Do Employees Want to Be Motivated or Do They Want to Be Happy?

Do Employees Want to Be Motivated or Do They Want to Be Happy?

“Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM



Motivation provides us with our reasons for behaving in a particular way. Each of us is motivated by something different. If you can identify what incentives will motivate individual employees, you can use incentives, almost like a bribe, to get the behaviors you want.  

                       How do we motivate?

If you want to successfully motivate employees you must first determine what excites them, what gives them purpose, and what they role want to play in the organization. Establish clear performance metrics with specific goals that can be measured. Be clear about the benefits and provide support. Communicate clearly, consistently, and often so employees know where the stand in relation to the goals they are pursuing. Provide positive feedback and compelling incentives. Make sure you are rewarding the right behaviors. Offer rewards for attitude as well as skill. Incentives can range from profit sharing, which gives employees a vested interest in the success of the organization to small rewards such as movie or dinner gift certificates. You can take an employee to lunch. Make sure you are celebrating organizational successes. Continually offer challenges to be met.

                       What does it look like?

Motivated employees work towards meeting organizational goals based on the desire to receive the incentives offered for performance. An organization where incentives are used to motivate employees operates with a defined system for determining what will motivate each employee, setting clear and measurable goals, and tracking progress. Employees successfully reach organizational goals based the rewards they receive for exhibiting desired behaviors.

        A Culture of Happy Employees

Happy employees are more productive. Happy employees are also loyal employees. An organization with a culture that focuses on providing an employee friendly work environment will have employees who are inspired to work hard based on a love of their job.

                               How do we achieve it?

Employees want to be empowered, to be allowed to take ownership of their work, and to tackle challenges on their own. You must provide clear expectations and parameters for performance and then allow employees to have freedom and control over their work tasks. Allow for a degree of flexibility in when and how the work gets done. Employees want jobs that utilize their talents. They want opportunities to continue to develop their skills as they work along a planned career path. Provide a support system that helps with career planning and offers continuous training. An employee friendly environment offers perks such as a great benefit package, paid leave, flexible schedules, telecommuting, and educational opportunities. This type of organization encourages employees to have fun at work with parties, fun contests, and group charity work. These types of activities build camaraderie throughout the organization. And don’t forget to offer praise for a job well done.

                        What does it look like?

Money will not buy employee engagement or loyalty. When people are in the right roles where they are passionate and committed giving the organization their best efforts they are more likely to be happy and enjoy their work. Expectations are clear. Communication is open. Leaders are visible, supportive, and appreciative. There is a culture of continuous employee development. Employees find great meaning and satisfaction in their work. And, everyone participates in the celebration of organizational success.

        What Do Employees Want?

So, the question is, do employees want to be motivated based on incentives or would they prefer an environment where they’re happy to work? To achieve results that are mutually beneficial to the organization and employees, a combination of incentives and positive work environment seems to be most effective. Employees like to have clearly defined goals and it’s always nice to know that there will be a reward designed specifically for you based on your motivation as an individual for achieving those goals. Employees want to feel valued and receive credit for their contributions. They want to work for an organization that is willing to help them continue to develop along a career path that supports their strengths and passions. And, they want control and flexibility in performing their work tasks.


Motivating employees is a valuable tool for achieving organizational goals but, don’t just throw money at them, give employees the opportunity to build a career in a job they enjoy. Organizations with a high degree of employee engagement consistently out-perform those with little or no engagement. Employees are more committed to the success of the organization when they are offered work that is interesting, they are communicated with, they feel engaged, they have control over their work, and their contributions are appreciated. Create a culture that offers incentives for reaching goals and provides support for the personal aspirations of employees.


        © 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli



Author: lizstincelli

I am Liz Stincelli and I am passionate about recognizing, inspiring, and igniting the leader in each of us. I am the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where I specialize in helping management teams learn new ways of looking at problems and finding new approaches to discovering solutions. I hold a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. I offer 20+ years of pro-active operations management, problem-solving, team-building, human resources, accounting, and business administration experience in a variety of industries. I serve on the Editorial Review Board for the Independent Journal of Management and Production and the Journal of Managerial Psychology. I have also been a guest lecturer at the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business Westminster College. You can learn more about me by reading my blog here at: or Connect with me on Twitter @infinitestin, on Google+, and on LinkedIn. You can contact me by email at

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