Motivation in the workplace: Purpose vs Profit

Corporations are living and breathing organisms. Imagine you’re in a hurry to run some errands in the morning, but your legs are just not up to it. Many businesses face the same problem on a daily basis. Motivating people is an ongoing process, and it should be tailored to fit your organization. With that being said, this is how we do it and what we try to avoid.  

Crime, punishment and a carrot

There are doubts about punishment and reward motivational strategy (often referred to as a carrot and stick policy) regarding its efficiency.

The idea came from a situation in which a donkey is being ridden by a man holding a carrot in front of it, but also a beating stick in the other hand, to make sure that the donkey will move forward. At the same time, the poor animal is progressing to reach the carrot and to get away from the consequences of a stick on it’s behind.

illustration of carrot and stick policy

Companies with this kind of motivation practice aren’t rare. It’s the easiest one to implement, after all. But, is it resulting in motivation? Are employees really motivated by the prize they will almost never grasp and pushed towards personal progress by the fear of the punishment for failure?

When someone from your team commits a crime of underachievement, will you punish that person or offer guidance in order to regain your team members productivity. What would motivate you: a stick, or a how-to on getting that carrot?

Money for nothing and coffee for free

illustration of money as a motivation factor

Money, the great motivator. Is it really?

When we do interviews with job applicants, a question of salary is unavoidable. “Pay is performance-related” is a tricky answer, but a true one. We don’t want people to come and work for us only because of their salary, we need people who are willing to grow and improve, and the cash will support their personal growth.

To support this attitude, we’re going with “best things in life are free”, excuse.

Only it’s not an excuse.

Imagine the people who made Linux: if they care about the profit, they would have charged something for their software by now, right? And all over the world, there are people doing incredible things for absolutely no personal gain.

This doesn’t mean that in our company people work for free coffee (although there is some in the kitchen).

Employees should be paid just as much so they don’t need to think about the money. Experiments showed that rewarding someone’s best work with a bonus only motivates in the short run. If you give a group of people a task with little to none complexity, all will go above and beyond to perform better and get that reward. But as the difficulty of the task rises, money becomes a far less motive for progress and productivity.

There is a thing more powerful than the big buck and it is called:


illustration of a purpose driven motivation

Imagine you’re a software developer, a senior in your area of expertise. You keep improving, you read useful articles and watch tutorials every chance you get. You are very satisfied with your monthly income. And you are sooo bored.

You deal with the same type of projects, or you’re stuck on a project which will never end if the client continues to add more and more features to the product. You have the groundbreaking idea, you know the method and you possess the skills and enthusiasm to make that idea happen, still, no one wants to hear you out. Management is always busy.

This is the worse thing that could happen in a company – to have experts go to waste when they could be changing the world. In the IT community, researches had shown, that the greatest motive to change employment is the chance to work on interesting and challenging projects!

We say, let them work!

For the purpose of this article, we asked some of our colleagues what’s the thing that makes them give a hundred percent at work.

Jelena, our PM, said that challenge and recognition are the best motivators for her. She likes to be challenged to explore different areas of her expertise, and to implement a solution to the new problem she’s facing. The acknowledged for the work she did and the impeccable results she delivered gives her the energy she needs to keep up the great work she’s been doing.

Dragana, our UI/UX designer is led by the motive of achieving quality in her work. “I like that feeling of satisfaction after a work well done, as well as the idea that I’ve created something beautiful”, she said.

The writer of this article is motivated by the chance of improving: both herself and the common workflow. She likes fighting daily challenges and tries to win a little faster and a little smarter every time.   

If you don’t put each and every single one of someone’s skills into motion, that person will feel rejected and underappreciated, no matter how big is their pay. To really motivate people, give them tasks that they find interesting, and gradually raise the stakes in terms of task complexity. This way, they’ll be on a perpetuate upward path, producing more quality at work and at the same time, they’ll be growing their knowledge and overall work satisfaction.

The job itself becomes a carrot that we all chase after.

That’s how motivation in RCMT IT Europe works.

This article was inspired by a great video we came across

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