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Intrinsic Motivation at Work Paperback – 1 Apr 2009

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About the Author

Ken Thomas earned his doctorate degree at Purdue University and has been a Research Fellow, Harvard Business School followed by professorships at Graduate School of Management, UCLA; School of Business Administration, Temple University; Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburg. Currently he is Professor Emeritus, Naval Postgraduate School of Business and Public Policy, Monterey, CA.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book about the emerging area of Intrinsic Motivation and Engagement 13 Aug. 2009
By Barry D. Leskin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Intrinsic Motivation

Dr. Ken Thomas's book, "Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee
Engagement," is an easily readable, interesting contribution to the field of motivation. That is not always true of the contribution from academics. I found the style down-to-earth and concepts and ideas very thought-provoking.

Thomas has a history of breakthrough concepts and theory in the management area, especially conflict management, in which he is an international expert. It extends his contributions to the field of motivation--and the hot topic of employee engagement. He provides a solid conceptual framework for understanding employee engagement.

Thomas puts work engagement into a historical context. He documents changes in work from the mid 20th century to the present, showing how work today requires more judgment and self-management from employees. He breaks self-management into four essential steps: committing to a meaningful purpose, choosing the best way of accomplishing that purpose, making sure one is performing work activities competently, and ensuring that one is actually accomplishing the purpose.

The book's core is a description of four "intrinsic rewards" employees get from today's work and their importance in energizing and sustaining employee engagement. The four rewards are a sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress. He summarizes research findings about these intrinsic rewards--on retention, work performance, job satisfaction, professional development, reduced stress, and other outcomes.

After Thomas explains these basic concepts, the book gets into applications--helping the reader diagnose current levels of the four intrinsic rewards and providing guidelines for enhancing them through their building blocks.

I found a number of things especially helpful. One was the diagnostic framework with each of the 4 reward areas, which helps a manager pinpoint the source of low engagement.

I liked his insight into how work has changed through increasing education of the workforce and implications for motivation and retention of knowledge workers. It is this population from which high tech companies often derive their competitive advantage.

I was impressed that Thomas wasn't talking just about simple "techniques" for motivating others. He understands that motivation and employee engagement go beyond simple behavioral attempts by organizations to influence employee commitment and contribution. When motivation is self directed, it is more powerful than attempts made by managers and organizations to motivate others through various work and high involvement strategies.

The book had major implications for the increasing amount of work done virtually. Virtual workers are more dependent on self-motivation and less subject to direction from supervisors. This can help managers and newly appointed supervisors whose direct reports are geographically dispersed.

Overall, this book is an important conceptual contribution to the field of employee motivation, which has seen limited breakthroughs in thinking during the past few decades.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Get the 2002 version, avoid the self-promotion 21 July 2011
By foraminut - Published on
Format: Paperback
I assign this as the textbook in a Master's degree program. The concepts are clearly written, well-explained, and enthusiastically presented. I highly recommend the 2002 version for those reasons.

The 2002 version discussed the concepts, then chapter by chapter addressed how both team members and managers might apply each of the concepts. This format made it easy to read and to follow; my students were able to absorb the ideas readily and apply them in practical environments.
However, in 2009, Mr. Thomas divided the book, so that the same concepts are discussed twice: once in the first half applied to employees, and then in the second half applied to managers. The claim that the revision was needed to incorporate 'new' material is not warranted; there is no 'new' material which might advance the subject matter. However, there is 'new' material which promotes his apparent new business relationship with a company newly recited in this version, and promotes the principals of that company, and the tools they sell. I have written my objections to the publisher well over two years ago, and have yet to hear from either publisher or author.
My current students must buy the 2009 revision -- I instruct them to ignore any reference to Mr. Thomas' new friends, their tools, or their company. In fact, my students now read the chapters together (in the front half and then the back half of the book) which were originally found within one chapter. This is unduly complicated; I see no reason for the existence of the 2009 version other than self-promotion, as there are no 'substantive' differences between the two versions.
All of the above notwithstanding, this is the seminal work on the subject, and is (with the above caveat to ignore certain promotional material within it) the best discussion of the concepts available. Mr. Thomas is a good writer, and his development of his ideas is convincing and academically supportable.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book for leaders who want practical insights to engage their teams 1 April 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Often I hear leaders say, "I really need more staff!" Yet the challenges of today's economy have squeezed hopes for more headcount from many organizations.

"More people" can sometimes be the answer, but let's face it: there's a lot of productivity that's currently being left on the table with employees who are disengaged--unwilling to go "the mile", let alone "the extra mile", so to speak.

It's one thing to recognize there's an issue. Yet how does a leader go about re-engaging his teams?

Ken Thomas delivers another winner with this second edition of Intrinsic Motivation at Work. Make sure you're buying this second edition as it has been expanded since the title was first published.

One of the many things I appreciate about this book is that it's based on extensive research, yet you don't have to be a researcher to get value from it. It's practical, informal, yet doesn't sacrifice the value just to make it accessible.

I appreciate a comment Ken makes early in the book: "Workshops have shown us that it is easier to learn how to engage other people when you first learn how to monitor and manage your own intrinsic motivation." You may think you want this book to re-engage your teams but you'll find it helpful in doing the same for you.

Here's how I plan to use this book: combine the insights with the new Work Engagement Profile. This easy-to-use assessment provides objective, reliable insights on how engaged a person (or team) is, then helps chart a path to re-engaging. The combination of this book and the assessment provides all that we need as leaders to start re-engaging ourselves and our teams.

Andy Kaufman
Host of the People and Projects Podcast
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A New Way to Look at Work 31 Jan. 2012
By Matt Kmety - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book makes you look at work in a whole new way. Before starting this book, I thought that employees were mainly motivated by they pay (extrinsic rewards). However, further reading made me look at how people view their work in a whole different light.

Intrinsic rewards are the fundamental building block to keeping employees engaged in their work. I can say that it motivates me much more than extrinsic rewards.

The book gives you a way to evaluate yourself and others on how engaged you are with the work that you do. I highly recommend this book to any employee or manager who is looking for a way to kick start the way they work and manage.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This Book is a Game Changer 13 May 2013
By Russell G Davis - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a scholar in the field of organizational psychology I found this book to be grounded not only in theory but is probably the best most significant book about Employee Engagement on the market. Dr. Thomas did an outstanding job dialing in the real issues around engagement. Nicely done... Dr. Russ Davis
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