Is Money a Motivator? Yes, No and Maybe!

April 19, 2015

This week we are pleased to welcome Ted Szianiawski as our guest writer. Ted is a founding principal of HRGroup, LLC.

Motivation AheadThe question “Is Money a Motivator?” has been the subject of countless articles and books, debated among academics and management “experts” for decades and is almost always included as a topic in management and leadership development programs.

In a Forbes magazine article—“Why Money Isn’t a Motivator” (Jacobs)—the writer was critiquing the on-going government bailouts and particularly the use of mandated caps on executive compensation. The major point made by the author is that these caps are “self defeating,” that “we are motivated by the work itself, not the reward.” He goes on to observe that the on-going economic crisis offers us the opportunity to focus “not on the accumulation of wealth, but on community and public service”.

For years you have heard statement like, “Different strokes for different folks,” “to each his own,” and “people do things for their own reasons, not yours.” When you are in a work environment that supports your values, you will be energized.  However, when in an environment that stresses values that are significantly different from yours, you may feel out of sync.

Therefore, we believe strongly that the question “Is Money a Motivator?” cannot be answered in a global sense, but rather must be addressed individually.

An assessment we use in our consulting practice is “Workplace Motivators™.” This assessment identifies and ranks six “values” or “attitudes” that act as individual motivators. It identifies an individual’s passion for each of the six values. And by measuring values, we uncover what motivates each individual.

Is Money a Motivator?

Yes . . . for those with a high DISC ranking in Utilitarian or Individualistic. Utilitarian is best defined as ROI. It relates to money and the efficient use of time, energy and resources. Most assuredly these individuals are motivated by money! Research has shown that 83% of top performing sales people have Utilitarian as their primary or secondary Motivator. Individualistic has to do with power and influence. Money is one of the ingredients in their tool kit to carry out their mission to assert themselves and their mission.

Is Money a Motivator?

No . . . for those with a high DISC score of Aesthetic or Social. The Aesthetic values form, harmony, beauty and balance. Think “starving artist” or environmentalist as professions that motivate a high Aesthetic. The Social values emphasize making the world a better place and eliminating hate and conflict through their inherent love of others. Perhaps this is the group the Forbes author had in mind when he stated that community and public service, not wealth, should be our focus.

Is Money a Motivator?

Maybe . . . for those with a high DISC Theoretical or Traditional ranking. Theoretical focuses on truth and knowledge while a Traditional attitude focuses on principles and finding/following a system for living. Neither of these two attitudes specifically addresses the question of money as a motivator; hence we include them in the “maybe” category. To answer this question for these individuals we need to look at the secondary level of Motivators to move them into the Yes or No category.

Lesson for Leaders/Managers

For leaders/managers to manage effectively they must understand what motivators a job will reward. And then, they must understand what motivators each employee brings to the organization. Matching the two will result in “unleashing talent”.

Is money a motivator for you? Or are you motivated by harmony and “doing good for others,” or by knowledge and a system for living?

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