Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. What does the will to act depend on?

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Proper motivation is an important part of team management. Employee motivation is essential for a group to work effectively and for a project to be ended with success. Some of the employees are driven by intrinsic motives, such as internal satisfaction, or a sense of influence. Others are driven by extrinsic benefits, such as the desire to earn money or to be promoted. The level of motivation has a direct impact on the effectiveness of their work and, as a result, on the success of a project, which is why managers should be aware of how important this issue is. Motivated employees perform their duties to the best of their abilities, which leads to increased productivity and quality of the final product. In contrast, unmotivated employees put less or no effort into their work and produce low quality work. Researchers have analysed types of motivation over the years. The following paper will analyse and compare intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as factors influencing teamwork, project success and willingness to act. The motivation theories will be presented. Then possible motivation methods that project, program or portfolio managers can use as inspiration to create a strong, hard-working and valuable team will be shown. Lastly, the limitations of the theories will be presented.


Over the last decades, much attention has been paid to the motivation of employees at the workplace, as it was identified as an important factor when it comes to the productivity and receiving the final outcome of the projects. Managers often ask themselves: what can I do to motivate my employees? How to encourage and engage them at work? How to change their way of thinking and make them take the responsibility for their task? How to change the work culture and have more bottom-up initiatives? The topic of motivation is very broad and tough. The answers to those questions can not be easily found, but even little steps give the team and the company a chance to move forward and improve. Many frameworks, models and theories that focus on people motivation has been developed. They differ in some assumptions but one thing that they agree on is that we can distinguish extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors.


Let us first consider what motivation is. Quoting from the Project Management Body of Knowledge, motivation means "Powering people to achieve high levels of performance and overcoming barriers in order to change."[1] Word motivation comes from Latin term motivos, which means “moving”[2], so it’s also considered as a state of readiness to undertake a particular action, aroused by a need or a set of psychological and physiological processes determining the basis of behaviour and its changes.

There are some commonly defined motivations.[3] In this article we will discuss extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from external things or factors, outside the person. It is reward-driven behaviour. As an example individuals can be motivated to work hard at the office because they are looking for a payment raise or promotion. Also fame, social recognition or helping people for praise from friends or family could be examples. This kind of motivation doesn’t come from a person, it’s completely external and dependent on ‘rewards’. It leads to doing the work to obtain some other goal that is apart from the work or because of fear of being punished for failing to perform a task.[4] See the table (Figure 3) to better understand the difference between both types of motivation.

Figure 3: Comparison on different types of motivation. Own elaboration in Word based on: [5]

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is completely different type of motivation that comes from within a person. It is a natural human tendency because people usually enjoy doing things that they find enjoyable and fascinating. This motivation comes from personal enjoyment and educational achievement that drives a person to do things. As an example musicians and people who love music are intrinsically motivated to practice their instrument. It helps them to reduce stress and relax. They would do it every day as they find it fulfilling. An example of intrinsic motivation would be also taking on more responsibility at work because you enjoy being challenged and to feel accomplished, rather than to get a raise or promotion. [6] I would risk to say that intrinsic motivation is crucial in every today's workplace. Many research show that this particular type of motivation is a key factor in performance and innovation. Employees are motivated in an internal way when they seek for satisfaction of curiosity, personal improvement, development or challenges. They are also more likely to take the initiative themselves or to take more responsibility for their work. [7] What is interesting the research show that they can perform much better that people motivated extrinsically.


Analysing researches made on the interaction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation an antagonism between them has been observed. When an extrinsic motivation increases, intrinsic motivation will mostly decrease. It is known as ‘Overjustification Effect’. Also an interesting phenomenon has been seen as the initial level of personal intrinsic motivation has an impact on subsequent levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when extrinsic motivation appears. It’s said that in general when extrinsic motivation is introduced then instantaneously the level of intrinsic motivation drops. [8] But if one had a very high level of intrinsic motivation at the beginning then we can see a much smaller impact of extrinsic motivation on it. It’s very important to save employee’s intrinsic motivation at high level as it leads to higher engagement in work, better results, improvements and innovations. On the other hand, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can combine in a positive way. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations aren’t completely separate systems where one (the extrinsic) must be taken care of before the other (the intrinsic) can become operative. It is more in the direction of where extrinsic motivation can, under some circumstances, complement intrinsic motivation. The research suggest that extrinsic motivation is most likely to combine synergistically with intrinsic motivation while the initial level of intrinsic motivation is concerned as high. [9]

Motivation theories

The most frequently cited models of motivation are Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg's two-factor model.[10] Both of them are widely accepted and researchers build on the ideas presented in them. Moreover, the self-determination theory will be presented as it suggests that there are three innate and universal psychological needs that make people motivated to grow and change. [11].

