A talk about motivation

A talk about motivation

Listen to the talk about motivation to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.



So, we think we know how to motivate people, right? Offer them a reward. Do this and you'll get this. Do this faster, earn more money. Do this better than everyone else, here's a promotion. We offer incentives when we want people to do things. We do it at work, at school, even at home with our kids. Tidy your room and you can watch TV.

But when social psychologists test whether incentives work, they get surprising results. Sam Glucksberg, from Princeton University, America, set people a problem to solve and told them he was going to time them to see how long they took. Then he put them in two groups. He offered one group a reward for finishing fast. Five dollars for anyone finishing in the top 25 per cent and 20 dollars for the person who finished the fastest of all. To the other group he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time.

The first group, the ones with the reward, solved the problem faster, you'd think, right? Well, no, they actually took three and a half minutes longer than the group who just thought they were being timed. Incentive didn't work. In fact, it made them slower. This experiment has been repeated, with the same results, many times. But in business we still offer bonuses, promotions and rewards to staff.

That's fine if we want them to do something simple, like chop wood. We'll pay you more if you chop the wood faster. An incentive works then. But if we want someone to do something complex, something creative, something where they have to think, rewards don't work. They might even have the opposite result, and make people perform worse. Another study, by Dan Ariely, showed that the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed on a complex task. The reward made them focus so hard on the result that they couldn't think creatively any more.

And this all matters because more and more simple jobs will become automated. We'll be left with creative, problem-solving jobs that computers will never do. And we need to find a way to motivate people to do those jobs when we've proved the traditional incentives don't work.

So what does work? Giving your workers freedom; freedom to work on the things they want to work on, freedom to choose when, where and how they work. Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. Just do the job well. And evidence shows people who choose the way they work get results. Companies that give employees time during the week to work on things that interest them and are not part of their regular job achieve amazing things. Some of the big tech companies are good examples of this, with ping-pong tables and areas to relax in …

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet81.46 KB

Language level

Average: 4.4 (92 votes)

Submitted by little_oat on Mon, 15/02/2021 - 12:59

Both of my parents are teachers and I'm study to become one too. One thing that I've noticed is how limitated the job is, you have to follow a program that is very conservative and desmotivated specially for the kids, we need more freedom in trying new ways of learning and teaching, many people have amazing ways to teach that are effective and creative but most of the times the headmaster doesn't support it.
I totally agree with you that new methods of teaching and learning that allows for freedom of teaching techniques need to be employed by school managers rather than the old ways. Most school managers seems to be autocratic and conservative. Teacher's effectiveness and efficiency would be increased if they have the freedom to adopt whatever style or method they feel comfortable with to achieve the best results. Though they need to be checked too.

Submitted by mohamad90 on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 10:15

I totally agree with this theory. I experienced that freedom in working is the best way for efficiency and effectiveness. But many managers still don't encourage staff with this new ideas. They work with old management theories. It proves that learning new management theories is necessary, specially for complex works.
Profile picture for user El Cuy Mágico

Submitted by El Cuy Mágico on Fri, 29/01/2021 - 21:22

So cool to read the comments !! I totally agree. I don't like a strict schedule either, I really like to enjoy my job. I prefer to work at my pace as I feel more comfortable and things are done better. I guess my really motivation is the love for what I am studding as I like the culture of my country and I would love to help in its conservation and promotion. Of course there are days I don't feel motived though, then I must resort to my discipline more than my motivation.

Submitted by Layria on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 20:02

A thing that really motivates me is the passion of studying something I really love learning such art an culture. I agree with SAAD that knowledge is power because the more you know the more creative you will become. You can find a source of inspiration by reading, or listening... to get your goals or to excel in something you really want to. In my current job I find really motivating have a flexible schedule and not seeing my boss everytime like in the same office : ).

Submitted by Diogo1606 on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 02:56

What motivate me in my studies is to know that if I keep working hard now, I'll be able to be where I want to be in the future, and even the things aren't easy now, in 10 years from now on, I'll look back and thank me for the hard work.

Submitted by Saad786 on Sat, 02/01/2021 - 10:12

I am motivated during the studies when my teacher or parents point out my mistake. When I am encouraged by my parents, I become more ambitious to achieve the goal. My goal is to learn more and more through out my life because KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

Submitted by M19 on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 19:49

Personally, I have observed experiences where salary increments and promotions contributed to the resignation of employees; they aren't necessarily motivators. More money is offered for getting the job done! The fact that task achievement but social life counts, most employers often take for granted small but precious valuable things like love, friendship, gratitude and respect. In the office these things seem less important and oftentimes use of obscene language becomes a habit. Acquiring respect doesn't come easily and falling a victim of verbal abuse is usually the end result. The assumption that materialistic incentives are effective motivators is totally wrong. Earning respect feels to be more of a valuable incentives for me than anything else. It's the thing that keeps me on my job.
Profile picture for user DJ Singh

Submitted by DJ Singh on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 09:48

I used to be a visual effect Artist. one particular shot has so much to do in it because of that some time It could even take months to complete the 2second shot. But I needed to motivate myself by self-talking like maybe you are not able to see the end result now but wait for the movie to release and watch your work in cinema. That feeling was always made motivated me to do what I was doing. But unfortunately not anymore I have quit my job now to move ahead in life.