Debunking the Myth of Carrots and Sticks: What Really Motivates Us?

Published Wednesday, April 14, 2010 10:06 AM




Most business owners and leaders would give anything to know what motivates employees to do their best work.

As this article on the science and psychology of motivation sets out, there are numerous theories of motivation. Most focus on two principal categories of motivators. Extrinsic motivators come from outside forces like people, situations, events and environments. They include:

  • Pay raises
  • Accolades
  • Promotions
  • Bonuses
  • Vacation time
  • The corner office

Then there are intrinsic motivators deriving from internal forces like:

  • Personal pride
  • A Strong work ethic
  • Love of the work itself
  • A particular value system

Scientists studying motivation have long questioned the value of external motivators in the workplace - the carrots and sticks offered workers in the form of rewards and punishments.

This is the science and questioning behind bestselling author Dan Pink's latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Pink has previously written about the rise of right-brain thinking and the growing importance of traits like empathy and creativity. As he explains in this interview, his latest research on motivation confirms that "[c]arrots and sticks work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. For enduring motivation and high performance," workplace leaders should offer incentives that foster workers' drive for:

  • Autonomy - Our urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery - Our desire to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose - Our yearning to connect to something larger than ourselves

Pink gave a very motivating talk on the science of motivation at TEDGlobal 2009. You can watch it in its entirety here.

We would like to know what motivates you to do your best work. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments area here or at our Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers



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# Barb Schmit said on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 3:45 AM

Great article!  So many people are motivated by so many things.  It's nice to see an article that recognizes the need to know how to motivate each individual person.

# Deacon said on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 5:16 AM

Dude, right on there borethr.

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