Carrot and stick?: What really motivates in the long run

A salary increase is no guarantee of greater job satisfaction.

Carrot and stick?: What really motivates in the long run

A salary increase is no guarantee of greater job satisfaction. Internal drive is considered to be more promising in the long term. How do professionals find out what really motivates them?

Mira Mühlenhof knows what's missing when she gets a little "unsufferable" in her everyday work. Then she needs to appear in front of people, confirmation and applause - and then she's back, the motivation. "I like to stand in front of the group," says Mühlenhof, who works as a coach and university lecturer.

No matter what it is, everyone has something that drives them from within. The so-called intrinsic motivation. And it is good to know this inner drive and the needs that underlie it. Those who are satisfied at work are considered to be more balanced, more productive, more team-oriented and able to work more efficiently.

"According to studies, employees often spend half of their working hours unproductively, often simply with external employment because they are not motivated," says book author Florian Becker. Managers who are able to identify and respond to the needs of their employees could achieve a 20 to 40 percent improvement in performance.

External incentives such as a salary increase or bonuses do not do this in the long run. "It would be really sad if companies couldn't think of anything better than motivating people with money."

Those who are intrinsically motivated really do things out of themselves and not because something jumps out at them. According to Mühlenhof, no company or executive can afford to ignore this.

But what is it that really drives me? And how can I increase this motivation in myself or in others? In her book "Chefsache Intrinsic Motivation", Mühlenhof lists ten different patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that are reflected in human behavior and are therefore the inner drive.

They range from perfection, love, success and individuality through knowledge, security and struggle to fun, power and harmony. It is important to find the right professional fields and positions in which the needs associated with this intrinsic motivation can be satisfied.

But no matter what activity you do, you can increase satisfaction by becoming aware of what drives you. Even with monotonous assembly line work. "If I have perfection as my intrinsic motivation, I can live it out by optimizing work processes even more, designing them even more effectively and working even more precisely," says Mühlenhof.

If the idea of ​​power is more pronounced, one would try to climb up the career ladder in order to express oneself as a foreman or team leader.

According to Florian Becker, the way work is organized plays a particularly important role in motivation. "One should try to set up the work in such a way that one already has a sense of achievement along the way and not only at the end," he says. This also includes obtaining feedback from the team or customers and thereby receiving recognition and praise, perhaps also constructive criticism for the next work steps.

It may be obvious that as a professor you can ask your students how the lecture was received. But as an employee in a supermarket, it's hard for me to ask after every purchase whether I've paid well - isn't it? Ultimately, however, according to Becker, it is always about the importance that I attach to my task.

A cashier can ask himself, for example, whether the most important thing to him personally is that all customers can pay quickly. Or rather, that it makes people happy. "When a lot of customers smile at me or prefer to stand in line at my checkout, that's feedback and a sense of achievement for me," says Becker.

According to Becker, it also contributes to motivation if employees are given more decision-making freedom and responsibility and can design tasks themselves. A good working atmosphere and praise are also part of it. That's right though. Becker advises descriptive praise and to explain specifically what the special impact is that this work has been fulfilled in this way.

But what if I have the job I like, if I've found nice colleagues and an understanding boss and there are still moments when I just don't feel like doing a certain job? "Of course, not everything will always make sense and joy," admits Becker. "Sometimes you come to a point in life where you just have to perform, even if it hurts."

In such moments only self-regulation can help. You can train them by not giving up immediately if you don't feel like it anymore or if something becomes uncomfortable. "There will always be a phase that you have to go through to achieve a goal."

(This article was first published on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.)

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