It’s not about the money

I’ve been reading, watching and listening to a lot about motivation lately.  Not intentionally but once you start thinking about what motivates people to create, to participate, to get involved it starts to show up in places you don’t expect it. Sometimes I got looking for it too. Over and over I notice the same theme, it’s not about the money.  Sure money is important up to a certain point, but after that you need something else.

In times like these when we are asked to do more with less this is something managers should keep in mind.

One of the videos I watched is this TED talk by Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation. He talks about the mismatch of what science knows about motivation and what business does.  Essentially as long as you’re paying people adequately and fairly, money is no longer the most powerful motivation. Watch the video and maybe buy the book when it comes out. You can also read the entire transcript on TED.

There are a lot of interesting points, here is one of my favorites:

“Results Only Work Environment. The ROWE. Created by two American consultants, in place in place at about a dozen companies around North America. In a ROWE people don’t have schedules. They show up when they want. They don’t have to be in the office at a certain time, or any time. They just have to get their work done. How they do it, when they do it, where they do it, is totally up to them. Meetings in these kinds of environments are optional.

What happens? Almost across the board, productivity goes up, worker engagement goes up, worker satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down.”

What do you think? If more money wouldn’t motivate you, what would?

8 thoughts on “It’s not about the money

  1. Bobbi, I have made this argument so many times. Money, though a powerful motivator, isn’t the be all and end all behind the things that we do. A sense of satifaction over a job well done, that feeling of accomplishment, overcoming a challenge – those are much big motivators in my book.


  2. For me, feeling valued and respected by peers and supervisors is vital. Feeling as though I am making a real difference and that my professional knowledge is respected are also essential to my sense of happiness and motivation. I also find that an environment that values questioning, difference, and innovation can up my motivation as well.


  3. Being appreciated is huge. Healthy work environments mean a lot too–places where people work together to solve problems and support one another.

    That said, the example above betrays some of the problems with TED talks. The vast majority of employees in this country are in jobs where they cannot simply float in and out as they please, whether they are maids or neurosurgeons. I realize the focus is on the idea that money isn’t the key motivator, but as interesting as the TED talks are, I take them with a grain of salt.

    Anyhoo, to return to the core question, I find that being thanked for a job well done, to be forgiven the occasional mistake, to be given as much autonomy and accountability as is reasonable for the situation, and to know that my work is appreciated, are key to why I love where I am now.


    1. I think the key wit TED talks and other resources like HBR is to take what you can from it and apply it to your workplace. With the diversity of work environments there is no one-size-fits all approach even when we see great examples.

      I use this same approach with time management, weight loss and other advice, use what works for me. Somethings I can’t do, some thing I know I wont do, so I do what I can and that combination DOES work.

      The trick is to use what you can, in this case autonomy, appreciation, permission to experiment and to fail on occasion. These things improve moral and given the situation for libraries right now anything we can do to improve moral is a huge help.


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