task, and extrinsic motivation can be used to get the job done. In fact, extrinsic rewards can promote interest in a task or skill a person did not previously have any interest in (Bernazzani, 2017).


Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation? At a glance, it might seem like it is better to be intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated. After all, would it not be ideal if one did not need anyone or anything motivating oneself to accomplish tasks? But, alas, we do not live in such a motivation utopia, and being extrinsically motivated does not mean anything bad. Extrinsic motivation is just the nature of being a human being sometimes.
If one has a job, and must complete a project, one is probably extrinsically motivated by his manager's praise or a potential raise or commission, even if one enjoys the project while he is doing it. If one is in school, he is extrinsically motivated to learn a foreign language because one is being graded on it even if he enjoys practicing and studying it (intrinsically).
So, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are good. The key is to figure out why one and his team are motivated to do things and encouraging both types of motivation to achieve the overall objectives of both the employee and the organization. (Bernazzani, 2017).

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Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Theories of Motivation. (2021, Feb 27). Retrieved July 16, 2024 , from

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