What makes us motivated?

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Vad gör oss motiverade

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Can you as a leader actually motivate your staff? The short answer is ‘No’. If you are not motivated yourself to work with what you do and at the work place you have chosen, then you are in the wrong job or at the wrong place. Everyone have their own responsibility to ‘choose your manager’, and choose what you want to do and what you want to work with.

What you as a leader can do is to create the right conditions for the team and the coworkers that you lead to stay motivated, and perhaps even lead in a way that makes the team´s motivation increase.

When talking about motivation, you need to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:

Extrinsic motivation - I have to

Intrinsic motivation - I want to

  • Salary
  • Bonus
  • Benefits
  • Company car
  • Titles
  • Threat of punishment
  • Competition within team
  • Flow
  • It is fun
  • It is interesting
  • It is challenging and developing

Sometimes when asking people why they go to work, they respond ‘the salary’ and that a raised payment would affect their motivation the most. But this is a dangerous path to follow. The extrinsic motivation factors must be in line with the market, and you should feel that your conditions and benefits are fair. Otherwise, they will become an obstacle for motivation. But if your salary, terms and benefits are in line with the market, an increase of these will only lead to temporarily higher motivation. E.g. if your salary is in line with the market and you get a raise, you will obviously be happy and perhaps a little bit extra motivated for a few days. But soon this will be the new normal, and you want even higher salary to feel motivated again.

Make sure that the coworkers have conditions in line the market, and then work on the intrinsic motivation. Here, you as a leader can really affect and create the right prerequisites for high motivation with your staff, through your leadership.


What makes us motivated?

If it is not just the salary and the benefits that make us motivated, then what drives the intrinsic motivation? We have three basic psychological needs (Deci & Ryan 2000) that we all have to satisfy to feel motivated: need for autonomy, need for competence, and need for relatedness.

Need for autonomy

Need for competence

Need for relatedness

Autonomy means that we want to be involved and have influence, we want to participate and understand why we do different things:

  • Experienced freedom of choice
  • Possibility to control your life
  • Understand ‘why’, e.g. why we have these targets and why I am doing these tasks
  • Be involved and have influence
  • Participate

The need for competence includes,  among other things, that we want to feel skilled and develop:

  • Feel capable
  • Master but also be challenged
  • Develop and improve
  • Know how to do
  • Get confirmation

We have a need to feel a connection with other people. To feel relatedness means e.g.:

  • There are people who care about me
  • We trust each other
  • I feel liked
  • I am respected for who I am and for my opinions
  • I have safe and stable relationships

Through your leadership, you can create the right conditions for your staff to feel motivated. You actually have a great degree of influence on their motivation. But a coworker must be motivated deep down for what to do and where to work. Through your leadership, you can accelerate or slow down this motivation.

What happens when the basic needs are not fulfilled?

We are all born with the basic needs autonomy, competence and relatedness, but unfortunately we sometimes end up in environments and under leaders that do not promote these needs. We will then start looking for ways to protect ourselves, to accomplish the best possible adjustments to the situation we are facing. If we lack fulfillment of the basic needs, often extrinsic motivation factors (salary, benefits, status, etc) become much more important, to get respect from the environment. Negative behavior can also develop, e.g. that we blame others, we become passive, we do not dare to make decisions, we get less innovative, we do not dare to take risks, and we become disloyal.


Do you want to increase your team's motivation through your leadership?

Come along to our webinar with Charlotte Hagö about how to lead with the heart (in Swedish)!

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