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Is Money a Motivator to Improve Workplace Performance? - Herzberg

Herzberg addressed money particularly (referring specifically to 'salary' in his study and analysis). Herzberg acknowledged the complexity of the salary issue (money, earnings, etc), and concluded that money is not a motivator in the way that the primary motivators are, such as achievement and recognition.

Herzberg said about 'salary':

"It [salary] appears as frequently in the high sequences ['sequences' refers to events causing high or low attitude feelings recalled by interviewees in the study] as it does in the low sequences... however... we find that in the lows [events leading to dissatisfaction], salary is found almost three times as often in the long-range as in the short-range attitude changes..." (There was no such bias towards the more important long-range feelings in the high attitude events.)

And about the interrelation of salary and other factors:

"...when salary occurred as a factor in the lows (causes of dissatisfaction) it revolved around the unfairness of the wage system within the company... It was the system of salary administration that was being described... [or] it concerned an advancement that was not accompanied by a salary increase... In contrast to this, the salary was mentioned in the high stories (events causing satisfaction) as something that went along with a person's achievement on the job. It was a form of recognition; it meant more than money; it meant a job well done; it meant that the individual was progressing in his work..."

And Herzberg concluded about salary (i.e., money, earnings, etc):

"Viewed within the context of the sequences of events, salary as a factor belongs more in the group that defines the job situation and is primarily a dissatisfier."

  • Many people argue nevertheless that money is a primary motivator.
  • For most people money is not a motivator - despite what they might think and say.
  • For all people, there are bigger more sustaining motivators than money.

Research Evidence

Surveys and research studies repeatedly show that other factors motivate more than money. Examples appear in the newspapers and in other information resources every week.

  • For instance, a survey by Development Dimensions International published in the UK Times newspaper in 2004 interviewed 1,000 staff from companies employing more than 500 workers and found many to be bored, lacking commitment and looking for a new job. Pay actually came fifth in the reasons people gave for leaving their jobs.
  • The main reasons were lack of stimulus jobs and no opportunity for advancement - classic Herzberg motivators - 43% left for better promotion chances, 28% for more challenging work; 23% for a more exciting place to work; and 21% for more varied work.

Anecdotal Evidence

Lots of other evidence is found in life, wherever you care to look.

  • Consider what happens when people win big lottery prize winners.
  • While many of course give up their 'daily grind' jobs, some do not. They wisely recognise that their work is part of their purpose and life balance.

Others who give up their jobs do so to buy or start and run their own businesses. They are pursuing their dream to achieve something special for themselves, whatever that might be. And whatever it means to them, the motivation is not to make money, otherwise, why don't they just keep hold of what they've got? Why risk it on a project that will involve lots of effort and personal commitment? Of course, the reason they invest in a new business venture is that pursuing this sort of plan is where the real motivators are found - achievement, responsibility, advancement and so on - not money.

  • The people who are always the most unhappy are those who focus on spending their money. 
  • The lottery prize-winners who give up work and pursue material and lifestyle pleasures soon find that life becomes empty and meaningless. Money, and spending, are not enough to sustain the human spirit. We exist for more.

Money is certainly important, and a personal driver, if you lack enough for a decent civilised existence, or you are striving for a house or a holiday, but beyond this, money is not for the vast majority of people a sustainable motivator in itself.