Money Motivated?

Organizational Behavior

Money drove me to work, but didn’t pick me up after

What drives us to behave a certain way in the workplace?  Is it because of a rainy Monday morning, maybe a bad customer, or having to perform a redundant task for the next 8 hours?  Well certainty all of those scenarios might motivate us to underperform or even quit our job.  Then the more important question is to understand what motivates us to keep working.

First we must understand the definition of motivation.  Motivation is a cognitive process.  They are the underlying or unconscious thoughts that arouse, energize, direct and sustain behavior and performance.  There are many theories that define motivation and factors that influence motivation, but I will concentrate on one theory which is relatively modern:  Dan Pink’s Drive theory.

What motivated me to stay at my lousy full time job for 2 years?

Well when I was 17 years old, just out of high school, I took a full time position at a car rental company.  The hours for my position were long (7am-6pm) 5 days a week, the pay was decent, and the environment was comfortable. By no means was this position going to define my career, but it was good enough to help me raise money for post-secondary.  It was a based pay plus commission position and I was presented with every opportunity to help myself make plenty of money.  I was young and definitely naïve and my priorities were to make as much money as I can, as quickly as possible.  At the time of employment, this was my first sales related position, and I felt inexperienced.

My training on the applicable systems was brief, but majority of the time was spent on customer sales. At that very moment I believed I would do everything I could to persuade a customer to purchase extended packages with their car rentals.  I genuinely believed I would become one of the company’s best salesperson because of the potential for making plenty of money for myself and my tuition.  I can honestly say I was driven to work by the prospect of making A LOT of money. But, now looking back on that particular job, I was driven to work by a purpose too. This purpose was the opportunity to gain a higher education.

As mentioned earlier, my on the job training was insubstantial, but learning to sell was the utmost priority.  From the company’s perspective, which was very traditional, we were mere assets to help them make as much revenue as possible.  They gave all employees targets to meet and certain promotions to attract the customer.  We were motivated by what Dan Pink (video embed below) characterizes as the carrot and stick approach.  This approach can be summarized by the use of rewards and punishment to induce the behavior.  They showed their employee appreciation by giving us a percentage of our work.

According to Pink, there are 3 main factors that affect an individual’s performance and motivation.  Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose should be practice by an organization in order to successfully keep employees motivated.  People are most creative when given autonomy on when/where/what kind of work is performed.  Employee empowerment is a prime example of autonomy, where employees are given the desire to be self-directed.  The second factor is mastery, where an individual will perform better when given the time to become proficient at their tasks.  Lastly, people will perform at their best when given a sense of purpose while performing their jobs.

The ideas that Pink provided is very conceptual.  Individuals can very well use Pink’s concepts to maximize their own potential and company executives can apply his framework to maximize the utility of their employees.  Check out the RSA Animate video below, adapted from Dan Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

There are over 5 million views, so have a look.  The narration and illustrations are very captivating.

Feel free to leave me any comments and share your thoughts below.


Dewhurst, M, Guthridge, M, & Mohr, E. (2010). Motivating people: getting beyond money.McKinsey Quarterly, (1), Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Money Motivated?

  1. It seems universal that most people believe that salary will motivate and keep employees satisfied at work. I really like Dan Pink’s drive theory as it really explain the science behind motivation. Autonomy for us marketing students is to create creative projects with the ability to freely do it.

    Who doesn’t want to master a skill or craft. The feeling of accomplishing something is always most rewarding. I know when I finish the Grouse Grind, it was exhilarating, and after doing it few more times and improving my time it keep me going.

    Finally, most if not all of us want to own our own business, or be involved in the community within our field. I know I volunteer my time at events because I feel like I have a purpose and my skills are being utilize. Amazing article and video!


  2. Hey Kevin, thanks for your insightful feedback.

    We know that many firms and organization are still very traditional in a sense, and it will be great if most companies would adapt Pink’s theory, but realistically $ is still an important motivator because of materialism.

    I too enjoyed Dan Pink’s theory and hope more organizations will adapt it, but it seems difficult for larger organizations to implement autonomy and mastery because of their size and management structure.

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