Sunday, December 10, 2006


Get a good job with more pay and you're okay
But if you ask for a rise it's no surprise
That they're giving none away.
-- Money, Pink Floyd

My friend Kimota just posted an article on his blog about raises which got me thinking about money and how it relates to motivation with respect to your job. When I was younger and much more foolish I though that money in the form of bonuses and raises were the best forms of motivation. Having been on both ends (giving and receiving raises) now, I have come to the conclusion that motivation is very loosely tied to salary and raises if at all.

I think this is based purely on expectations. If you expect to get a raise of n% for whatever reason - good performance review, better than average quality of work, high inflation rate, impression from the manager, talk amongst peers, previous raises - but end up getting less than n% (or even if you get n%) then the raise is looked at in a negative light because it didn't meet your expectations. This is similar to going to a good movie that has been built up by reviews and recommendations as the best thing ever and then being disappointed because it was merely a good movie.

A bonus is slightly better than a raise in terms of motivation because, generally, it is not expected, it follows a particular accomplishment and it is a large sudden, influx of cash you can blow on whatever takes your fancy at the time. That feeling lasts a little while and may translate into better motivation at work. However, because these 'spot' bonuses are usually rare, the realization comes that because you got a bonus recently, no matter what you do now you won't be 'due' for another bonus for a long time - so the motivation trails off.

Instead of money, I've realized that the motivation has to come from the work itself. Motivation is a two part problem - you have to be motivated by something to perform well. And your manager has to figure out what motivates you and attempt to give you that motivating item regularly. Here are some of the things that motivate me and how a manager can ensure that I'm motivated:

Motivation SourceSolution
ChallengeMake sure you are challenged in your tasks
Praise/RecognitionMake sure you get positive reinforcement
CompetitionMake sure you feel like you are in a competition and are doing well - but not winning
AccomplishmentMake sure you are aware of how completing your tasks will affect the product/marketplace/team
Chance for advancement/powerPublish the career development path opportunities, talk about continuous learning with employee, etc.


Peter J. said...

The thing that's confused me recently is the carrot-on-a-stick "bonus"---that is, the not-really-a-raise that some companies hold out year after year for hitting some target that's basically what should be expected if you've done your job---since it almost seems to work the opposite to how it's intended. As you mentioned, a bonus is generally unexpected and follows a particular accomplishment; when it becomes a regular occurrence it's perceived as salary and, when it's reduced or taken away entirely, looks like a pay cut... which is *de*motivating.

My motivation table looks a lot like yours. You don't mention if it's in any particular order, but my version would reorder it to 1-4-2-5-3 (at this particular moment in time).

Jimmy said...

I agree. I didn't put an explicit order in the table either. If I was going to rank them for myself it would be:


Barry said...

When I was younger money was a part of my motivation, but after several job changes due to failing IT firms and disastrous work environments, my number one motivational factor is working with a good group of people.

I would gladly give up all other perks and cash incentives if I knew that I would always have the ability to work with good people around me. I believe I`ve found that now, and have even asked to NOT receive raises for the past few years. Being surrounded by good people makes a job much more fun to go to each day, and makes the work less like work!

Kevin said...

I'm still young and naive, so bring on the money, money, money.

Just kidding. I'd recommend taking a look at PeopleWare's take on this as well. Part V: It's Supposed to be Fun to Work Here has some interesting ideas I'd love to see us try at some point.

Michael said...

"Good" companies worry about motivating the peons, instead of hiring motivated people.

"Great" companies hire motivated people and simple try not to demotivate them. One of the biggest de-motivators is hiring unmotivated people.