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. It was presented for the first time in 1954. [12] [4] From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards we can distinguish the following needs : physiological (food and clothing), safety (job security), love and belonging needs (friendship), esteem, and self-actualization. According to Maslow, each level of the pyramid needs to be fulfilled before someone could be motivated by higher level factors. Figure 1 is a graphical example of Maslow's model.

Figure 1: Graphical example of Maslow's model. Own elaboration in PowerPoint based on: [12]

It means that it is not possible to motivate someone with positive feedback (an esteem factor) if their basic physiological or safety needs aren't met. This is applicable in the workplace. If an employee is not paid enough to be able to feed their family, they won’t be really into engaging in new task and hearing they do a good job. They would prefer to earn more to provide for the family and that’s what would be a motivating factor for them. [4]

Herzberg's two-factor model

The other model that will be described in this paper is Herzberg's two-factor model. Presented in late 1950’s popular Frederick Irving Herzberg's concept concerns why people feel satisfied at work. It can be leveraged to help the managers get the best performance from their team.

According to his study people described satisfying events at work in terms of factors that were connected to the job itself. His research showed that the mental health of an employee is directly related to performing meaningful work. Based on his study Herzberg defined two factors: motivators and hygiene factors.[13]

Motivators increase the employees work satisfaction. When they are present employees work harder. They are found within the actual job itself. As an example motivators include[14]:

  • Achievement – the employees must feel the sense of achievement, as it will give them a proud feeling of having done a difficult but worth task
  • The work itself – the tasks must be interesting, varied and also a challenge for a worker, to keep him engaged
  • Responsibility – employees should be the owners of their work and have the responsibility for it
  • Advancement and growth – workers should have a clear view on the promotion opportunities and should have the chance to growth and learn new skills.[15]
Figure 2: Graphical example of Herzberg's model. Own elaboration in PowerPoint based on: [16]

On the other hand, Herzberg distinguished hygiene factors. They are not present at the actual job but they surround the job. The presence of the poor hygiene factors decrease employee job satisfaction. It is important to note that motivators will often be seen as factors referred to satisfaction, while hygiene factors as those referred for dissatisfaction. The examples of hygiene factors are as follows:

  • Company policies – should be comparable to the competitors’ and what is highly important, fair and clear to every employee[15]
  • Work conditions and relationships – the environment should be healthy, the relationships appropriate and equipment should be adequate (safe and fit for purpose)
  • Salary – it should be fair, reasonable and also competitive with other companies in sector[14]
  • Security – employees should not be under the constant pressure of the risk of dismissal

According to Herzberg, certain conditions, or 'hygiene factors', had to be in place for employees to be satisfied, but these did not necessarily motivate the employees to do their job. For instance, if employees are working below the minimum wage, it is not likely that they will be motivated until a perceived fair rate of pay is given. At the same time, if an employee is well paid, Herzberg believed that a pay rise would not have a lasting motivational effect.

Herzberg’s research suggested that once the hygiene factors were met, employers should focus on recognizing the achievements of the employee and providing opportunities to learn and grow. That’s the point on which both theories (Maslov’s and Herzberg’s) were similar.

Self-determination theory

Let’s now move to self-determination theory, which considers human behaviour and is a macro theory of human motivation and personality. It is an important concept which refers to each person's ability to make choices and manage their own life. The theory was firstly introduced in 1985 by two psychologists, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. According to them, people tend to be driven by a need to grow and gain fulfilment. We can distinguish two key assumptions of the theory: [11].

  • The need for growth drives behaviour – which means that people are actively oriented towards development/growth. Gaining mastery over challenges and embracing new experiences is essential to developing a coherent sense of self.
  • Autonomous motivation is important –focus on the interplay between external forces acting on people and a person's internal motives and needs.

Following the self-determination theory, people need to feel the following characteristics in order to achieve psychological growth and be motivated to do their tasks:

  • Autonomy: People need to feel self-governing and independence. The sense of being able to take direct action that will lead to real change plays an important role in building a sense of self-determination. Alternatively, an individual will not have autonomy if they feel controlled or threatened by others. Material rewards can also reduce the sense of autonomy. If one wanted to give someone an extrinsic reward for a behaviour already internally motivated, the likelihood that autonomy would be undermined (given that the extrinsic reward is likely to distract from autonomy) is quite high. The situation would become even worse when the behaviour is repeated: the behaviour becomes increasingly controlled by external rewards rather than autonomy. Thus, intrinsic motivation is weakened, and people begin to feel both a different source of motivation and less confidence in their own merits. [17]
  • Competence: People need to be effective in dealing with the environment. People need to become proficient at tasks and learn different skills. When they feel they have the skills needed to succeed, they are more likely to make a move, to take action to help them achieve their goals. If tasks are too demanding or the person receives negative feedback, the sense of competence can decrease. On the other hand, the sense of competence increases when the demands of the task are optimally matched to the person's skills or when the person receives positive feedback. [17]
  • Connection or relatedness: People need to have close, affectionate relationships. Relatedness is the ability to feel attachment and a sense of belonging to other people. It involves a sense of closeness and belonging to a social group. Without relatedness it is more difficult to achieve self-determination as the individual would not have access to both help and support. [17]

