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Henry Fielding once said, "Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil".
Money presents in so many aspects of life. It seems that almost everything can be bought, with the high value attached to money. People are very addicted to money because of the idea that if you have money, you have the success, popularity, power and acceptance. But, there is always danger in losing values such as love for sports or being a hardworking person. A good example is the current trend in sports wherein top players in football or basketball are only interested in picking up their paycheques more than genuinely loving sports and achieving success in terms of being the best athletes they could be (Money is not the motivation 2004). There are nagging thoughts of what the real motivation is for entering a venture as the importance of money is becoming more and more hard-hitting these days.
As the quotation above says, is money society¡¦s new god? If so, can other values such as freedom, love, achievement or even motivation also be bought? This is precisely the topic of the paper. All of these things can be pointed back to money and see how people treat it today. Besides discussing the real functions of money, this paper will also attempt to answer not just the questions above but also investigate whether money is the only thing that really motivates people today.
II. Money as Motivation
¡§Motivation¡¨ derives from the Latin verb ¡§movere¡¨ which means ¡§to move¡¨. Beck (2004, p.3) defined Motivation as an internal state which is the driving force that activates behaviour or gives directions to thoughts, feelings and actions of an organism.
The accumulation of wealth has become an important facet of society because of the increasing materialistic ideology spreading in the world. In addition, there is a growing concern for people to move upwards in society through earning or making more money.
It is undeniable fact that people are bowing to the demands of money as almost everything is rationed, administered or valued in terms of money (Ventura, 1995). With the high value attached to money, it connotes an idea that money is a motivation for people. For this paper, it will be discussed thoroughly in three areas: Psychology, Management and Education whereas arguments are supported by good examples found in literature which demonstrate the use of money as motivation.
The desire to have money is ingrained in people today as explained by Ventura (1995) when he said that money has become the absolute standard of access and status. This desire is evident in many fields not only in commerce but also in education, justice and art, etc. Along with this desire is also the need to be valued which is manifested through unconscious or half-conscious actions by making money felt in the different aspects of life. Ventura (1995) pointed out that money has even affected intimate relationships: as in couples fighting viciously over money and property during divorces; or in friendships as a contest of dominance in who will pick the bill. These examples illustrate that the desire to have more money which will gain the person more of the increasing benefits attached to it. It further shows that money works insidiously to fan the flames of desire and need that it becomes a motivation. Thus, people¡¦s lives today are inevitably revolving around making money in order to satisfy their momentarily need and desire, even though they are opposite to human and communal value of our work. These also touch another psychological aspect stated in Ventura (1995) ¡§money is, if not quite omnipotent, at least omnipresent¡¨.
Why do people have such different behaviours? Motivation is one of the explanations we use when we try to account for the variability of behaviour. Under virtually identical circumstances, variations in individual behaviour may be due to differences in motivation. People have a hierarchy of needs that determines their actions, from Maslow¡¦s Hierarchy of Needs (cited in Bartol, Tein, Matthews & Martin 2005, p.367), there are five needs presented in his famous Hierarchy of Needs pyramid (in decreasing importance order): Self-actualization, Esteem needs, Social needs, Security needs, Physiological needs. Say for example, ¡§I ate because I was hungry, I drank because I felt thirsty¡¨ it is simply at the lowest Physiological needs level so as to satisfy the basic human need. Unsatisfied needs is a force to motivate person to take actions, the higher the need, the less essential for survival, the longer it can be postponed. Different things appeals to different people, some employees might come to work for the paycheck, some of them for the friendships with colleagues, and some for the challenge of taking on difficult tasks. Not necessarily money, other factors could also motivate people, it depends on people¡¦s need.
Organization is the strength of any business. The more organized and efficient the different components in the business are, the better it functions and produces.
The use of money as motivation is stressed by Gellerman (1968) in the context of management as he explained that money can motivate people or influence action but only in the instance where the amount of money is considerably higher than the existing income of the person. This business culture has put money as a central motivator and held an ongoing belief that money indeed motivates people. It is partly true because there really are people who response to a financial incentive are predictable, such as improved sales for better commissions or faster work output to receive bigger bonuses are commonly seen in the organisation.
