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  • Writer's pictureRohan Bhatia

Sources of Motivation

When considering a long-term career in the corporate business world, people often cite a number of reasons for being motivated and strong-willed toward this goal. For some, it's the extrinsic benefits, like money, wealth, and the envious lifestyle. Shows like Suits and Billions can certainly glamorise the corporate experience and entice people toward a high-paying career. For some, it’s the intrinsic interest and passion for a corporate field. For myself, growing up, the stock market was a topic that I was endlessly fascinated by and certainly is a driving factor for my own current study of corporate finance. For others, however, it’s the extrinsic autonomous motivation of doing the right thing. Becoming a lawyer to protect the ‘small guy’ against the odds is something many aspire toward when picking up a legal career.


Extrinsic motivation is notoriously the most obvious of all sources of determination and focus in a corporate career. Renowned for the generous salaries, extremely high bonuses, and glamorous lifestyle - those who are motivated by these extrinsic benefits are attracted to a high-flying corporate career, like Investment Banking for example. Certainly, to some extent, extrinsic benefits like high pay motivate us all - as the fundamental reason for work is to provide a livelihood for yourself and your loved ones. Yet for some, it’s the excessive wealth that truly drives them to work 80-hour workweeks. It’s the dream of that $200k sports car. The dream of the 6 bedroom mansion in a beachside suburb. The dream of walking into a party and flexing the latest $50k Rolex Watch that you afforded through bonuses alone. Employers can take advantage of employees motivated by this extrinsic focus through incentive-based work related targets. From corporate careers to fast food chains - management can take advantage of the drive of such workers.


On the other hand and completely different - lies the motivation of an intrinsic interest and passion for your career. For some, a steady and secure income is enough, and beyond that it's about working in an area that you are interested in. For these people, it's happiness - not excessive wealth and impressing others - that drives their motivation. Regardless of salary or bonuses, they want to be able to wake up on a Monday morning and look forward to the commute for their work. This of course, is a large problem that faces Investment Banks, Law firms and accounting firms - where excessive hours and a lack of real interesting work often leads to an excessively high staff turnover. For those genuinely interested in a certain division or company, the extrinsic benefits that come with their job are largely secondary. From a manager’s perspective, taking advantage of such workers with intrinsic motivation can be a challenge. Rewarding workers with meaningful work that provides autonomy and decision making authority can help employees feel genuinely engaged and interested in their work.


Whilst monetary rewards and inherent passions are a driving factor for many people’s career - for others it's a call to action and drive to improve the world that leads their careers. These people tend to be largely selfless and humble, focusing more on others than their own personal needs. Work that entirely ties into their own personal values and beliefs is important for those motivated by such factors - as they need to feel comfortable working for their organisation. Salaries and valuable compensation isn’t detested, but if it comes from work that goes against the ethical leanings of the employee - then it is less valued. Instead, these kinds of people enjoy getting their hands dirty working in places where they can enact social change and see the impact of their work first hand. Within a corporate career, this kind of motivation is often hard-pressed to find. Instead, employees will look for companies that value social progress highly and push to work for these businesses that share similar values. Many companies now do engage in Corporate Social Responsibility, and whilst this certainly helps engage the consumer - it also helps signal the virtuous nature of the firm to potential employees.


Ultimately, there are a vast number of factors that motivate workers to work hard and perform successfully. Managers should be alive to recognising these subtle differences in motivation, as the current incentive and reward structure can genuinely boost business performance and employee productivity.

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