As we can observe human behaviour is diverse, but what is certain the motivation techniques play a key role in people’s productivity. Extrinsic motivators can sometimes reduce levels of self-determination. Following the authors of the theory, we find a further confirmation of the theme raised earlier of the relationship between the two types of motivation. Giving people extrinsic rewards for already intrinsically motivated behaviour can undermine autonomy. As behaviour becomes more and more controlled by external rewards, people begin to feel less responsible for their behaviour and their intrinsic motivation decreases. [11] On the other hand a unexpected positive feedback and encouragement on a person's task performance can increase intrinsic motivation and the performance on the task. This type of feedback helps people feel more competent, which is one of the key needs for personal development.

As proven by research [18], the presence of different types of motivation has a huge impact on task performance. According to "Intrinsic Rewards and Employee's Performance With the Mediating Mechanism of Employee's Motivation" research [18], the level of intrinsic motivation is crucial to achieving high productivity and quality of the tasks. That’s why it is so important for the managers to be able and do not forget to motivate their employees.

Approaches and techniques of employee motivation

The following techniques are presented as an example of possible solutions for managers to stimulate workers’ motivation. [4] It is worth remembering that in order to have a good, cohesive team that successfully brings projects to completion, you need to focus on each member of the team individually.

  • Find out who the employees are and what they want. Focus on personalities. Evaluate the employee’s life stage. [19]

This approach allows the manager to concentrate on an employee as on an individual, on his needs. Instead of asking broad questions, the manager can ask the employee to talk about a prior project that they felt went well and that they enjoyed. Then through that both manager and worker can together can find features of that job the worker particularly liked and discuss how they might be applied in the future to other work.

The next aspect is personality. The manager should recognise the personality of the worker to be able to motivate him in the right way. For instance, one worker will be delighted to receive a public praise, while others will feel uncomfortable in that situation and would prefer a private, face-to-face one.

The last aspect of this point is the employee’s life stage. While older workers would be usually less focused on promotion, the younger ones would be motivated by the possibility to climb the career ladder. That’s also an aspect that should be taken into consideration by the managers. Even small promotions, would be a motivator. The manager should show the workers their bright professional future so that they don’t feel they are stuck in a job that will never change or inspire them.

  • Flexibility as motivation. Education and giving employees free time for self-development.[20]

If possible the manager should design a flexible workflow and schedule to allow the employees to set working hours better suited to their personal needs. They will focus more on the work if they for example don’t need to think of being late to take the kids from school. Also allowing the employees to have some free time during the week that they can spend on self-development would give them the chance to learn more on things they are really interested in. It will give them more autonomy. Seminars and training sessions would be a good idea too, as workers after them would feel an increased sense of worth, quality of their work and value for the company (competence).

  • Challenging work. Participation in decision making.

Providing employee with a challenging work (in a positive way) makes him intrinsically motivated to push himself to be his best. Setting challenging tasks and giving employees the freedom to make decisions about how to approach projects creates a sense of control. This control leads to a sense of ownership of the project and employees are motivated to succeed because they want to meet the challenges.

  • Job Enlargement

Thanks to job enlargement employee gains the opportunity to remove boredom out of the work by engaging worker in doing different tasks than the ones he does on a daily basis. These tasks are connected with the work he’s been doing everyday but expands it by allowing him to have a broader view on the task. It can positively affect their perception of work, encourage to try new things and engage more in the whole process.[4]

  • Job Rotation

Job rotation is a practice mostly used in manufacturing industry where each employee learns several operations and is rotated through each in a particular period. It gives the opportunity for the worker to search for the job they find enjoyable. Job rotation is also an important factor when it comes to company learning. Thanks to job rotation, the firm can receive information on the quality of various positions, based on the observations of various workers, not only one.[4]

  • Provide safe environment and be an excellent leader.

The sense of security and understanding gives the employees strength and will to perform better. When an employee is confident of their position and that they will not be dismissed, they will be much more motivated to work. That’s why it is important for a manager to be a good leader and have a good communication with their workers. Guidance, supporting and reassuring employees, by big or small gestures, so that they feel safe and needed plays an enormous role. Give employees’ feedback, praise when it is deserved and make them feel that their job is meaningful and valuable.


