Motivational Mismatch

[Part Two] The motivational mismatch between what science knows and what business does

Welcome to Part Two of our guide to the science of motivation. In this section we take a look at a few more intrinsic motivations and how to use them in your workplace. If you missed Part One then please click here.


We humans like to have some form of control in every task we do. Most of us don’t like the feeling of having no control of a situation and is the root of many of our fears. When implemented correctly control can be a great intrinsic motivator;

  • Cause and effect – The perceived outcome must be truly worthwhile but cause and effect is a good tool to use to motivate staff, “You’d like to be able to…but you can’t. If you learn what I’m going to teach you, you’ll be able to do it.”
  • Free choice – Giving employees freedom of choice when assigned to do a task is a brilliant way of allowing them to do the task in the way they want and because they got to choose their option the motivation towards the task increases. “We aim to improve the number of sales from our Facebook page. Here are three ways others have done this. What do you think is best? Or do you have another solution?”


Being part of a team has a really interesting impact on performance. Too many and you get those whose input decreases, too few and the task may seem unachievable and lose focus. Here are some top tips for using interpersonal based motivators;

  • Competition (small teams) – Having small teams assigned to the project gives a great competitive edge. Obviously you do not want to duplicate work but when a group is divided up into little teams the performance often increases, particularly when used with regular performance feedback.
  • Cooperation – Cooperating to meet a group goal helps employees feel supported. It is not the strongest motivational factor but when added to other intrinsic motivators such as optimal discrepancy it can work well as the group feels its work is part of something larger than itself and can have a visible impact within the industry.


When the process of performing an activity or the product/result may be visible then this is a great motivator. Within many offices you may have departmental statistics visible around the building on TV screens or end of month reviews to the whole company. People take pride in their work and feel emotionally connected to the people around them, normally their department. These recognition motivates employees to want to improve performance as they care about what the business as a whole thinks of their work.

Alternatively the product or result may be visible. The hosting industry is a really intriguing scenario. Our product is not visible, we don’t design and build servers but rather provide a “behind the scenes” service. We are grateful to receive industry awards but this is an extrinsic motivator, a result of the work we do not something that gets us out of bed in the morning. Personally many of my job role results in work that is seen externally. This gives me a great recognition based motivation as I take pride in my work and I can also get regular performance feedback thanks to Google Analytics.

In conclusion the use of extrinsic motivators is a dinosaur model for the vast majority of job roles. Rewards narrow the focus and concentrate the mind on a single solution. The 21st century workplace often needs you to view lots of solutions. We can and are making more and more mechanical jobs automated. Making scripts and creating software that will achieve our mechanical tasks far quicker and more reliably than ourselves.

It is the cognitive skills that most of our jobs require us to use day in day out and to motivate us to perform better we need to provide intrinsic motivators.

Intrinsic motivators are the reason people volunteer for charity work and why you talk more passionately about your hobby than your day job. It’s the key to why many start-up business owners work 18 hour days and why movements to change the world inspire so many of us.

How do you use intrinsic motivation within your workplace?

Written by James Hay, Social Media Coordinator at Fasthosts Internet Ltd.

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