Apart from money, Job Redesign serves both physiologically and psychologically to increase the motivation, job satisfaction and productivity of employees (Pinder, C. 1984, p.236). The methods include: i) Job Rotation to decrease boredom and acquire more skills and knowledge by assigning employees to work in different department in an organization; ii) Job Enlargement to promote challenge by increasing number of operations; iii) Job Enrichment to increase responsibility and accountability by allowing employees to make their own decisions at work, making them feel they can do what¡¦s being asked of. It is pretty sure to say that most people will feel motivated when they know they are making a contribution, being heard, doing something useful, receiving praise and acknowledgement and having their skills developed.
Another perspective add to the argument is that money is not always the key to get better employee performance because there are other factors to be considered which affect the workplace. These other factors are organisational culture and leadership styles which were named in a study as reasons why people leave their companies (Skrobot, 2005). This shows that it¡¦s not all about the money. Employees are affected by numerous of reasons (such as, working environment, team morale, human relationship, etc.) and do not consider money as the only motivation for giving performance that meets the company standards.
Student motivation is an important aspect in education as many students nowadays are being distracted which stop them pursuing an interest in learning in a formal setting. Traditionally, money is not the only motivation in education because the primary motivation is to gain knowledge and experience. This is shown in the active participation of students in learning experiences. However, it seems that today, money is becoming the sole motivation of students for learning because of the perception that a good academic performance will guarantee them access to jobs which will grant them the ability to make more money. In addition, it seems that without money as a motivation, academic performance would not improve as shown by the example below.
Bishop (2004) studied the role of money and motivation in student learning through studying high school student exam program in Michigan. Some states in the US such as New Jersey and Texas have standard competency exams for their high school students, the very low passing marks serve to motivate the students to give their best performance; By contrast, the ones in New York and North Carolina increase student¡¦s motivation by offering incentives in exams and their outstanding achievement levels are highly recognised by colleges and universities. While in Michigan, the exam is intended to be challenging and the first step towards motivating students to do good is to include scores in the transcripts. The second is to offer student who scores at Level 1 or 2 the Michigan Merit Award which is a one year $2,500 scholarship. This amount is payable to those who will attend college in Michigan while a lower amount of $1,000 is applicable to those going out of state. There is obviously a marked improvement on exam scores as expected but it raises the question where the real motivation lies: money or the promise of future education?
As discussed in this paper, money is undeniably a motivation for many people today and almost everything have been quantified and viewed in terms of money. However, what people need is something extra, small but not money-related, is more than enough to feed their esteem and self-worth, so they can get up tomorrow and do the job in hand with enthusiasm and confidence.
In psychology, money has become a motivation because of desire and the need to be valued. The effect of money is strong that can even break the intimate and social relationships between people. Having needs also motivate people to take different actions as stated in Maslow¡¦s Needs Theory.
In business, money is also considered not the only motivation factor because studies show that employee¡¦s performance can also be influenced by factors such as leadership styles, organisational culture and implementation of Job Redesign. It is really crucial to stimulate and encourage employees and ultimately you can get the best from them.
Education suggests that students find money as a good motivation for performing better in class. The study conducted by Bishop (2004) suggests that if there wasn¡¦t any money involved in the program, the performance of both schools and students to improve would not be present at all.
In conclusion, although money is a good motivation for people, this paper doesn¡¦t have any evidence which proves that it is the only motivation for people. Though it is indeed conclusive that people tend to make more money throughout the years, this doesn¡¦t mean that people of today are solely guided by money as a means of achieving what they want out of life.
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Bartol, K. Tein, M. Matthews, G. and Martin, D. 2005, Management, 4th edn, McGraw-Hill Australia.
Beck, R.C. 2004, Motivation Theories and Principles, 5th edn, Pearson Education, Inc., New Jersey.
Bishop, J. 2004, ¡¥Money and motivation¡¦, Education Next, Winter 2004, viewed 31 August 2005, .
Gellerman, S.W. 1968, Management by motivation, American Management Association, New York.
Henry Fielding, Quotation Details, The Quotation Page, viewed 2 September 2005, .
¡¥Money is not the motivation¡¦ 2004, The Evening Chronicle, icNewcastle, 10 September 2004, viewed 3 September 2005,
Pinder, C. 1984, The Scott, Foresman Series in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources: Work Motivation, Theory, Issues, and Applications, Scott, Foresman and Company, USA.
Skrobot, D 2005, ¡¥Not just about money¡¦, Ward¡¦s Dealer Business, viewed 31 August 2005, .
Ventura, M. 1995, ¡¥The psychology of money¡¦, Psychology Today, March-April 1995, vol. 28, viewed 10 September 2005,
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"Money Is The Only Thing That Really Motivates People." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Dec 2014