Motivation is important in most settings. As you can read in this blog post, motivation is a key factor in enacting behavioral change on a personal level. It is even trickier to motivate people in the workplace because it requires understanding how to motivate different kinds of people on a daily basis.
When thinking about motivation, there are two kinds to consider: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when you are motivated for personal reasons, such as enjoyment or personal fulfillment. It’s essentially just being innately driven to accomplish something. If you want to perform well at work because you find the work fulfilling, this would be intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is when you are motivated by outside factors. For instance, you might want to do a good job at work to please your boss or get a raise. Both types of motivation can be effective, but intrinsic motivation is far more likely to create lasting change.
One theory that can be used to understand intrinsic motivation is self-determination theory. According to this theory, people need to fulfill three basic needs in order to grow and remain motivated: competence (mastery of the tasks), relatedness (a sense of belonging and attachment to other people), and autonomy (feeling in control of your actions). Self-determination, and thus intrinsic motivation, is highest when people have high levels of all three components. People with high self-determination are more likely to take criticism well and actively try to improve at work. This means that it’s important to create an environment that fosters competence, relatedness, and autonomy. To do this, provide proper training, make sure there are harmonious relationships at work, and provide people with autonomy and responsibility.
Understanding one theory of motivation won’t resolve all issues stemming from motivation, but it’s a good place to start. For more information about how to motivate yourself or others, consider listening to BJ Fogg’s podcast episode about behavioral change. He explains key motivators (pleasure/pain, hope/fear, and wanting to belong) and knowing the best time to motivate people. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by considering the work environment itself. If the environment doesn’t allow for competence, autonomy, and relatedness, it will be more difficult to find motivation.