Intrinsic Motivation

Behavior in exchange for the sense of personal satisfaction or fulfillment

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What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation refers to the stimulation that drives adopting or changing behavior for personal satisfaction or fulfillment. Such motivation drives an individual to perform an activity for internal reasons that are personally satisfying, as opposed to being motivated extrinsically – that is, by the prospect of obtaining some external reward, such as money.

In other words, with intrinsic motivation, the incentive for engaging in a behavior or completing a task is performing the task itself. For example, when someone decides to eat ice cream, typically their motivation is to enjoy the pleasure of eating the ice cream. They are not doing it for some external reward.

Intrinsic Motivation - Portrait of happy business woman in office rejoicing success of completing task

Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is derived from a direct relationship between the person and the situation, or from intangible factors. One example of this is when someone writes poems for their personal reading pleasure. A person who sings and derives satisfaction out of singing is relying on intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the opposite of extrinsic motivation, which drives someone to perform an activity either to receive an external reward or to avoid an external punishment. An example of extrinsic motivation is when someone writes poems to sell them.

Intrinsic Motivation in Organizations

In any organization, regardless of the industry, intrinsic motivation is an important element to getting maximum productivity from employees. Employers tend to look for potential employees who have a strong sense of intrinsic motivation for doing the work that they would be responsible for.

Strong intrinsic motivation can help individuals to achieve their goals for career growth and development. Here are some areas where internal motivation can be beneficial for both the employee and employer:

1. Responsibility

In general, the more responsibilities an individual assumes in the workplace, the higher their salary becomes. When a person becomes a manager, they receive higher compensation than their co-workers or subordinates. However, some people do not accept a managerial position primarily to earn more money.

Some employees possess the intrinsic motivation of assuming more responsibilities in order to inspire or encourage others to step up, achieve their own personal goals, and climb the corporate ladder themselves. Added responsibility may also carry the intangible reward of making someone feel that they are playing a direct role in shaping the future of the organization.

2. Recognition

Most companies offer rewards and recognition programs that offer incentives such as monetary prizes or paid vacation leaves. However, some employees with strong intrinsic motivation are content with simply being considered a valuable member of the organization, regardless of any extra financial rewards. They are likely to derive more pleasure from being recognized for their hard work than they derive from receiving the external rewards that accompany the recognition.

3. Knowledge

A strong internal motivation for some employees is the pursuit of knowledge. They want to learn more about their field and hone their skills. Companies can offer a range of training courses to obtain maximum benefit from employees who are internally motivated to want to expand their knowledge and skills.

4. Accomplishment

In many cases, employers don’t need to make grand gestures or spend a lot to fuel the intrinsic motivation of employees and give them a sense of accomplishment at the workplace. Many people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment from helping other people, without expecting anything in return. Just saying, “Thank you!”, is more than enough for people with strong intrinsic motivation.

Thank you for reading CFI’s explanation of intrinsic motivation. CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful:

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