The Many Motivations of Money

Nov 26, 2018 business
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Motivation is a very hard thing to master. When used properly, you can get great things and enormous productivity. When misunderstood, a whole host of things appear to go wrong. Getting into all of the motivations of an employee or developer would take a book, one that I’m not ready to write yet! But, I wanted to focus on just one, money. And, in that motivation, only three types of the many ways and mixes that people can be motivated by money.

It’s important to understand, explain and analyze motivations to build a more productive team and a better product, company, or whatever your goal is. My aim is to talk through my assessment of some of these motivations with the hopes that it helps prompt the reader to analyze further and develop a deeper understanding on their own. This, surely, is not the one single manual for these parts of money motivation.

Money is a Reward, Or a Goal

This type of motivation is one that’s held by a lot of sales people. The idea here surrounds a commission or a performance-based reward system. The more and better you do X, the more of Y you will get. In this case, that Y is money.

This type of motivation is interesting because of its positives and negatives. On a positive sense, there’s probably not an ulterior motive here. The person is trying to make the most money for themselves, enjoys the control it gives them, and sets goals based on this. You can leverage this to help with overall revenue goals.

Also, this type of motivation can be useful for long-term empire building. That is to say, if money is a motivator for this person, they might be willing to sacrifice now for a larger payout later. This larger payout could be part of building a successful product or company. Their reward from this sacrifice is a larger portion of that monetary pie.

The negative in this, however, is when this motivation is applied in a flawed manner. There are horror stories of sales people cutting corners, selling vaporware, or treating people poorly just to get that next sale and commission. This motivation needs to be tempered with ethics and have sane bounds.

Money to Just Pay My Bills

Some people tend to just want enough money to pay their bills. They’re not driven by money. They often say things like “I just want enough to be happy.” Substitute happy with secure, free, etc. There are other motivations at play here, which are beyond the scope of this entry. However, its important to understand this motivation - or what you might consider an anti-motivation.

It’s important not to devalue this person based on their lack of motivation regarding money. It can be easy to pay them less, to consider their work less valuable, because they’re not making the case for money. But, they find value in different things. In fact, this type of motivation that is rather free of accruing money should be part of the balanced team you build. Consider these the people who steady the ship, may not work extra hours, but are dependable and trusty when they’re here. They’re there to do a thing, they’re not driven by building a huge Scrooge-Mc-Duck money pile, which allows there to be more for others.

Money for My Value

This is an interesting motivation because it seems to fall between a lot of other areas. To say that this person wants to be paid “what they’re worth” is a gross simplification. This is someone who wants to be paid equivalent to the value they bring to the organization.

Value comes in many forms. For example, it can come in experience. Experience is half direction of what to do right mixed with the other half: tales of previous failure. The places this person has been, things they’ve done, adds to their value. Their value might also come from their mechanical skill at doing a task. Not all employees and people are equal. Sometimes, someone is just better at doing something than other people. (I’ve met programmers that I just can’t understand how good they are. It’s insane, inspiring and amazing. Their value, in this particular area, is higher than mine.) Perhaps the value comes from their communication skills. Or their way to motivate the troops. Or their project management or organization. The list goes on and on.

This type of person might want a salary larger than the market rate for the job description. But they may then be happy at that rate for a long time. They will help you determine the value they can bring, then they’ll unequivocally demand the monetary compensation to reflect. It can be easy to confuse this person with a sales-driven or a larger-pie person, but that’s not the case. They’re just very cognisant of their value and ask for it. On the flip side, they won’t continue to ask for more and more usually, unless they’re bringing equivalent value. It can be scary when you’re first confronted with one of these people because you won’t know when the money ask ends. Then later on, it can be confusing because they may not ask for more, and you’ll think they are stagnating. That’s not true, either. They’re comfortable with the compensation for the value.

Money Motivation Matters

These are just three types of motivation in the money realm. There are many more, with mixes all in between. I think its important to understand the differences because it will help you build a stronger team and reduce your prejudice. If you think money motivation is all the same, you’re going to miss out on some great people - or at least great understanding of what you have.

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