Self-determination & Cognitive Evaluation Theories: Employee Motivation

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  • 0:09 Types of Motivation
  • 1:00 Self-Determination Theory
  • 2:34 Cognitive Evaluation Theory
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John McLaughlin
In this lesson, you will learn about the self-determination theory and Cognitive Evaluation Theory of motivation. Find out how the principles of these theories can explain employee motivation in the workplace.

Types of Motivation

People are motivated by two different forces. They are motivated intrinsically by forces that are inside themselves and extrinsically by forces that are outside themselves.

For things you love to do, you are intrinsically motivated, because you get internal pleasure from the activity. For tasks you are rewarded for, you are extrinsically motivated, because you receive external reinforcement, such as praise, money, or recognition.

Motivation is what drives behavior and causes people to take action. Why are you watching this lesson, for example? Are you hoping to make a good grade on a test? If so, then you are extrinsically motivated. Are you genuinely interested in the topic and enjoy learning new things? If so, then you are intrinsically motivated.

The Self-Determination Theory

The self-determination theory suggests that everyone has three inherent psychological needs that must be met in order for their psychological well-being to be maximized. These three needs are:

  1. Autonomy - Everyone has a need to feel in charge of their own actions. Everybody has an internal aversion to being controlled and must feel that they have the freedom to choose how they perform tasks.
  2. Competence - Everyone must feel that they have the ability to perform the task adequately and control the outcome.
  3. Relatedness- Everyone has the need to be included as part of the group.

According to the self-determination theory, these three needs are innate and universal. In other words, these are needs that everyone is born with, and they are felt by all people, regardless of age, gender, or where they live. Why is it important to understand these three needs? According to this theory, these three needs explain why people do things.

Okay, but what does any of this have to do with motivation? In a word - everything. If a manager can provide an environment that fulfills his employees' needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, his employees will be performing their tasks for intrinsic reasons or because they genuinely enjoy their work. When people are intrinsically motivated, they are self-determined and perform their jobs with more interest, excitement, and creativity, which leads to enhanced performance.

The Cognitive Evaluation Theory

An interesting sub-theory of the self-determination theory is the Cognitive Evaluation Theory, which further explains the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

According to the Cognitive Evaluation Theory, extrinsic motivation, which decreases autonomy, reduces intrinsic motivation. In other words, all people have a strong desire to determine their own actions, and taking away this feeling of control from a task a person enjoys doing will decrease the pleasure that person derives from the activity.

For example, let's say your favorite thing to do is to bake cakes. What you love most about baking cakes is the freedom you have when deciding what type of cake to make and how to make it. Baking cakes gives you many intrinsic rewards.

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