“When people say that money motivates, what they really mean is that money controls”
In one sentence, Edward Deci, one of the founding fathers of Self-Determination Theory (SDT), sums up why I find this theory so compelling.
It’s been nearly a decade since I started working in Human Resources and in that time I have seen a spectrum of different behaviours at work. I have always pondered the question – why do people do what they do? It was only when I discovered SDT that I finally feel like I’ve found a satisfactory explanation. The crux of SDT is that we are all inherently motivated beings. We do things because we enjoy them…unless, that is, something from outside of ourselves gets in the way. If you promise me a big bonus for behaving in a certain way I will become focused only on the bonus. If the bonus wasn’t there, I probably would have done it anyway…just because I wanted to!
Obviously this is a very crude summary of the theory, and human behaviour is cut and dry. In this article, from the end of last year, Deci and Richard Ryan explain why SDT was developed and why its popularity is on the up and far more eloquently that I can: