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This paper discusses the relationship between the implementation of extrinsic rewarding system and psychological incentives to shape individual’s behaviours and interests. From the psychological perspective, motivation is a drive that makes a person willing to move towards an objective. Motivation cannot be observed, nor does it take a physical form. However, it is a quintessential emotional drive that pushes individuals to achieve a set goal under all environments, whether its school, workplace or life in general. Motivation can come in two forms – either internal or external. External motivation often involves tangible or monetary rewards such as an end-of-year bonus or a physical reward, whereas internal motivation, such as compliments and a sense of achievement, often provide a form of mental satisfaction. Particular, motivation plays an important role in workspace and school environment. Studies have shown that there is a close correlation between individual employee’s level of motivation and their level of performance, wellbeing and loyalty to the company. Similarly, motivation also has a huge impact on students’ academic performance and enthusiasm about learning and extracurricular activities.
Keywords: motivations, extrinsic motivations, intrinsic motivations, individual performance, behaviours
Motivation is an emotion and psychological state that provides reasons for someone to behave in a particular way or do something willingly. Whether it is someone’s desire for changes, desire for innovation or just striving for an improved circumstance in general, motivation is the key driving for that helps people to strive for their objectives. Particularly in a workspace environment, employee’s motivation is inextricably linked with their personal performance and even ultimately the overall performance of the organization. There is a direct relationship between employee’s level motivation and their commitments, satisfaction and personal development. As a result, incentivizing employees have been a significant element and focus for most companies in the world. Through studies and researches, management teams have found flaws in the conventional rewarding system of monetary compensation and are now shifting their attentions to providing employee’s with intrinsic motivations that will better engage their employees. Ultimately, employers should incorporate both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations based on the specific environment and nature of their workspace.
Different forms of motivation can be mostly categorized into two types – extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is defined as behaviours that are driven by external rewards and incentives including money, grades and all other rewards that takes a monetary value. Extrinsic motivation is a reward driven behaviour and is the most commonly recognized rewarding system in workplace. In general, when employees accomplish their assigned duties, they will be rewarded for their work and performance through salary and bonus. In order to earn more money and improve the quality of their life and family, employees will become more willing to work harder and improve their performance to gain more rewards. In fact, using extrinsic rewards to motivate individuals to behave in a certain way is also effective on children. Dr. Mark R. Lepper, Chairman of Stanford’s Psychology Department, conducted an experiment to observe the effect of rewards in children’s learning on May 2003. In the experiment, children were rewarded based on their behaviours. If they behave well and discipline themselves during their study time, they will be rewarded points and chips for their good behaviours. These points could then be redeemed for rewards such as longer recess time or candies. The program yielded an instant effect as the experiment demonstrate a noticeable improvement in children’s learning outcome and behaviours. From this experiment, Dr. Mark R. Lepper discovers the positive effect of using external drives to shape and even change individual’s willingness to act in a certain way.
However, there are some flaws associated with using extrinsic motivations to incentivize individuals. The most commonly known problem is called the overjustification effect, which is a phenomenon that using extrinsic rewards to motivate people actually diminishes their interest and intrinsic motivations. From the same experiment of extrinsically motivating children to alter their study behaviours conducted by Dr Lepper, he found that when the rewarding system discontinued, those children’s behaviours would deteriorate dramatically and even got much worse than before. The rationale behind this phenomenon is that these children have developed dependence on the rewarding system and a misconception that the sole purpose of learning is to earn the rewards instead of gaining knowledge. Therefore, when studying no longer offer any extrinsic reward for these children, they couldn’t see the purpose of studying and paying attention in class. Some logic applies to a workspace environment. For instance, when an employee was promised a pay rise if they perform at a certain level until the end of the year, the employee would gain a strong incentive to work harder to achieve this goal. However, as you reach the benchmark required to attain the reward, the employee’s interest to work harder would decrease substantially because they have achieved their objectives. Furthermore, his or her interest in the reward would gradually diminish over time until the pay rise reward no longer motivates the employee. Therefore, depending on specific situations, extrinsic rewarding system may have a negative long-term effect on employee’s motivation and interest.
Intrinsic motivation a more complex but yet more effective rewarding system that is much more difficult to grasp than extrinsic motivation. It is defined as a psychological drive that directly improves individual’s personal interest and engages them to behave willingly in a certain way. For instance, an intrinsic motivation can be as small as a word of praise and recognition from teacher or manager and simply a sense of belonging in the environment that they work in. In fact, intrinsic motivation is not a generally recognized and accepted rewarding system until late 20th century because it contradicts the dominant drive-theory models of human nature in the early to -mid-20th century which states that behaviours mostly occur due to positive reinforcements from extrinsic rewards and consequences. Furthermore, intrinsic motivation is a vague and complex concept that is much more difficult to define and generalize than extrinsic rewards. This is because different individuals have different interest and psychological demand depending on their unique personalities and background. Nevertheless, intrinsic motivation is a significant factor in many domains and in personal development. Studies have shown that intrinsically motivated individuals report greater job satisfaction and enjoyment than extrinsically motivated individuals. Moreover, in terms of performance and personal development, intrinsically motivated individuals are much more self-disciplined and exhibit a strong willingness to prevail and improve without any external driving factor, whereas extrinsically motivated individuals can only maintain their performance and interest stimulated by external rewards.
Ultimately, whilst extrinsic motivation is at times problematic and that intrinsic motivation provides a more sustainable driving force that fuels individuals to strive for their objectives, it does not mean that extrinsic rewarding system should be abandoned completely. The problem is, how can rewards be implemented effectively in a way that does not undermine people’s interest? There are many factors that need to be considered based on specific circumstances. For instance, a fundamental question that should be asked is that is intrinsic motivation always relevant. In the case of motivating employees to clean and organize the fridge in their office, managers clearly do not expect the employees to develop an interest in cleaning fridges. In most cases, they would be satisfied if the employees can do it without being prompted and urged multiple times. Therefore, there is no problem with using extrinsic motivation in this circumstance. Moreover, another question that should be asked is whether offering rewards is necessary or superfluous. Still using the fridge cleaning as an example, if cleaning fridge is a part of the employee’s responsibility in the office and they are just evading their duties, the using extrinsic rewarding system may only be an unsustainable short-term solution. Consequently, extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation should be combined and balanced based on the different situations. Whilst extrinsic motivation is often effective and powerful at initializing individuals to get started with an activity, especially something that seems dull and boring at the start, it is important to implement intrinsic motivations at the same time to maintain people’s level of interest. Therefore, it is always important to find the balance between motivating individuals psychological whilst using rewards to provide a purpose for a task that might be perceived purposeless and unnecessary at the start.
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