Money doesn’t motivate – or does it?

I have more than one client who says, “Money doesn’t motivate me.”  I have other clients who are motivated by money more than anything.

Obviously, we need money to provide for our families.  But there’s a very informative article at the Harvard Business Review that explores the impact of money on our motivations. Turns out that intrinsic motivation is three times more likely to drive job performance than extrinsic motivation – such as money.

Also, in study after study, job satisfaction and salary were found to have almost no correlation. Employees at the bottom half of the salary range were just as satisfied in their jobs as those in the top half.  And this wasn’t just true in the U.S.  The results were statistically similar in Taiwan, Australia, India, and Britain.

With this, I’d like to (again) shoot some holes in a belief held by many managers. The common thinking is, “Just pay people more and they’ll be happy and motivated.”

Be careful of bad psychology

As I’ve said for years, the idea that we can motivate other people is bad psychology.  The word motivation literally means, “a reason to move.” And, the truth is that people move for THEIR reasons, not yours.  For some people, money is a strong motivator. However, in almost 30 years of using assessments that identify people’s motivations, I can tell you that money doesn’t motivate the majority of people.

When I did my master’s thesis research on the importance of soft skills in middle managers, I was shocked to discover so many managers disregarding the intrinsic motivations of the people on their teams.

In order to save time here, I’m going to boil down the reason for that into one very simple phrase. Many managers won’t like hearing this, but it’s true:

They were lazy.

To believe that their employees would be motivated to work harder just by dangling more money in front of them was a one time “easy” decision. But not necessarily an effective one.

In truth, we can identify at least nine natural, or innate motivations, and 12 learned ones. And money is only one of those 12.  Managers who want to “motivate” their employees (to the use the common phrase) must learn what drives each employee. That takes effort. And to do it well, a manager must really want to know what drives each employee.  This is a core responsibility of being a manager. Unfortunately, this rarely gets taught in most management training.   If it does get taught, it’s usually only in passing.

I’m not saying money doesn’t motivate

I am not saying that money doesn’t motivate.  However, you must learn what drives each employee, and that means practicing emotional intelligence. To help you do that, feel free to download a complimentary copy of my latest book, 10 steps for improving your emotional intelligence.

The bottom line truth is that for most people, money doesn’t motivate. For some people it does. To create a motivated and passion-driven team, you must learn what drives each individual, and then put your emotional intelligence to work.

Get your free book on emotional intelligence