The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and How It Can Inspire More Productivity in the Workplace

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The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and How It Can Inspire More Productivity in the Workplace

motivation is  useful in forming an interactive and productive team/ Photo By Flamingo Images via Shutterstock


The Self-Determination Theory (SDT) centers on human motivation and what induces it. According to Verywell Mind, it is a theory that proposes that people are driven to change and grow because of inherent psychological needs. The theory also suggests that there are two kinds of motivation which are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Being able to understand the Self-Determination Theory may also help in uncovering the motivations of workers and therefore inspire more productivity in the workplace.


Why Is Motivation Important?

Chris Caldwell, an expert of Occupational Psychology, says that it is essential because before a company becomes successful, the organization has to first be motivated. Motivation will be useful in forming an interactive and productive team who will stay loyal to the company.

Positive Effects of Having Motivated Employees

Caldwell further explains that the benefits of having motivated employees include:

1. Workers were more satisfied and committed to their work.

2. Increase in retention rates or more employees staying in the company.

3. Lesser possibility of workers being absent or leaving the company.

4. An enhanced company culture.

5. Workers become more efficient and more engaged in their work, as well improve their work performance

6. Forming of loyal brand advocates


Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

As stated by The Happiness Index, this is how to distinguish the two types of motivation:

Intrinsic motivation

This kind of motivation stems from finishing a task that one views as interesting and fun.

For example, an employee is assigned to a project which they perceive to be enjoyable. To them, their project is not just a chore or a way to make money but an activity which they would like to wholeheartedly do.


intrinsic motivation stems from finishing a task that one views as interesting and fun/ Photo By Pressmaster via Shutterstock


Extrinsic motivation

Meanwhile, this type of motivation is brought about by rewards and punishments.

An illustration of this would be the opposite of the previously cited example. If a manager tells their employees to work on a task that they do not like, they may still be motivated not because they enjoy it but because it provides a chance to get a promotion, possibly get a bonus or impress their co-workers with their skills. They may also be motivated by not wanting to be reprimanded by their manager or the fear of having a deduction from their salary.


Key Psychological Needs in SDT

Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, states that these are the three essential needs that have to be fulfilled to gain psychological growth:


This means that individuals have to become proficient in many tasks and learn various skills. It also means that a person wants to feel productive and take charge of the environment and result of the task.

Connectedness or Relatedness

This is the desire of people to feel that belong or have a sense of attachment. In addition, it is also the longing to have interpersonal relationships.


This describes an individual’s longing to be in control of their actions and their goals. It also deals with the degree of freedom one has in doing their task such when and how they will do this task.

Satisfying Workers’ Key Psychological Needs

To be able to keep workers motivated, Caldwell suggests doing to the following:

For competence

One of the ways to help the employees become competent is to let them undergo training. If the management invests in the employees’ training, they will try to compensate by exhibiting an enhanced work performance, better skills, and more motivation.

Another way to do this is to encourage them to engage in reverse mentoring. Allow the workers to mentor each other to be able to share their knowledge and abilities with one another.

A third way to increase competence is to create a liquid workforce. This means instead of using the traditional hierarchal approach, everyone will work as a unified system of teams. For instance, rather than letting the marketer do their task alone like they usually do, they will be asked to collaborate with the different departments of the company.

For relatedness

To build up relatedness within the company, integration should be encouraged. This can be done by organizing social events such as company outings and team-building activities. If the employees are able to socialize and have meaningful connections, this will make their work more enjoyable and help boost their performance.

Trust must also be emphasized in the workplace. This is an important component unifying the teams in the company. The management is advised to reflect the behaviors they want to spread in the workplace. They are told to motivate workers to be more honest and responsible for their actions.

Additionally, they can improve the workers’ relatedness is to encourage them to regularly share feedback and the outcome of their team. This will help in pointing out the hindrances that the team needs to address in order for the project to become a success, which also makes sure that all the workers become included in a united team.

For autonomy

To fulfill the workers’ need for autonomy, Caldwell suggests that boundaries should be established when giving them the freedom to do their tasks. They must also advise and support their employees as they do work on their projects and duties. However, they should refrain from being too controlling and from ordering them around.

Another way to satisfy their desire for autonomy is to allow them to take charge of their own schedules. In letting them be in control of when and where they do their task, they are showing trust in their workers. Showing trust in the employees equates to having faith in their capabilities which in turn inspires them and makes them want to make the company more successful.




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