Does money motivate? The topic of Motivation came up in a discussion

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
I moderate a group who meet regularly to discuss what Quality is. In one meeting, the topic of Motivation came up. Interesting dialogue ensued.

The sticking point for many was the question of whether or not money is a motivator. I would like to hear the forum members thoughts on this.


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Jim Biz

Hi - Kevin: Interesting question
IMHO: “it depends” – I’ve always been under the impression that the answer to money as a motivating factors is dependant upon where one falls on Maslow’s hierarchy.

1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.; - $ Definitely a factor & Huge motivator
2) Housing/Safety/security: out of danger; - $ Most Likely a solid Motivator
3) Belonginess and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; - $ May or may not be a motivator
4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition. - $ Probably plays a part in motivation
5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore; - $ begins to become less of a motivator
6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty; - $ as motivation become a small or neutral issue
7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one's potential; - $ are most likely not a motivator
8) Transcendence: to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential. - $ Not a motivator at all.

Other interesting viewpoints and reading materials speaking to this can be found here:
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs



Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
My opinion is money is typically a temporary motivator. 'How much' it motivates and for how long is another matter. Is the person in a current financial 'hole'? How is the economy doing in general?

My experience has been that you can scratch an itch and relieve the problem for only a short period of time.

For all intents, I think Jim addressed the details. I was not thinking about Maslow's works. Good summary.

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
Good stuff gentlemen! I used Maslow and Herzberg's theories to try and explain my position. Before I do, I will throw out a contribution from Herzberg.

Salary is identified by Herzberg as a Hygiene Factor, not a Motivational Factor.

Does this change anything?




Super Moderator
It seems to me that the lack or absence of money is more of a Motivator than actually having it.

Money does place one in a better "comfort zone", and the desire for that comfort motivates.....not the cash itself.

Kinda like a dog chasing a car. Once the dog catches it, it is no longer any fun..

Humans only have 2 real motivators and they are...

1) The acquisition of wealth or power and
2)the fulfillment of REDACTED/sensual pleasures or desire.

I came to that conclusion after spending many years putting people into prison.

It boils down to controlling you own destiny/being the boss (which makes #2 appropriate) and/or just feeling good. No if's, and's or but's.

Think about what really drives you in your endeavors and my theory will check out...

David Mullins

I always find Maslow handy to use.
Herzberg has his wires crossed.
Sex is a primary need, salary is not.
Salary (as has been pointed out here and many other places) is a temporary motivator.

There are 2 things you don't muck up on with your employees, their pay, and their pay. Try short-changing someone in their pay and see how motivated they are!


Andy Bassett

All good interesting contributions, and i have been lucky enough to test and evaluate some of these theories on my employees, and i am sorry to say that theorey has sometimes fallen short of reality. Ill give you a couple of examples to pull apart.

In one particular company where i worked, when people earned more than 6000 Dm per month INCLUDING OVERTIME, after a discussion with Personnel that person was put on a fixed salary at or above 6000Dm. So what do you think happened? By my estimation more than half the people visibly reduced the overtime that they were working after obtaining a fixed salary.

Second example - I always preach that the best way to move employees or management is with money. Another company was trying to get their engineering HoDs to use Credit Cards to order Low Value Goods directly without going over Purchase. 'we are not doing Purchasings job' was the answer. By coincidence three months later a Cost Accounting System was set up whereby each dept charged each other for their services. As soon as Engieering saw how much Purchase was charging them per order they were banging at the Purchase Managers door trying to get the Credit Cards.

We live in a consumer society, everything that we want to do or have costs. The more money we have the more we can do or have. Sorry, but i beleive that money talks much louder than we are prepared to admit. I am currently in the process of building a second company. And the whole pay structure is largely based on bonuses tied to the success fo the company. I wouldnt consider to do it any other way.

And another point. The people at the top of Maslows pyramid, how do they measure or judge self-fulfilment? The best way in this modern society is wealth.

Just another view


Andy B


It's impossible to generalize on what motivates people, because everyone is absolutely unique. Some people are highly motivated by money, but others are motiviated by the security of having enough to meet their needs.

Money, alone, it typically not a motivator.


Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
Andy raises the point of comparison I really wished to discuss - the difference between Movement and Motivation. Other posts raise this to, but Andy uses the word 'move' directly.

In Andy's post, he mentions that the best way to 'move' employees and management is by using money. Personally, I agree with others that money may motivate on lower levels of Maslow's pyramid (Jim's comments apply). Latter comments on money demotivating are equally appropriate, but the thought that comes to mind is that this fits nicely with Herzberg's Hygeine Factors.

Herzberg has written that motivated employees work more hours, not less, which raises the question why folks where Andy once worked worked fewer hours once attaining a salaried position. The game was clear: establish yourself as a high variable cost, get put into a fixed cost bracket. They were motivated by making more, not earning more. They were motivated to get the next pay increase (same pay, fewer hours). Herzberg suggests that things once called benefits are now considered rights. I think he is right on this point.

This also leads to the dangers of bonus programs (sorry Andy). The use of external motivators such as money (which I suggest is a tool for movement and not a motivator) leads to folks focusing on the prize and not the work. Shortcuts will often be used, manipulation of data, and other nonpositive techniques. How does a System improve if folks focus on prizes instead of the AIM of the system? Bonuses generally lead to more bonuses or bigger ones. Intrinsic behavior is not instilled in the employee/manager. This, for me, is the wrong type of enforcement.

Bribing folks to do their work is the wrong approach. Unfortunately, practice today is not to promote intrinsic behavior, but to rely on external prodding (soft with money, or hard by a threat of expulsion) which is movement. Still, organizations must achieve the Hygeine level or Maslows first two teirs.

Andy's data is unfortunately accurate in my estimation. People expect rewards. They have been taught this over and over again.




Super Moderator
You guys are using a lot of electrons (words) to expand on my premise of motivation....

(1) The acquisition of wealth or power...

(2) The fulfillment of sensual or REDACTED (whichever you prefer) pleasure or desire....

Everything can be reduced to those 2 prime motivators....Just think about them and break them down.....

I'm fulfilling #2 right now.....I'm deriving a small measure of pleasure from this topic which I truly enjoy hashing out with other articulate folks.....See how it works?
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