Motivations looking at Patagonia and Google

Autonomous and Controlled motivation

As Managers and leaders, what approach do you take to get the best out of them? Very early in my career, the use of punishment was the approach Managers took. It will help to get the best out of your employees when you can intrinsically motivate them. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, self determination theory shares 2 approaches towards motivating your employees. Extrinsic motivations using rewards and punishments is termed controlled motivations and being motivated by choice as autonomous motivation. According to self determination theory people need to experience the following to grow;

  1. Autonomy – Be in control of their own behaviours and goals to take their own direct action to pursue them
  2. Competence – People need to gain mastery of tasks and learn new and different skills
  3. Connection or relatedness – People need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people

Patagonia, is touted as one of the best places to work. Here, you are allowed to create your own schedule as to when you want to come to work. Their corporate HQ sits right next to the pacific ocean and their founder’s policy is anytime any employee can go surfing. Why take such an approach;

  • Creating you own schedule allows you to work best co relating to you own circadian rhythms, so that every employee gets the sleep they need
  • Exercise is a non negotiable as it reduces stress and adds endorphins you need to feel good

Companies need to realise that having a one off Team building session is good enough to see employees bond and feel good, however to do awesome work you need to go beyond that.   


Companies such as Facebook, Linkedin, Apple, 3M and Google allow for autonomy to be built in to the way work is done in the office. 3M, have a 15% rule, that allows employees to embark on projects they are keen to explore. In Google, they have the 20% rule or 1 day a week, where they can work on any projects they are curious about. That resulted in staff developing, Adsense, Google Map and Google news. 

Do consider the 2 companies that I have cited that values the impact of autonomy and intrinsic motivations. Managers and leaders can foster a sense of self determination by

  • Letting employees take on active roles
  • Provide meaningful feedback and offer support and encouragement
  • Not to overuse extrinsic rewards as it offers more harm than good. 

Let’s work towards a work culture where employees thrive and strive wanting to do awesome work.