ūüĒ• Recently Launched : AON, SHRM and Vantage Circle Partnered Annual Rewards and Recognition Report 2024-25

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation- An Overview

7 min read   |  
Last Updated on

Motivation is the fuel necessary to keep the human engine running.
‚Äď Zig Ziglar

We are all aware how happy, content, and motivated employees are thought to be more productive. And productive employees are essential to the success of every company. But have you ever thought about what keeps employees happy and satisfied? The magical word here is 'Motivation'. Motivation can be Extrinsic or Intrinsic. This article will give you an overview of Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic motivation and how it drives employee productivity.

To get a better outlook, let us take a look at two common scenarios from a workplace-

There will always be a few employees who are extremely happy at work. They will enjoy their job despite low pay and fewer perks.

On the other hand, there will be ones who will struggle to find the zeal to work. Nothing other than external rewards will spark the motivation within them.

It is because their activities are motivated by two quite distinct sorts of motivation which are-

Intrinsic motivation: Those who are motivated regardless of extra benefits are motivated from the inside. They do not require an external push to get the job done. These employees value the work and do not complete it for the sake of rewards. It is their internal desire that pushes them to work.

Extrinsic motivation: Those who are motivated by external rewards and benefits are motivated externally. They need an external factor to push them to work. These employees are motivated by the rewards associated with the job rather than by the job itself.

Let's understand the terms in detail.

Understanding The Terms

Before we get to the differences and learn about Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic motivation, let's read about them individually.

Extrinsic Motivation

Understanding Extrinsic Motivation

It is the motivation that an employee feels while receiving external validation. It includes monetary awards, promotions, bonuses, or even a gift card.

In this type of motivation, your employees are not directly intrigued by the task given to them. But, the added extrinsic reward will act as a motivator that will help them finish their job. Therefore, it is also called a reward-driven behavior.

However, extrinsic motivation doesn't necessarily have to always be about rewards. At times, it is also about avoiding an unwanted situation or avoiding a punishment. Like trying to finish everything on Friday to be able to spend the weekend stress-free. The fact that the employees will have to work on weekends made them complete the work ahead of time.

One theory associated with this is the "Incentive theory of motivation". It states that human behavior is essentially extrinsically motivated. An incentive may be a material object such as money or an intangible one such as positive praise from a significant person. It is also known as the "Reward motivation theory".

When employees are aware, there is a reward associated, completing a task becomes plain sailing. Research by Clutch shows that 66% of employees who receive rewards are satisfied with them.

Thus, it not only helps you in keeping your employees motivated but also helps in retaining them.

Also read: Top 9 Non-monetary Incentives To Motivate And Retain Your Employees

Intrinsic Motivation

Understanding Intrinsic Motivation

It is the type of motivation that comes from within. An employee does not have to be lured or given a reward to keep them motivated. It is the inherent joy and contentment they get when they participate in a piece of work. Here, the task itself drives employee behavior. It is more like personal satisfaction.

This kind of motivation is internal, and it gives your employees a sense of accomplishment when they are performing an activity. Completing the job then makes them feel intrinsically rewarding.

Let's assume a few employees of yours like reading books. They engage in that activity not to gain or get anything in return. It is merely because they enjoy learning and reading about new things. The sole act of finishing one particular book will give them the joy that no physical reward can.

This type of motivation is considered to last longer than Extrinsic motivation. This is because it comes from within and relates to how well one feels fulfilled and happy.

Related article: 5 Factors That Restore The Power Of Intrinsic Motivation In The Workplace

Key Differences Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

A few of the significant differences between the two types of motivation are-

  • Extrinsic motivation is caused by external factors, and intrinsic motivation is caused by internal ones.

  • Extrinsic motivation is mostly considered healthy for short-term goals. However, intrinsic motivation is considered to be more helpful for longer durations.

  • Extrinsic motivation is derived from extrinsic rewards, which are both financial and non-financial. But, Intrinsic motivation is derived from intrinsic rewards, which are always non-financial.

  • Extrinsic motivation is primarily used in the Transactional leadership style, while intrinsic motivation is used in the Transformational leadership style.

Transactional leadership is when you are setting a dynamic set of rewards and penalties to keep the employees motivated. While transformational leadership is when you are a little more lenient and inspire the employees rather than just give instructions.