Many theories[21] are focusing on motivation that would help to fulfil the unmet needs of employees. Firstly, we need to remember that every person is different and needs special, individual factors to be motivated. While managers can provide workers with a stimulating work environment and influence them, it is up to individual employees to respond. We cannot force them to react.[22] Secondly, it is important to indicate, that work life is not the only aspect of employee’s life, so organizational motivators won’t meet all of the employee’s needs. It’s essential that the worker has also stabilized life outside the workplace. It gives him the opportunity to focus at work on his job. What follows is that external motivation at work can cause that worker will start to think that nothing more really matters than professional satisfaction. It can have a serious negative impact on other aspects of their life as for example family life. Thus, proper motivation plays a huge role at a workplace, as it can impact other parts of worker’s life. [23]

Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography describes references used in this article that can serve for a better understanding and expansion of the topic.

  • Richard M. Ryan, Edward L. Deci, (2000), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions

This article provides a further explanation of motivations and also touches more deeply the subject and research made on “Self-Determination Theory”. It further breaks down extrinsic motivation and explains the issues surrounding human behaviour more broadly.

  • Faiza Manzoor, Longbao Wei, Muhammad Asif, (2021), Intrinsic Rewards and Employee's Performance With the Mediating Mechanism of Employee's Motivation

This article shows and compares many research on intrinsic rewards and their impact on employee’s performance. Shows how employee’s should be rewarded to support the best performance.

  • Charles H. Goodman, (1971), Employee Motivation

This article nicely develops the theme of employee motivation and provides additional practical examples of motivation.

  • Kelli Burton, (2012), A Study of Motivation: How to Get Your Employees Moving

This article provides with a expansion on topic of motivation and an explanation on other motivations that had been defined - introjected motivation and identified motivation.


  1. Project Management Institute. (2017). A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute.
  2. Richard M. Ryan, Edward L. Deci, (2000), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
  3. Snelgar, Shelton, Giesser, (2017), A comparison of South African and German extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
  6. Adrienne Santos-Longhurst, (2019), Intrinsic Motivation: How to Pick Up Healthy Motivation Techniques
  7. Lisa Legault, (2016), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
  8. Hamid Tohidi, Mohammad Mehdi Jabbari, (2011), The effects of motivation in education.
  10. Carmen Dolea, (2005), Motivation of health care workers: review of theories and empirical practice.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Kendra Cherry, (2021), Self-Determination Theory and Motivation, access 22.03.22: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-determination-theory-2795387
  12. 12.0 12.1 Dr. Saul McLeod, (2020), Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, access 13.03.22: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
  13. Kelli Burton, (2012), A Study of Motivation: How to Get Your Employees Moving
  14. 14.0 14.1 Expert Program Management, Herzberg’s Motivation Theory – Two Factor Theory, access 13.03.22:https://expertprogrammanagement.com/2018/04/herzbergs-two-factor-theory/
  15. 15.0 15.1 Charlotte Nickerson, (2021), Herzberg’s Motivation Two-Factor Theory, access 13.03.22:https://www.simplypsychology.org/herzbergs-two-factor-theory.html
  16. Dr. Serhat Kurt, (2021), Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory: Two-factor, access 13.03.22:https://educationlibrary.org/herzbergs-motivation-hygiene-theory-two-factor/
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Gabriel Lopez-Garrido, (2021), Self-Determination Theory and Motivation, access 22.03.22: https://www.simplypsychology.org/self-determination-theory.html
  18. 18.0 18.1 Faiza Manzoor, Longbao Wei, Muhammad Asif, (2021), Intrinsic Rewards and Employee's Performance With the Mediating Mechanism of Employee's Motivation
  19. Carol Evenson, 7 Secrets to Intrinsically Motivating Your Employees, access 13.03.22:https://gethppy.com/employee-engagement/7-secrets-intrinsically-motivating-employees
  20. Jeremy Sutton, Ph.D., (2022), Intrinsic Motivation in the Workplace: 5 Techniques to Motivate Employees, access 13.03.22:https://positivepsychology.com/intrinsic-motivation-in-the-workplace/
  21. Neil Kokemuller, The Role of Rewards & Punishment as Deterrents, access 13.03.22:https://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/role-rewards-punishment-deterrents-17196.html
  22. Charles H. Goodman, (1971), Employee Motivation
  23. Alfred Sarkissian, Need-Based Motivation vs. Cognitive-Based Motivation, access 13.03.22:https://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/needbased-motivation-vs-cognitivebased-motivation-14684.html
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