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Psychological theories of motivation

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

David M. Kreps, a Stanford economist, explains the different approaches of getting people going:

Expectancy theory: Motivation increases when expectancy (likelihood that certain actions lead to what management wants), instrumentality (likelihood that fulfilling management’s desires will lead to rewards), and valence (likelihood that those rewards are valuable to the employee) are strong. Set clear paths to achievement, and make sure the rewards for achieving those goals are salient and valuable to your employees.

Goal-setting theory: Achievement of a goal that is set is a motivating reward. Set up goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound—plus somewhat challenging.

Equity theory: Employees are demotivated by perceptions of unfair treatment.

Self-determination theory: Employees are motivated by autonomy, the ability to learn and exhibit skills, a sense of social relatedness, and a sense that work has a socially valuable purpose. Enhance these characteristics in tasks and jobs, and remove barriers to feeling this way.

Self-perception theory: Employees, after the fact, look for reasons they did what they did. And the explanations they arrive at are strengthened motivations for future behavior.

Attribution, social comparisons and motivation: Cathy attributes motives to Don’s behavior. If Don is socially similar to Evelyn, Cathy may attribute similar motives to Evelyn. And if Cathy is socially similar to Don and Evelyn, she may attribute similar motives to herself. Build a culture where employees are similarly motivated, and a virtuous cycle will be created.

Undermining: Providing extrinsic rewards can dull intrinsic motivation. Particularly for highly intrinsically motivated employees, be careful (and perhaps simply avoid) piling on extrinsic rewards.

— Adapted from The Motivation Toolkit: How to Align Your Employees’ Interests with Your Own, David M. Kreps, W.W. Norton and Company.

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