The answer is not simple. The answer is “sometimes” depending upon the circumstances. The only people I have heard who say that money is not a motivator are people who have plenty of money. Show me an individual who is having trouble feeding his family and putting a roof over their heads and I will bet he will say that money is a motivator for him.

Do bonuses motivate? Yes, for a while but within months the employee usually goes back to business as usual. If he was a self-motivator before he will be that again. If he wasted a lot of time and did not work hard he will revert to that behavior also. Do raises motivate? Yes, for a while.

Do promotions motivate? Yes but there are other factors here – new responsibilities, a different and perhaps more challenging assignment. The other factors may actually be more motivating than the additional money involved. Will potential employees take any job if the money is enough? Some will. Are there jobs I would not take no matter how much money someone offered me? Absolutely. Certainly, money is a big factor, but there are other important factors to be considered. For example:

  • the working conditions;
  • how one is treated on the job;
  • how interesting is the job;
  • how dull or repetitious is the job;
  • how dangerous is the job, etc.

Can You Motivate Employees Without Money Being Involved?

Yes, you can. A highly desirable job can be very motivating. Generally, being an elected local official in the USA does not pay very well. Some people take these jobs for the recognition and some because they want to serve. Other jobs can be motivating for different reasons.

Teachers – someone who has spent their life wanting to teach others will accept a teaching position when they could easily make more money doing other work. Teachers willingly put in many extra hours evenings and weekends grading papers and preparing lessons without worrying about the actual pay per hour for all of this extra work because they like to teach.

Other service oriented work such as fire fighters and policemen are certainly not taking those positions for the pay but usually because they have a desire to help or serve others.

Some Ways to Motivate Employees That Do Not Involve Money

  • Provide good working conditions and a good place to work
  • Treat employees with respect and kindness (do unto others as you would like them to do to you).
  • Use their appropriate given name and not some disrespectful name.
  • Recognize and praise your employees for jobs well done.
  • Remember, most people want to feel appreciated and valued. If your employees have earned appreciation and if you value them then show them. Saying, “Thank You” and “Please do this” rather than yelling “Do This” or saying “Hey you…”.
  • Show them you care about the working conditions, their concerns about the work and the jobs.
  • Listen to their concerns.
  • Allow them to participate in helping to shape the work and the future so they can have pride and ownership in their work.
  • Match the right person to the right job – give a person a job they really love doing and can excel at and then praise them when they do excel.

You Are the Manager

None of this means allowing them to take advantage of you or you being a weak manager. Never allow that. You are the boss. You can be firm but still fair and caring. You can do all these things and still maintain your authority position as the manager or business owner. You can be benevolent and yet still be in control.

Based on the principle of reciprocity. you will probably find that your employees will appreciate you even more as a boss and will want to work even harder for you.

Featured image by Annie Spratt/Unsplash.