6 Common Types of Workplace Motivation

Updated September 30, 2022

Motivation is a critical element in a successful workplace. It energizes employees, inspires progress and pushes teams to excel. To use motivation in the workplace at its full potential, you should understand the different types of motivation and how they each function in a professional environment. 

In this article, we list six common types of motivation and provide examples of how they can be used in the workplace.

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Types of motivation 

Motivation in the workplace can take many forms. What works to motivate one individual might be ineffective for another. Understanding a wide range of motivation types can help employees find ways to stay motivated at work and aid managers who are seeking new methods to help their teams excel. 

Two categories are commonly used to describe motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic refers to motivation that comes from within yourself rather than from an outside source, whereas extrinsic comes from an exterior source. Several different types of motivation fall under intrinsic or extrinsic categories.

Read more: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is when you are driven to accomplish a task because you find it personally rewarding. If you are intrinsically motivated to complete a task, you likely enjoy the process and accomplish it willingly. Many hobbies, like working puzzles, playing sports or watching movies, provide intrinsic motivation. 

Completing a task due to intrinsic motivation will usually leave you feeling personally satisfied. You may not have met any tangible goals or produced measurable results, but you feel the effort it took to complete the task was worthwhile.

Among intrinsic motivation factors are common subtypes of motivation, including: 

Competence and learning motivation

Competence motivation, also known as learning motivation, relates to an individual’s need to feel competent or capable. People who are motivated by competence work toward goals that involve education, training and knowledge. In the workplace, you might be motivated to learn a new software program not because of the rewards, but because you can master a new skill. 

Companies might specifically provide opportunities for individuals who are competence-motivated in order to focus on promoting highly skilled employees who usually seek out learning opportunities. If you are competence-motivated, you may be able to learn new equipment and techniques quickly, train others or promote yourself as a highly capable leader.

Example: Competence motivation can include implementing continuing education programs or tasking highly skilled employees with training new hires.

Attitude motivation

Attitude motivation drives you to change the way you or other people think and feel. Attitude-motivated people seek to enhance their interactions with others by improving social engagements. They focus on making people around them feel better.

Example: If you feel compelled to work for a nonprofit or volunteer for an organization because helping people makes you feel good, you’re motivated by a change in attitude.

Read more: Attitude Motivation: Everything You Need To Know

Creative motivation

When you’re motivated by the desire to express yourself, you are tapping into creative motivation. Creative motivation can include the urge to write a book or poem, act in a film, play the guitar or start a business.

Companies can encourage creativity by integrating it into their workplace and culture, such as a graffiti wall that employees can doodle on or a pumpkin-carving contest during Halloween. For some people, setting aside some time every day to express themselves creatively is vital to staying motivated in other areas of their life, including work. 

Example: Creative motivation can include a company hackathon event during which employees spend a whole night together working on an open-source software project to build a new product.

Related: Intrinsic Rewards: What They Are and Why They're Important

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation involves either the promise of a reward or a threat of punishment. Children typically study hard in school because they want to earn an award for high grades or avoid getting in trouble at home. In some cases, they might be equally motivated by both consequences.

In the workplace, the rewards earned from completing extrinsically motivated tasks typically do not satisfy any of your personal needs. In fact, you’ll likely need to sacrifice some of your own time, security or energy to reach an extrinsic goal.

Extrinsic rewards usually involve money, acknowledgment or other types of compensation. Extrinsic consequences might involve monetary loss, discipline or wasted opportunities. Many employees are extrinsically motivated in the workplace by both their paychecks and career advancement.

Among extrinsic motivation factors are common subtypes of motivation, including: 

Achievement motivation

Achievement motivation involves the satisfaction you gain when reaching a goal. People who are achievement-motivated aren’t satisfied with a completed project unless it earns them some level of recognition. Achievement motivation is an extrinsic form of motivation because it requires outside sources in order to provide a sense of accomplishment. 

In the workplace, achievement motivation drives individuals to be goal-oriented. Employees who are achievement-motivated need to be able to anticipate future acknowledgment to remain engaged throughout a process or project. 

Example: Achievement motivation in the workplace can include offering an award or certificate for a job well done or implementing some sort of “Employee of the Month” program.

Related: The Best Ways to Motivate Your Team

Affiliation motivation

Affiliation motivation is the desire to belong to a certain group of people or an organization. If you’re motivated by affiliation, you thrive when supporting or interacting with a team of other employees. You find it rewarding when you can contribute to a team effort or are considered a valuable member of a particular group.

An employee who is affiliation-motivated can be a benefit in the workplace because they strive to promote connections and relationships between people. They typically excel at interpersonal communication, collaboration, negotiating during team discussions and taking notice of others’ skills.

You might use affiliation motivation in the workplace when working to promote personal relationships, either among coworkers or with customers. Creating a group identity as a part of company culture can encourage employees to be motivated by a need to succeed as a team instead of as individuals.

Example: To promote affiliation motivation, you can organize team-building exercises that encourage the employees to build trust and encourage employees to connect outside of work. Providing socialization opportunities in the workplace like holiday parties and baby showers and prioritizing small-group projects over department-led ones also can foster affiliation motivation.

Incentive motivation

Incentive motivation involves working to earn predetermined compensation for above-average performance. It drives you to pursue a worthwhile reward in exchange for your time and effort. People who are incentive-motivated work best when they know they’ll be appropriately compensated.

In the workplace, incentive motivation involves managers or supervisors providing opportunities for employees to earn specific awards. This usually fosters a predominantly goal-oriented atmosphere. In some cases, each task that an employee accomplishes may count toward earning a certain reward. In other situations, employees might actively exceed expectations in order to qualify for compensation beyond their usual paycheck.

Example: Awarding an additional day of paid time off to an employee with the highest sales numbers or allowing the team to clock out an hour early if weekly customer satisfaction scores average 85% or higher are examples of incentives that can be used to motivate employees.

Read more: Extrinsic Motivation: Definition and Importance in the Workplace

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