Don't Pay Me For It

2009-01-14 17:48 - Links

The interesting thing, according to psychologists, is that extrinsic motivation has a way of displacing intrinsic motivation. The very act of rewarding workers for a job well done tends to make them think they are doing it solely for the reward; if the reward stops, the good work stops. And if the reward is too low, workers might think, Gosh, this is not worth it. They will forget their innate, intrinsic desire to do good work.

I've heard this expressed before, and I definitely feel it. Many people that work on open source products do it for the (taking the good, appropriate, words that I now have for it) intrinsic motivation. Many will refuse donations. If you try to pay me $50 to implement your favorite pet feature in some project I maintain, I'll have to stop and think about it. Suddenly, it's a business proposition. What do I normally earn, per hour? How many hours would it take me to do this? Does that mean I'm actually accepting a job for $2.50 an hour?

Sure, I've put in a lot of work for free — because the intrinsic motivation was there. As soon as the extrinsic motivation is there, it's hard to ignore how extremely underwhelming it is. Sure, it's illogical, but it feels horrible to sell yourself far below your "going rate".

(Via Hacker News.)


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