Since time immemorial, money has been seen as a primary motivator for employees. Conventionally, businesses have used money as an incentive, a reward for hard work, dedication, and skill.

Psychological Perspective on Money as a Motivator

Money, beyond its basic need to secure food and shelter, fulfills our psychological needs for status and achievement where others often measure us by our financial power.

Tying Compensation to Performance

Many companies structure their pay scales and bonuses to reward top performers, believing that money can directly influence an employee's performance and drive them to excel.

Ancient Secret

Case Studies and Research Findings

Findings tend to support this perspective. For instance, a study by Shaw, Gupta, and Delery, 2002 found a positive relationship between workforce compensation and company performance.

The Diminishing Returns of Monetary Motivation

However, researchers and psychologists have found that the connection between money and motivation isn't as straightforward as it seems.

Beyond Financial Incentives

Employees, being complex entities, are driven by more than simply the promise of a bigger paycheck. Aspects such as job satisfaction, personal development and work/life balance increasingly take precedence.

Overemphasis on Monetary Rewards

Too much emphasis on financial rewards can even lead to negative outcomes. It could engender a sense of competition and comparison, which in turn, may harm the collaborative work environment.

Case Studies and Research Findings

Studies by Harvard Business School and many others attest to this negative impact, demonstrating that while financial rewards can incentivize good performance to an extent, they can have adverse effects if handled poorly.

Is There a Balance?

The dichotomy of views does not make one side wrong and other right.

Other Forms of Incentives and Motivations

Beyond monetary rewards, employers need to recognize and leverage the power of non-financial incentives such as career growth opportunities, positive work culture, and recognition.

The Ideal Compensation Package

An effective compensation package should not just be financially rewarding, but it should acknowledge and validate the hard work of employees.

Employee Motivation - A Holistic View

Thus, employee motivation requires a more holistic approach that recognizes both monetary and non-monetary needs of employees.


While money does motivate employees to an extent, reliance solely on financial incentives can be insufficient and even counterproductive. Employers need to consider a mix of financial and non-financial incentives to ensure effective employee motivation.


1. Does giving bonuses always lead to better performance?
No, bonuses may lead to better performance, but if overused they may harm the work environment and lead to unhealthy competition.

2. Can non-financial motivations replace salary?
Despite the importance of non-financial motivations, salary remains a vital form of compensation for employees. Thus, it should not be replaced, but supplemented with non-financial benefits.

3. Is there a universal model for employee motivation?
No, every organization, and even different employees within those organizations, may have different sets of motivators making it highly personalized and individualized.

4. What are some non-financial motivators?
Non-financial motivators could be a positive work environment, career growth opportunities, balanced work-life routine, employee recognition and meaningful work.

5. Why is work-life balance important?
A good work-life balance ensures that employees can fulfill their personal responsibilities, avoid burnout, and remain satisfied with their jobs, all of which contribute to overall employee motivation.