Understanding the Cognitive Evaluation Theory

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Have you ever thought about the effect of external circumstances on your internal motivation? One of the theories talking about that is the Cognitive Evaluation Theory. This is a theory that tries to unravel and explain the effects that external consequences can have on our internal motivation levels.

According to this theory, there are essentially two motivation systems in humans: intrinsic and extrinsic. Both of these respond to different types of motivators. Understanding what motivates us, and how we can stimulate our performance and keep ourselves motivated, can play an important role in how we progress as individuals.

Intrinsic Motivators

Before we delve into the theory further, it’s important to focus on intrinsic motivators. The first motivation system mentioned focuses on intrinsic motivators. These are motivations that come from within, including responsibility, competence, and achievement. Essentially, this is the motivation that you receive when you are actually performing a job.

You might have noticed that work seems a bit easier or looks a bit more convincing and interesting when you are actively enjoying it. On the other hand, when you are not enjoying your work, it starts looking a bit tedious, and worst of all, it begins to drag on and on. Something that seemed so simple eventually ends up costing you hours on end.

Intrinsic motivation is simply defined as an inner drive that propels people to work harder and to enjoy their work. Instead of being motivated by money or other external rewards, people are simply motivated by the fun of doing the work. There are several examples of intrinsic motivation that you need to know about.

Common Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

One of the biggest examples of intrinsic motivation is when a person finds joy and happiness in their work. For instance, many people who are passionate about their jobs are often able to become successful because they work harder and longer than others in the same field.

Why are they able to do that? It’s simply because of the fact that they enjoy their work and they don’t mind putting in the extra hours. The example of a student is a simple one. Let’s assume there’s a student who is quite motivated to study because they are interested.

A student who is curious about a particular subject is going to want to study it more and more, and in detail. As a result of that, their actions are going to be based on intrinsic motivations. On the other hand, if a student is only forced to study because of grades to satisfy their parents or to avoid failure, they are motivated by extrinsic factors.

Extrinsic Motivators

Extrinsic motivators are simply all other motivators that do not come internally. For instance, the pay, feedback, promotion, or the working conditions of the employees are considered as extrinsic motivators. These are the things that are borne out of the environment, and are controlled by someone else. Any of these can be considered a major motivator for some people.

People who are intrinsically motivated are simply motivated because they want the feeling of achievement or wish to excel at something. It’s the performance that they care about, not the environment. On the other hand, extrinsically motivated people are more focused on the rewards on offer.

If, for example, intrinsically motivated people come to the conclusion that they are working for something that gives them extrinsic motivation, such as higher pay or any other reason, they automatically start to lose motivation. The opposite happens for people who are extrinsically motivated.

Understanding the Beliefs

The major belief here is that in some situations, the presence of robust extrinsic motivators could actually diminish a person’s intrinsic motivation, especially if these are believed by the person to be controlled by other people. For example, if you have a boss who is constantly reminding people about an extrinsic reward at the end of the project, many of the intrinsically motivated people working on the project are going to be turned away by it.

The validity of the theory could have major implications for managers and managerial practices in general. For instance, everyone knows that pay and other perks can be excellent motivators. But, as is the case in most situations, awards are usually contingent on the performance of an individual.

Theorists who believe in the cognitive evaluation theory argue that by doing this, it’s only going to decrease the overall internal satisfaction received by an employee on the job. Obviously, because the extrinsic motivators are going to effectively encroach on the intrinsic motivators, people will eventually start to have less and less satisfaction in their job.

However, the theory postulates that awards should be noncontingent and given on the completion of the project to prevent a decrease in a person’s intrinsic motivation.

Managing Motivation

One of the hardest tasks for managers and leaders in the workplace is to figure out how to manage motivation in the workplace properly. There are external events, internal problems, and other issues that are likely to arise in the workplace. Managers need to understand how their employees react to different problems and how they deal with different situations.

Personal events are likely going to factor in, and that is one of the main reasons why managers need to have effective communication with their employees. Without a deep understanding of their employees’ strengths and weaknesses, it becomes a serious problem for many managers to figure out how to get the best out of them.

The key lies in learning how to manage both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, and creating a platform where employees are able to focus on growing themselves professionally and personally. This fosters and creates an excellent platform where employees can open up and talk about their problems and discuss different things.

Motivated Employees Are More Productive

A motivated employee is almost always more productive than employees who are simply working for the sake of it. There are many employees who are able to work harder and better because they are more interested in the job and the vision of the company as a whole.

Higher productivity is obviously one of the biggest benefits, but there are several others that you should know about. For instance, it reduces overall staff turnover and also brings down absenteeism as a whole. Happy employees eventually turn into brand advocates and this ultimately increases the goodwill and reputation of the brand as a whole.

A rise in employee motivation will ultimately mean that they are more willing to work harder and will be more participative in their work. This will ultimately lead to a better response from professionals in the workplace and your employees are going to be happier overall.

Your business will eventually reap the results as your company generates higher profits while employees are satisfied. These are just some of the things that you should know about the theory and how it affects employee morale.


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