Extrinsic Motivation in the Office – Types, Examples and Advantages

Everybody is unique and requires both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to push themselves towards a goal. Some navigate towards internal motivation more while others need more external motivation to do well. For instance, you may enjoy attending school or doing a course for the sheer joy of learning or the employment prospects they present. The former is an intrinsic motivational driver while the latter is extrinsic motivation. Identifying your personal motivations and knowing how to leverage them can be the superpower that can take you places.

What is extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation drives you to complete a task or behave a certain way with the goal of earning a reward or evading a punishment. It is essentially external and quantitative in nature. For example, abiding by the traffic rules to avoid a ticket is an extrinsic motivator while doing the same out of a civic sense is an intrinsic one. Though the results may appear to be the same, the rhyme and reason behind them could be as different as day and night. And that matters from an individual as well as organizational perspective.

There is also the question of how sustainable a motivational driver is. Ways to keep the momentum of any motivation is a crucial part of any business model and can have diverse effects on how individuals in an organization work towards a common goal. However, extrinsic motivation needs continuous and innovative oiling. For instance, offering the same perk year after year might wear off the feeling of gaining a reward after a point. Companies do spend resources on tailoring the extrinsic inspiration – annual hike, bonus, promotions, insurance, office outings, and additional vacations to name a few. In fact, the extrinsic drive has proved to be extremely favorable especially when the task is necessary but mundane or unpleasant.

What are the different types of extrinsic motivation?

When differentiating motivations behind human behavior, context comes into play. Dissecting the complexities of behavior in terms of context gave rise to the broad categorization of extrinsic motivation into four as per the Self-determination Theory.

a. External regulation

You work hard at something by choice specifically for a specific reward or competition. A parent promising their child a toy in exchange for good behavior or a mid-year promotion or hike for successful completion of a project can be an example.

b. Introjected regulation

When self-inflicted pressure due to guilt, social pressure, prestige, need for validation, etc. drives your action, we call it motivation due to an introjected regulation. Is it by choice? Technically, yes. However, that “yes” is often followed by a “but” and pretend to look away from the subtle internal coercion at play here.

c. Regulation through identification

Here, the individual themselves set an external goal guided by a short-term or long-term goal. The power of vision is at play here, and such clarity about what one wants can be a strong performance driver. A student or a professional giving up evenings and weekends to study for something as competitive as a PMP certification is a classic example.

d. Integrated regulation

The best of them all, this kind of extrinsic motivation stems from a deep understanding of the work, your reasons to commit to a task and self-reflection. It is a well-rounded decision you make after weighing in all options and perspectives.

12 examples of extrinsic motivation

The entire global workforce is driven by employee motivations and they have always been effective. Though some consider external rewards as a dubious motivator, they can help to instill confidence and self-worth as a professional. An ascending career graph dotted with sizable hikes and perks certainly says a lot about an individual employee. The examples below can be interpreted as both positive and negative based on how you view them.

  • Working for money and positions of power
  • Bagging a project only for the opportunity it presents and not the work itself
  • Aiming for high grades because your parents promised you something you badly want
  • Doing charity work as part of PR efforts or to receive tax benefits
  • Keeping your home clean to avoid fights with your housemates
  • Helping someone to receive praise and recognition
  • Volunteering only for the purpose of embellishing your resume
  • Travelling and checking in to various places only for Insta moments
  • Following the traffic laws to avoid punishments
  • Accepting an assignment because you feel pressured by your boss
  • Attending events and webinars only to post on social media
  • Taking certifications to augment the resume and LinkedIn profile

If you can think of interesting external motivation examples you have encountered in your workplaces, please put them in the comments and we will make a debate out of it.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation at Work

From children to adults, everybody needs extrinsic motivation to move forward in their day-to-day activities as well as in life. However, the charm of materialistic motivation is often short-lived and ends soon after receiving the promised reward or compensation. Business leaders and managers must be cautious and strategic when designing external rewards in a way that employees can work towards the rewards that excite them. Aside from salary, the rewards range from bonuses, employee shares, retirement benefits, health insurance, gym membership, evening snacks, etc.

External rewards are effective in inspiring your team members to undertake new projects, giving the much-needed push to get out of their comfort zone to learn new skills, and pulling a few overnights to achieve a tight deadline. Sometimes, supporting the team by providing them with the right resources/tools that can also help in future projects can also be a reward.

As two kinds of behavior drivers on the extreme ends of a spectrum, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation have entirely different but one-sided outcomes. Eventual loss of efficiency is a risk that often follows the instant success of external motivators. Internal motivation has the ability to keep the momentum going for a longer period, it has limited sustainability. It also explores the finer aspects of joy, a sense of accomplishment, and fulfillment. However, there is a risk of emotional exhaustion if not compensated with external rewards. Therefore, the management must assess their employees’ specific motivational factors to decide the right blend of internal and external motivations.

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Advantages and disadvantages of extrinsic motivation

Advantages Disadvantages
Serves well to get necessary (but often mundane or unpleasant) tasks out of the way It’s a short-term motivational driver
Gives the individual a definite short-term goal to work towards Needs to be improvised constantly as per the changing demands and situations
Stimulates the interest of the person in a task that doesn’t appeal to them initially Excess of external motivation can kill the drive for personal growth
Helps the motivator to understand the individual and get better feedback Negates the sense of achievement, joy, and pride that comes from within



No community or system can do away with extrinsic motivation because we need it to run society. External rewards have always worked. However, external motivation in isolation is impractical for all the parties involved. For long-term and sustainable results, an integrated approach to motivation is the only way forward. And how you choose to combine extrinsic and intrinsic motivation as you strive towards your goal decides your superpower.

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