The seven dwarfs, Snow White, 1937, produced by Walt Disney Productions (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Ideas for Leaders #609

Motivation Profiles: Pay and Reward Vs Fulfilling Work

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Key Concept

Building on four types of motivation, a new survey helps identify different profiles of motivation for managers, offering a mix of extrinsic (e.g. salaries) or intrinsic (e.g. fulfilling work) rewards. The profiles reveal how the different motives of managers impact their job attitudes. 

Idea Summary

Self-determination theory describes four types of motivation, moving on a spectrum from other-directed to self-directed.

External motivation is at the other-directed end of the spectrum. Motivation is based on what others can give you (e.g. money, promotions, stock options and even praise) or what others can take away (e.g. demotion, termination).

Introjected motivation is more internally driven but still driven by outside pressure. Individuals are motivated by what they think they should do, but not necessarily what they want to do. 

With both of these types of motivation, actions are more obligatory than voluntary, which leads to negative attitudes about the job. That said, introjected motivation is internal, which is comparable to the remaining two motivation types: identified and intrinsic motivation.

Identified motivation occurs when work fulfils the values and goals that are personally important to people.

Intrinsic motivation is the most self-directed of the motivation types. People find their work enjoyable, even fascinating. It’s what they want to do

Building on data from the Center for Creative Leadership’s World Leadership Survey, a team of researchers developed six motivational profiles for managers, reflecting different combinations of the four types of motivation. For their research, the team focused on the survey responses of 321 U.S. managers who had attended CCL leadership development programs.

The six motivational profiles are:

  • Apathetic. With very low or almost no levels of introjected, identified and intrinsic motivation, apathetic motivation is almost entirely external.
  • Indifferent. Indifferent managers have the same motivation profile as the apathetic: mostly external motivation and below average levels of introjected, identified and intrinsic motivation — although perhaps slightly higher levels of these three motivation types in comparison to apathetic managers.
  • Typical. This is the most common profile. These managers are mostly externally motivated. However, with internal motivation only slightly below average, they do have some internal drive to do good work.
  • Mixed. The defining feature of mixed managers is that no single motivation type dominates. They show slightly above average levels of all four motives.
  • Internally driven. As noted by the name, these managers have very high levels of the three internal motives (introjected, identified, intrinsic). Specifically, they are motivated to enhance their self-worth, pursue their values and goals, and enjoy their work.
  • Self-directed. These are the most internally motivated of managers. This profile features low external motivation, slightly low introjected motivation, and high identified and intrinsic motivation. The main goal of these managers is to do what matches their values and goals or is enjoyable to them.

The World Leadership Survey includes questions related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intention to turnover. Comparing each manager’s motivational profile to his or her responses on these issues, the researchers were able to determine which profiles were most favourable to the organization.

The self-directed and internally driven profiles were the most favourable in terms of job satisfaction, commitment to the organization and any intention to leave the organization.

Managers with a mixed profile were also relatively happy with their jobs and their organizations, although they were not as positive as self-directed and internally driven managers.

Managers with a typical profile had generally unfavourable job attitudes — certainly less favourable than self-directed, internally driven and mixed managers.

However, and not surprisingly, managers with the apathetic and indifferent profiles expressed the lowest job satisfaction and commitment to their organization, and were the most likely to try to leave for (in their minds) greener pastures.

The results of the research are unequivocal: managers need to be mostly internally motivated in order to be satisfied in their position and committed to their companies. External motivation doesn’t hurt, but by itself, this research shows, it’s not enough.

Business Application

If internal motivation is the key to job satisfaction and commitment, what can organizations or bosses do to increase this positive effect? The research team suggests the following three levers to ‘unlock’ internal motivation:

  1. Support and encouragement from the boss. Bosses who show a genuine appreciation of their managers and encourage self-direction enhance the self-worth of these managers. Such managers become internally motivated. Non-supportive bosses have the opposite effect, destroying their internal motivation of their managers.
  2. Incentive systems that affirm, not manipulate. For example, bonus systems pitting one manager against another is manipulative and demotivating. By comparison, a system that rewards managers for achieving challenging goals is self-affirming.
  3. Minimal politics, maximum fairness. Managers who feel they must ‘play the political game’ — such as stifling criticism so as not to offend others — will soon pay less attention to what’s important to them and focus on pleasing others. Companies should create fair policies and procedures to ensure that rewards come from performance rather than who you know.
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Idea conceived

  • March 2016

Idea posted

  • June 2016

DOI number



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