Skip to content

Chapter 20 - Softskills

3. Motivation

Short story…

…from Carl Rogers's life
One year ago. Carl Rogers was already working for the pharmaceutical company.

He met his colleague Karen who was really unsatisfied with her actual situation.

"What shall I do about Wesley? He marched into the marketing department without talking to me first, gossiping with the other staff and slurping his cappuccino, getting everybody laughing." "Sounds like you're pretty frustrated, Karen." "Yes and I've given him a really important job to do. But he hasn't even started. Wesley is a real lazy bone. Do you know what I'd really like to do?" "No, what?" "You know that song lyric - the first cut is the deepest? I'd like to make a really deep cut and throw him out."

"Good idea, but how many people have you got who could take his place? Have you got approval to bring agency temps into the project for a while?" Those were important questions Carl was asking his colleague. "No, of course I haven't", admitted Karen. "Well, can you get other members of the team to do his work or can you cancel the work altogether?" Carl asked. "No and no." You could hear the frustration in Karen's voice.

"Well, it would probably be a good idea to think about team motivation and putting the lever in the right place. People tend to do things if they have the right motivation. Think about what motivation means."

After a brief pause, Karen answered, "It's from a Latin word, isn't it?" Carl smiled, "That's right, a Latin word that means 'to have a reason to move'. So, you have to give them a reason to move and take a few other things into account." "And what are they?" asked Karen. "OK, let's take a look at a few typical sequences in a regular work environment. This is one that I experienced in one of my projects a while ago…"

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Incentives are a prerequisite for goal-oriented and motivated teamwork. Team members must believe in the project and that their involvement offers them personal benefits. These benefits can include job security (because the project will help the company to remain in business), knowledge building, career advancement, a financial bonus, honest praise in the presence of the entire team or a personal tribute from you, the project manager. It is always best if a project team member can derive personal satisfaction or personal benefits from the success of a project.

However, opinions differ regarding the genuine motivating effect of incentives provided by the management. It's doubted whether incentive systems (e.g. bonuses) have a lasting positive effect on the long-term attitudes of employees to their work. Accordingly, sophisticated motivation techniques can mean that the incentives have to be continually increased in order to have a motivating effect on employees, who gradually become more and more immune to them. Other possible side effects of individual incentives are interpersonal problems such as resentment or envy. Ideally, the staff should be personally motivated and the managers should encourage this process.

Positive and negative, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's needs pyramid represents a needs-based framework of human motivation. It shows that lower needs - one of which is financial security - are fundamental needs. If these lower needs are satisfied, people will turn their attention to higher needs such as recognition and self-esteem - which are motivation factors at a higher level of the pyramid.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs shows the five different stages of human needs.

Motivation problems

Even organisations that use incentive systems often have staff who are not committed to performance factors and targets. This is because, although these organisations have recognized the significance of staff motivation, they are inconsistent in the implementation of such measures. A bonus that is reduced to next to nothing on the pay slip after tax does not motivate an employee to optimise his work processes. And anyone who, on paper, can set his own working hours but in practice is required to spend the core time in the office, will not focus on developing new products, but grumble about getting stuck in rush hour traffic every evening.

Organisations are still reluctant to introduce genuine changes because they are concerned that these jeopardise power structures and hierarchies. Managers, in particular, tend to avoid disclosing whether they are attaining their targets or not. In addition, few managers will be happy if their top sales employees earn a salary which is higher than their own because they generate high commission-related sales.

Further methods for boosting motivation

Further methods for boosting motivation can be found in the table below.

Method Explanation
Job rotation Rotating staff between similar activities
Job enlargement Enlargement of current activities to include new ones
Job enrichment Planning, preparatory and controlling activities are incorporated in the person's overall function to increase his scope of responsibility
Group work
(partially autonomous)
Several people working towards one and the same objective, though each with a specific area of responsibility
The participants view themselves as a team and develop the relevant communication and cooperation structures

Short story…

…from Carl Rogers's life
Carl added

"To give people the right motivation, you first have to find out what motivates them. A lot of people don't come to work for fun or out of boredom, but to get their salaries at the end of the month, so money can be a great motivator."

Karen answered sceptically: "But there are some obvious problems with that. Money soon loses its attraction as a motivator because it arrives at the end of every month. And money doesn't have the same motivating effect on everyone. A member of staff who has paid off his mortgage and has a wife who also earns a monthly salary will be less motivated by it than you, for example, a man with a young family and a whole lot of debt."

Carl winked at his colleague, "Well done Karen! Make a list of your staff and write the things that particularly motivate them next to their names. Think about the things you've heard between the lines at meetings, about their behaviour at work and their conversations during breaks. Write down the things you've noticed and your ideas about what could motivate them. It will provide you with lots of valuable information and you'll immediately notice that not every employee can be motivated with money and that many things that motivate people aren't expensive. A few positive words at the right moment, a thank you or an e-mail that specifically praises their work - especially if you send it on a Friday - will work wonders. Try it out, you'll be amazed!"

"You know what? I think I'll start with Wesley. I'll keep you updated."

Then Karen went off and starts making her list.


To summarise the keywords of that chapter, here is a quick overview:

Technical term Definition
Motivation Reason to move
Intrinsic: Motivation which is driven by oneself
Extrinsic: Motivation which is driven by external factors
Maslow's hierarchy of needs Five steps of motivations illustrated in a pyramid:
  • Self-actualisation
  • Self-esteem
  • Social belonging
  • Safety needs
  • Physiological needs
  • Test yourself!

    Now it is time to check your knowledge.

    Answer the following questions for yourself. Please take your time and think carefully about what you would answer before revealing the solution.

    What types of motivation exist?
    • Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
    • Positive and negative motivation
    What information does Maslow's needs pyramid provide?

    It provides information about the hierarchy of basic human needs.