Picture a boxer in active stance, fists up next to her face. Then, picture your loved one, waiting for you at the airport, arms out wide when he sees you walking up.

Each of these scenarios triggers a response in our brains. It’s not unlike the response an employee has to a manager when a conversation starts with, “There’s something we need to talk about.”

Extrinsic motivation can actually lessen the impact of intrinsic motivation Click To Tweet

This social danger, or avoidance, causes disengagement — a huge problem in today’s workforce. Contrary to popular belief, the best motivation does not come from compensation or perks — in fact, extrinsic motivation can actually lessen the impact of intrinsic motivation. That carrot, perhaps an end-of-year bonus, will make it impossible to focus on other motivations like having a solid mission or feeling your work makes a difference.

Self-expansion theory is being increasingly applied to work situations to fix the engagement problem. The theory says that we make associated “others” (i.e., a dating partner or job) part of ourselves.

  • We expand the self by creating close relationships
  • Partners include the other in self
  • Self-expanding jobs are more satisfying and lead to greater commitment

Learn how to apply self-expansion and other neuroscience theories to your employee feedback program in our webinar with Chris Yeh, co-author of The Alliance. You can watch the video on-demand here.