The biggest killer of motivation is when what you are doing and when you do it is no longer up to your discretion. When someone else is calling the shots for us, our drive decreases. An example of this is when a parent enlists a child to cut the grass. If the parent tells the child to cut the grass at noon and interrupts an activity that is already in progress, the child’s attitude will by nature be less than inspired.
Behavioral scientists have been studying intrinsic motivation, work, and play for years. What they have discovered is that work consists of whatever a person is obligated to do and play consists of whatever a person is not obligated to do.
Whether an individual is paid to work or is paid for work is inconsequential. It’s only when the decision to work is on our own terms that work becomes a form of play–otherwise it’s a drudgery like someone interrupting your X-Box game and making you cut boring grass.
Although exterior incentives work well on a short-term basis, according researchers, these incentives fail miserably in the long term.
Jonmarshall Reeve, in his book Understanding Motivation and Emotion states:
“People use rewards expecting to gain the benefit of increasing a person’s motivation and behavior, but in so doing, they often incur the unintentional and hidden cost of undermining that person’s intrinsic motivation toward an activity.”
This is by far one of the most fascinating finds in behavioral science. The facts are in and they are unswerving; people don’t respond to exterior motivators over the long term.
Exterior motivators actually de-motivate us over a longer period of time. According to top economists from MIT, Carnegie Melon, and the University of Chicago, the higher the reward, the poorer the performance tends to get. Shocking? Would you like to do it my way or yours? Hiring the right people should include hiring people who understand how to do what we hire them to do.
This new found behavioral understanding now begs the question; what about bonuses? Do bonuses work? Bonuses do not work as well as you might think. As a matter of fact, behavioral science teaches us that bonuses don’t really work at all. This is another reason why the reward and punishment systems we have created are virtually useless within companies today. People want to reward themselves for their own work rather than be rewarded by somebody else for doing their work for them.
What is the answer then? Hiring people who have the capacity to do things the right way and then giving them the freedom to do it their way. Giving people more freedom and allowing them to think in innovative ways while honoring their intelligence is far more productive.