Overwhelmed Managers – part 2.1: Motivation – the external self-concept

As we discussed in the prior article, Motivation can have many faces. In order to motivate our people it is not enough to tell people to work harder. Some day we work in environments, where we need to do something, which we do not inherently believe in. For example, middle management communicates a decision of the management, which they do not agree with. This is the external self-concept.

We do know this from other concepts in sport. A striker in soccer might need to play out of his usual position in order to fulfill the team goals. In no case, this striker would not try to give his best. Still will apply his skills best to the ability.

In a corporate environment, top management expects their middle management to just be driven by such an external self-concept. But as we know, motivation is not that one-dimensional. This concept helps to motivate people, if it pairs with another motivational source. Goal internalization or the internal self-concept might be such a source.

A striker gives the best out of position, because he believes, it is the best for the team. We expect from our middle management exactly that. They should have an external self-concept. But without any deeper message, might lead to a team member’s burn out.

External self-concept in Millennial generation

What we always underestimate in modern age, is the influence, the environment would have on a team member. In today’s generation, Millennials have different motivations than older generations. We explain it with the generation conflict. And we just blame the other generation instead of understanding the other motivational drivers. As a baby boomer or Generation X, it is hard for us to understand, that the external self-concept is not only in business, but also in the social environment. We call this entitlement, but it might be just a further development of motivations.

Important therefore, is to not just motivate people based on the external self-concept. We should rather work on addressing the motivational needs of our team members – especially in middle management. Understanding the other intrinsic and extrinsic motivational sources might be key.

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