Retaining Motivation

June 11, 2015
6 min read

How do you have so much self-drive and motivation?

— people would ask me

Understanding motivation can help you become a better manager, be in a better company, and be successful with your personal pitches. When you are trying to convince someone to work for you or acquire a new client for your business, it’s tactful to understand where the motivating factors lie.

There are two types of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivators are traditional rewards such as money, perks, salary. Intrinsic motivators are often things that most companies misunderstand, which is the idea of wanting to do good work and put out a good product.

It’s a softer motivator that not every person possesses. It’s wrong to think that financial compensation is a sufficient way to engage top talents. A person can never have enough money. Once they achieve their personal financial bar, they will only want more. By creating your pitch based on monetary values, can only result in a rapid decline in your job satisfaction. Personally, I’ve been pretty driven by the correlation between the salary and the responsibilities that I would have to perform.

Why do top talents leave a company? For the lack of vision, lack of culture, no empathy in the workplace, lack of career advancement, not fun, no rewards, bad managers, and overworking people.

For someone that values the intrinsic motivation, there are a couple category breakdown for what this means.

  1. Skill variety. Would I be able to work on a variety of work and expand my design skills? I value this the highest, mainly because I consider myself a skilled generalist and someone with design ADD. Will I be the smartest and best designer in the group? I hope that will not be the case. Will the management hire top designers in the team, so I can learn from them?

  2. Task Identity. Understanding my role and how it affects the business and see the grand vision of how the design would improve the product. Having great project managers and coworkers that value design. Not allowing the design to be the backburner of the project or just the top layer fluff in the product.

  3. Significance & Value. Will my work be seen by a lot of people? What is the impact of these works on people’s lives? Will it improve it or will it not? Will I be able to have a significant impact on the success of this project?

  4. Autonomy. The idea that you have control and independence and the trust of your peers to carry out this project to the best of your ability and not have to micromanage and direct every decision. Not to be afraid to solicit harsh feedback if something is not working.

  5. Feedback. The degree that the employee receives clear, detailed, and actionable information about this person’s effectiveness and job performance. By increasing an employee’s participation and allowing them to have the control to improve their own weaknesses, gives a person drive and vision.

  6. Quality of Work-Life-Balance Factors. Is the company maintaining and coming up with ways to promote employee wellness? How flexible is this workplace to work remotely and flexible hours?



Starting with the basic need of food, living, and job security to the feeling of working with great people. There is an inherent need to be social, to have friends in the workplace and an idea of belonging. By creating social bar outings does not necessarily increase the sense of camaraderie but could promote good chemistry. In order to create an environment that an employee would cherish is not an easy feat. In order to achieve that, the managers should be aware and empathetic to see the potential of a driven, self-motivated employee. Not everyone would enjoy a bar outing, and similarly, not everyone would be able to attend events outside of work.

ie. I worked at a company where they have provided every intrinsic motivator there is. I had the autonomy, vision, quality of work-life balance, and took care of my extrinsic needs of providing a huge amount of perks. The one thing that was really lacking was the feeling of belonging and camaraderie. The people in our current team and other teams are inexperienced managers that do not have the empathic, detail oriented understanding to team building. Despite that I’ve voiced this concern, it was met with laughter and insincerity at the importance of “forcing a chemistry within the group that could not exist.” It was not an environment that I feel that could last, but no job is perfect.



Motivators could also come in a form of being satisfied with the ownership you hold to your project, advancement opportunity, and recognition. This is a delicate balance when you add extrinsic motivators such as salary, peers, and workplace. Establish paths for people and have clear motivators to perform, would be a better way to keep people happy.

From an employee’s point of view, these are definitely some of the questions I’d ask. Many times, employers try to reel people in by telling them that it’s a “casual office environment where people can wear jeans” as a perk, or “we have free soda.” These motivators are insufficient to capture attention, at least mine. This is also something that you can observe when you walk into their office environment. Are there good chemistry amongst the people? Do they look happy and satisfied?

If you are a company who is trying to attract a designer or a startup who is trying to get someone to work with you. I suggest figuring out what their motivators are, what you can do and provide for them, instead of listing out reasons why they should work for you.

So now the question is, what motivates you? Which aspect are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of another? Doing free design work might give you more return on future projects, and it might not. You also don’t want to be cheated out of getting paid for doing work that an agency is charging their clients' thousands of dollars for. You may also work on projects that pay really well, but because you only do it for the money it becomes a creative killer and you generate sub-par designs. At what point do you accept projects that you love and get the compensation you deserve? I’ve also seen people work together for a big name client, but each person in the team presents the work as their own and take credits they don’t deserve.

Finding motivation in a project, and in life are one of the greatest mysteries. What drives you to complete a project or take on a new client, takes understanding of people’s psyche. It’s not easy to balance between clients with different personalities and work styles, but as long as you have a good set of personal motivating guidelines, you’ll be successful in retaining your motivation.


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