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Motivation by Fear Or Desire

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Posted 28 December 2010 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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These can be tailored to your specific needs.
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You may find the following will help with your people management skills.

Motivation by fear or desire

Motivation is important. All managers need to know something about motivation.

Motivation is the compulsion to act.

We know we must get people to act, so we must be able to motivate them.

But how do you do that?

Answer: Understand the two great motivators:

  1. Fear
  2. Desire

Fundamentally we are motivated by two impulses:

1. Desire for some things and
2. Fear of other things

They are the two major motivators. Every motivator can be subsumed into these two categories

Desire is all the positive motivators

Examples: The desire for:

  1. Money
  2. Security
  3. Self respect
  4. Praise

Fear is all the negative motivators

The fear of:

  1. Poverty
  2. Risk
  3. Pain
  4. Criticism

Motivation by fear or desire

It is important to know that you can use fear or desire to motivate yourself and others, and you may have seen both being used


Have you ever been managed by a person who uses fear ( threats, bullying) as their method of management?
Have you ever been managed by a person who uses desire (goals, targets and rewards) as their primary tool for management?

Here is the major point to remember:
Both types of motivates work to induce action.

People are motivated to work hard and long by fear.

They are also motivated to work hard and long by desire and ambition.
That is why you will always see fear managers, and reward managers.

Second point

Even though fear works as a motivator, as well as, or maybe even better, in the short term, what about the long term implications of motivating people by fear?

More specifically

How long will motivation by fear remain effective?
How long will it be before the person who is being motivated by fear

  1. Leaves
  2. Go's sick
  3. or makes the fear manager his enemy and sabotages the managers efforts

Answer: No more than three years: often a lot less

People are motivated by fear, but they will not put up with it indefinably

Therefore: Fear is not the best motivator

BUT: How long will a person work for rewards, ambition, praise, desire?

Desire motivators have an infinite range: People are motivated for an eternity by desire

Because everyone would like to improve on their current situation!


Fear and desire are both good motivators. Fear is inferior to desire because fear is a negative motivator and as such is NON sustainable of the long term Desire is a superior motivator because it is a positive motivator and has infinite durability.

The point to remember from all this is:

Distinguish between the two motivator

Then, use desire rather than fear as your primary method of motivation.

or more information about management training visit the Corporate Coach Group website.

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