Readings for Managers: Motivation

I’ve been having conversations lately with people about compensation and reward systems, and the role that money plays in motivation.

All the research I’ve seen concludes that–for most people–money becomes the primary motivator at work when there are no other salient motivators. What might those other motivators be? Sense of purpose, pride in work, belief in the mission of the company, to name a few.

But many managers assume that money is what motivates people (though they themselves are motivated by more lofty goals). Not so. Most people start new jobs highly motivated. They want to do well. But the organizational road blocks (some of which are thrown up by well-intentioned managers) sap that motivation. As managers, we need to let go of motivation myths, understand what really motivates people, and then stop doing things that demotivate them.

A few key readings on motivation:

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer: Do Happier People Work Harder? (may require registration)

Katzenbach and Khan: Money is Not the Best Motivator.

Dan Pink on motivation, in pictures, Drive, (or in print.)

You may also find Pfeffer and Sutton’s book Hard Facts interesting. (Probably my favorite business book.)






3 thoughts on “Readings for Managers: Motivation

  1. We may add these interesting findings from a study conducted by Princeton economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, and which reveals unexpected links between money and happiness:

    In short, when measuring their life in comparison to others, incomes mattered most. When measuring their inner life, money has less of an impact.

    In more details:

    – Income is much more highy correlated to happiness than previously thought.

    – It obviously depends on how you would define happiness. The study divided happiness into two varieties: “life satisfaction,” and the other “enjoyment of life.”

    – When asked about life satisfaction, those with higher incomes invariably ranked themselves higher than those with lower incomes.

    – “People in Togo and Denmark have the same idea of what a good life is, and a lot of that has to do with money and material prosperity”. And “that was unexpected,” said Daniel Kahneman.

    – However, the study found that income had far less correlation to the more emotional “enjoyment of life,” which include things like laughing, joy, and connections to family and friends. And Daniel Kahneman pursues ” What we didn’t know before is the extent to which life evaluation and emotional well-being are so distinct.”

    – There is a specific dollar number, or income plateau, after which more money has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment: $75,000 a year. More specifically, “Giving people more income beyond that threshold is not going to do much for their daily mood… but it is going to make them feel they have a better life,” said Angus Deaton. I believe this 75K threshold is an average or median number. That would certainly at least depends on where in the world you live in.


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