4 Elements of Intrinsic Motivation and Why You Should Care

4 Elements Of Intrinsic Motivation

I am a big fan of intrinsic motivation simply because it’s embedded into human nature. It’s like a flame that burns in every one of us and with a little skill you can turn into a fire. The book “Intrinsic Motivation at Work” was written by Kenneth W. Thomas and it provides a framework for increasing employee engagement.

Intrinsic Motivation vs Extrinsic Motivation

It’s all comes down to rewards. Extrinsic motivation works when we are driven by external, environmental factors like money or perks. But we need to be careful with that because too much external reward can spoil employees and drive down the intrinsic motivation.

On the other hand, the intrinsically motivated individual derives a sheer pleasure from performing the action itself. In such state, people don’t need anything else and the results can be nothing short of amazing.

It’s like a difference between dancing for effect or dancing because you are simply enjoying it. Which one feels better?  

4 Elements of Intrinsic Motivation

Motivation is all about the perception and subjective pleasure we derive from given activities. It’s subjective because something that is enjoyable to me might be a nightmare to you and vice versa.

The sense of meanin​​​​gfulness 

Give your team a goal worth dying for or at least something that will wake them up in the morning just before the alarm. It gives people the impression that what they do matters. In contrast, meaningless activities with no purpose will wear people down. Do you remember the story of Sisyphus who was condemned to roll a large stone up a steep hill in Hades only to watch it roll down again and endlessly repeat this cycle? This meaningless activity was a Greek version of hell.

The sense of choice

The more you involve your team in the decision-making process the more they will give you in return.1 This is a basic way to improve employee engagement.

The sense of competence

This is the area when giving feedback and creating a condition for learning plays crucial role.

employee engagement

The sense of progress

Having a meaningful purpose is enough to start with a project, but the sense of progress is necessary to keep us going with enthusiasm.

The Best Part: Self-Management

Self-management is when your team knows not only what and how to perform tasks but also keeps itself on track without your interference. With the above conditions fulfilled you can all enjoy lower levels of stress and higher effectiveness. People will also develop professionally, hence, they will derive more satisfaction from work. That also leads to higher employee retention and lowered costs for the organisation. Everybody profits. 

Reading the book will get you started but you really need to have and stick to an action plan. You can prepare and implement it yourself or hire a professional, like me, to facilitate the process. We all know that not everything is in the books.


Intrinsic motivation is the way to go and this book is a great beginning whether you’re a novice or experienced manager. But there is a catch: you have to have the motivation to experiment and play!

Martin May

Managing Director at Intelligent and Lazy Management Consulting. Coach, trainer, blogger. "How we say it is more important than what we say"

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments