Extrinsic motivation is when a person is motivated to do something based on external factors, which come in the form of rewards. The offer of money is a particularly common extrinsic motivator. This is opposed to the concept behind intrinsic motivation where a person is moved to do something in order to help others or simply to make himself or herself happy.
Sometimes extrinsic motivation can be of the positive kind while other times it can be negative. Positive extrinsic motivation can come by way of incentives, money, discounts, etc.
For example many airlines offer discounts as well as air miles and bonuses to convince customers to fly with them instead of their competition.
Many workplaces offer promotions, cash incentives or trips as a form of positive extrinsic motivation in a tangible way. Other forms of extrinsic motivation that are commonly found at offices are intangible forms such as public commendations or praise for a job well done.
When students are offered the chance for a fun class trip or a pizza party for the class that sells the most chocolate bars for the school, this is a form of positive extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation has its negative side as well. Negative extrinsic motivation can also be used to push people into doing something.
Negative motivation often takes the form of threats, blackmail, bribery or pressure in one form or another. Extrinsic motivation, whether it is positive or negative is usually very effective and easy but also it can take a cruel or crude form.
When someone is threatened with physical harm or their loved ones are threatened with physical harm by an unsavory individual, negative extrinsic motivation will get the aggressor what they want but by way of fear and intimidation.
It is important to note that extrinsic motivation focuses an individual's attention on the reward they will receive in the end as opposed to the action or the "doing" aspect.
In most cases what happens is that if the reward is taken away from the person they will then stop doing the action. The same is true with regards to negative extrinsic motivation-a person is motivated by avoiding pain, embarrassment, disappointment by others, public humiliation etc.
This however can work well if a person is engaged in a behavior that another person wants them to stop doing. First give the person an extrinsic reward for doing said behavior and then take away the reward.
With no reward in sight the person is very likely to stop doing the unwanted activity and the problem will be solved.
Extrinsic motivation is very much a part of many workplaces. Tangible rewards such as promotions, money, newer office equipment or a bigger, brighter office are very common, as are tangible rewards that have to do with being "dressed down" by a superior or being punished in one form or another (such as a demotion or being made to take leave without pay).
Intangible rewards work as extrinsic motivation, which include praise for one's accomplishments and / or a public acknowledgment of work that was well handled or well done.
Intrinsic motivation does not work as well in the working world because the number one reason people work is to make money to pay their mortgage or rent and all other bills, feed their families and build a life.
As well not every person chooses a job based on how much a given field of work means to him or her.
Many people simply take jobs as a means to an end or look at things such as how close in vicinity the job is to their home, the hours, the rate of pay, etc.