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  • Writer's picturePGAA Tax

Motivate Your Team From All Angles

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are two different types of motivation that can influence an employee's behavior and performance at work. Like most aspects of human behavior and the brain, people aren't one or the other but exist somewhere on the spectrum. Also, the same person could be motivated intrinsically one day, and extrinsically the next. Or it can vary depending on life stages, the task itself, family needs, or significant life events that tend to change life values or perspectives.

"Intrinsically motivated behaviors, which are performed out of interest and satisfy the innate psychological needs for competence and autonomy, are the prototype of self-determined behavior. Extrinsically motivated behaviors—executed because they are instrumental to some separable consequence—can vary in the extent they represent self-determination. Internalization and integration are the processes through which extrinsically motivated behaviors become more self-determined."


This means that intrinsic motivation is more durable, long-lasting, and reliable as a means to someone taking action. Yet, extrinsic motivators (rewards, results, that A+, the prize, the win) can help increase a desired behavior not done out of a person's own volition (intrinsic motivation). In this way, they integrate the action into becoming something they might be motivated to do independently. Parents, you know this all too well, right?!

Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive within an individual to perform a task or activity for the inherent satisfaction, pleasure, or enjoyment of the job itself. An intrinsically motivated employee is motivated by the task or activity rather than external rewards or incentives. For example, an intrinsically motivated employee may feel a sense of accomplishment or pride in completing a challenging project. I think of it as the "for the love of the game" archetype. Or the student who loves school for the learning, not for the grade. This employee is fueled by the task, not the results, bonuses, or recognition. These folks tend to want more in-person interactions, enjoy work's social and intellectual aspects, and lose motivation quickly if workplace culture leans toxic.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation refers to external factors such as rewards, recognition, or praise. For example, an extrinsically motivated employee may be motivated by the prospect of a bonus or promotion. These people thrive in remote environments, they appreciate delineated goals, data, and competition.

To motivate and retain tax professionals, it's essential to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and how to leverage both types of motivation effectively.

If you want to motivate from all sides of the spectrum, here are some ideas:

  1. Recognize and reward good performance: Providing positive feedback, recognition, and rewards for a job well done can increase extrinsic motivation and encourage employees to continue performing well.

  2. Create a sense of purpose: Help employees understand how their work contributes to the company's overall success and how it aligns with their values and goals. This can increase intrinsic motivation and foster a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

  3. Encourage skill-building: Providing opportunities for employees to learn new skills and grow in their roles can increase intrinsic motivation and help them feel more engaged and invested in their work.

  4. Offer autonomy and flexibility: Allowing employees more control over their work, such as setting goals or working from home, can increase intrinsic motivation and help them feel more satisfied.

  5. Foster a positive work environment: Creating a supportive, collaborative, and positive work environment can increase intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and encourage employees to stay with the company long-term.

If you can tap into both forms of motivation, you are a great leader, and I bet your staff is motivated and enjoy their work and you!


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