Difference In Motivation And Manipulation

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Difference in motivation and manipulation

Table of Contents



What We Can't Control, What We Can9



End Notes14

Difference in motivation and manipulation


Comparing motivation to manipulation is like comparing kindness to deceit. The difference is the intent of the person. Motivation will cause people to act out of free choice and desire, while manipulation often results in forced compliance. One is ethical and long-lasting; the other is unethical and temporary. Anywhere you go; managers are seeking ways to motivate employees. The problem is that employees cannot be motivated (before you take issue with that let me finish). Motivation literally means “a reason to move.” [1] Each person's reasons are different, but they have their reasons and therefore they are already motivated.


The word “motivation” is one that is often confused with “manipulation.” [2] Motivation occurs when you persuade someone to take an action in their own best interests. Things like people preparing their homework, accepting responsibility for their performance and finishing their education, are the result of motivation. Manipulation is persuading someone to take an action which is primarily for your benefit. Things like selling an inferior product at an inflated price or working people overtime with no extra pay are examples of manipulation. Manipulation self-destructs the individual doing the manipulating. Word gets out on manipulators and people grow less and less likely to respond in a positive manner to their manipulation. Productivity declines. Leadership occurs when you persuade a person to take an action which is in your mutual best interests. Eisenhower said that leadership was the ability to persuade someone to do what you wanted them to do because they wanted to do it. When that happens, performance improves, productivity increases, and both parties win.

A mistake many managers make is thinking they are motivating people when in reality they are manipulating them. Bottom line, it is manipulation when we think of a reason others should do something and then convince them of our correctness. Quite frankly, this is not a quality approach. [3] Why not? Because we can't force someone to do those which they choose not to do. Someone else's choices are not within our control. What we do have control over is the kind of workplace conditions we create, and it's here where managers can shine: If conditions can be created to tap into existing employee motivators (within reason), employees will engage. But if the created environment clashes with employee value systems, employees will disengage. It's that simple.

Let's examine this idea in more detail. At issue is the need for certain work to be done and for employees to be engaged in the work. To make these two come together, win/win thinking needs to happen. Win/win thinking has two focuses: Courage to stand up for our own convictions, and consideration for the other party's wants and needs. This concept was made popular by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Unfortunately, the process of win/win thinking is still misunderstood; or rather a key concept is misunderstood: Considering the ...
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