  • On being extrinsically motivated, employees work for the rewards, while on being intrinsically motivated, they chase a purpose.

You can also read: 50 Rewards and Recognition Ideas to Boost Employee Recognition

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation in The Workplace

It is not unusual to find your employees tired and frustrated with their jobs. Especially considering the current situation where everyone is working remotely, you cannot blame them either.

Related article: How To Make Remote Team Collaboration More Successful

Man is a social creature. When the entire world is stuck at home, we tend to feel alone and frustrated.

Motivation, therefore, has become the need of the hour. When your employees earn a reward, they are most likely to work harder. They are also more enthusiastic and eager about the job.

It will be important to mention here that, both types of motivation play equally important roles in the workplace. Any imbalance will result in a lack of motivation rather than boosting it.

Therefore, although extrinsic motivation brings about quicker results, it is essential to ingrain intrinsic motivation too.

For example, say you are giving your employees the autonomy to do a specific task. It will provide them with a sense of pride and ownership of the work. When they are allowed to make their own decisions, they will feel empowered and accomplished.

It is the best form of motivation as it comes from the inner conscience of your employees. It is something they really would want to do.

Let us look at a few examples of Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivators that you can use in your workplace to enhance employee motivation.

Types of Extrinsic Motivators in workplace Types of Intrinsic Motivators in workplace

Is Simultaneous Existence of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Possible?

There have been many differences in opinion on which type of motivation is better. Another such conflict is which among the two is the perfect fit in a workplace?

However, numerous critics believe that motivation is very situational. There is no one size fits all approach to being motivated. It varies person-wise and also from task to task.

Studies have shown that an intrinsically motivated person is more likely to lose interest in a given task if there are many external rewards attached to it. It is called the 'Overjustification effect'. The individual loses the inherent interest once there is a reward given for the same.

Similarly, continuous usage of extrinsic rewards will also make your employees depend on them too much. They will tend to be unproductive when there are no rewards attached to a task. Also, the rewards will need continuous revamping as the same set of rewards will not always be intriguing to your employees.

So, to get the best out of your employees, it is important to be able to maintain a balance. Maintaining a balance between both types of motivation will lead to better performance in your employees. It will lead to the individual growth of the employee and overall business success simultaneously.

Related article: How to Use Individual Performance To Advance Team Performance

Therefore, the best approach to keep your employees motivated is to be able to figure out a balance between both types of motivation. Hence, yes, the simultaneous existence of both forms of motivation is definitely possible!

Which is Better, Intrinsic or Extrinsic Motivation?

There isn't a single-liner answer to this question.

We already saw how motivation is very situational. Numerous experiments and studies have been conducted to settle the debate on this. But no consensus has been reached.

If money motivates one employee of yours, it is also possible that it won't encourage a second employee. Similarly, there will be people who will be motivated by a sense of competence while it will mean nothing to another.

Sometimes, intrinsic motivation appears to be the organic choice because it is aligned with long-term goals. However, extrinsic motivation enhances the quality of actions substantially too.

Therefore, there cannot be a single conclusion. Both the motivators act depending on the perspective of the rewards of the individual.

For an employer, it is crucial to find a balance between both while appreciating the workforce.

Wrapping It Up

Understanding what motivates your employees and implementing the same is not a cakewalk. Especially not in today's dynamic corporate cultures.

It takes several hits and trials before anything could be carried out, more so because every human being is unique. They have individual requirements for motivation which creates the biggest hurdle.

Employees are the backbone of your company. Thus, you must always keep track of what makes your employees happy and engaged. As the famous saying goes-

You don't build a business, you build people, and then people build the business.
‚Äď Zig Ziglar

Trying to create a more open culture and making your employees feel involved will be a good start. Also, not pushing for a single type of motivation and trying to strike the right balance will help you win for sure!

You can also read our blog for some really inspiring employee motivational quotes. These quotes are sure to instill positive workplace vibes and inspire your employees when they are feeling down.

Namrata Borgohain

This article is written by Namrata Borgohain who is an International Marketing Specialist at Vantage Circle. In her free time, she will be found either searching for cute dog videos or virtually wandering in streets of Santorini. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com.

Book My 30-min Demo
Join us in driving a
Culture of Employee Appreciation Globally!
Vantage Rewards
Celebrating 2M+ Happy Corporate Employees
Elevating Company Culture Across

Know More
Not Interested

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition