Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards in Change Management

In any situation where you must use motivations to drive people to work together, eagerly to meet goals. This brings up a very tough philosophical and logistical conundrum about how to reward success over failure. Of course, we’re all familiar with intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in our daily lives, and we’re all also very accustomed to debates over these.

In our daily lives, we encounter debates over intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. The debate of doing something good, without expecting a tangible reward is a hot topic and has been since the dawn of time. Of course, the motivation behind good deeds is the reward of feeling good for doing the reward. There is no point in denying this.

But, when it comes to business, and technical situations like change management, it’s a bit of a trickier debate, isn’t it?

With extrinsic rewards, there is a guaranteed return on investment of what goes into the reward. It’s a real thing everyone can see and desire, and which they get a real physical experience from. Bonuses, gift cards and other such things are commonly used for this in business.

But, these have problems, because they tend to be viewed by onlookers as an extravagance just out of spite, and they have significant expenses involved, which means that wide application of extrinsic reward to a large pool of workers is going to be a costly affair indeed.

Now, the question of intrinsic reward is its own problem. To be honest, some people just aren’t motivated by recognition of their work, or commendations and the like. This is mostly an ego directive, and some people genuinely don’t have egos that transparent.

But, people like that are somewhat more rare, and people like this will still be awkwardly driven by it, because their lack of interest in intrinsic rewards could incorrectly make them look greedy or self-centered in weird ways.

Well, they both have their problems, so how can we come to terms with this? The thing is, you just have to kind of mix them if it’s feasible to do so, so that the benefits of one offsets the drawbacks of the other in a moderately balanced way.

Making extrinsic rewards more rare, and making them a social reward (such as a nice lunch for the team, or small bonuses for everyone, etc.) is a good way take some of the bite and cost out of extrinsic rewards.

As for the intrinsic in this scenario, we should be driving for that group directive as well, because pushing the individuals to care about the exaltation of the team over all is a good way to build team work anyhow, and even the ego-free people, driven by common decency, cares how the team is seen, because they feel responsibility for their colleagues. At least, well-adjusted people do.

Notice that balancing out and properly using intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in a social situation like change management is mostly about using that social aspect to your advantage. It’s best to try this in smaller scale first, to make sure numbers and personal affinities line up for the bigger application.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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