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 …

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Worksheet81.46 KB
Dear team. From the lesson above. he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time. What's that mean 'use their times to calculate an average time' ??? Is that mean they free to go or not to go to the office for work? The most important thing is the job finished?? Thank you very much for your answer and attention.

Hello fahri,

The people were timed (entry 2.2: to measure how long it takes someone to do something) as they solved a problem. The resulting numbers were the people's 'times'. If you have several numbers, you can add them all together and then divide by the number of numbers ('to average') to get the average (entry 2.2).

The people who did this did not win anything ('no incentive').

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

One of the easiest listenings I've had. But about the question, unfortunately due to the easy access to information people tend to read just headlines and not the whole idea as well as following instructions. Doing things quickly and fast is a goal that doesn't need to be rewarded, depends on us.
What motivate me is that when i got what i planned for done successfully. in that case it give me motivation to achieve something new.
Hi I have finished the intermediate level and it was easy for me . Now , in this level i could get only 5 out 8 correct. I understand most of what the conversation but when it come to answer the exercises i found it a little bit difficult. Any advice and recommendations

Hello nabily

I wouldn't worry -- some things within B2 are closer to B1 and some are closer to C1. The main thing is to keep working and to learn from your mistakes. In this way, you will advance for sure!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

what motivated me, in general, is to remember the goal I set it. when I give up and start to procrastinate I remember the goal that gives me the energy to keep going and work whatever happens
Improving my self is the most important motive for me because in this life we always facing difficulties and I need to prepare my self for it.
Actually my goals motivate me in most cases , when I want to reach specific achievements like learning English to have a good job ,I work hard without any incentive from anyone , I can get motivated also when I’m interested in what I’m doing and also I’m agree to that having enough time to get tasks done without stress makes me more creative, good and especial results makes me proud regardless any incentive
What I like the most is to be included into complex projects where I can get some new and fresh ideas or where I can develop my management skills. If I have the chance to select the members of my team and organise the schedules when we are going to be connected, I will be absolutely engaged.
In my opinion, I say that motivation is important for the person to receive the result after a great effort he did in his work. On the other hand, the person must be open to himself and work diligently in order to relax mentally.
It depends. For the current job , the incentives work. If it is related to my future, just the ambition motivates me.
it is often deplorable when you have to work twice as much as the others to be up to the task but it should not weaken us
is it a real speech ???if so , how can i get the full version ??? any help is appreciated

Hello ragamin,

We use material from a range of sources on LearnEnglish but I think this text was prepared by the British Council specially for this lesson, so it doesn't have a full version. I'm glad you found it interesting, though!



The LearnEnglish Team

Unfortunately, in my job, the only incentive is to receive the profits participation of company. Well. As we work with sells, I think the results would be biggest, if my company created some extra incentive for those who sells more.
Hi, in my case, as the speaker said, I am motivated when I feel that my company treat me like a person who has a life outside. Also if I enjoy my work it is much better.
Well, I can motivate in my work or in my studies when I achieve the objectives that I set. It is very important for me not to work under pressure all the time, and to have time for other activities like playing sports and spending time with my family. Finally, a good relationship with my teachers or my boss is essential
Generally, this question might be considering in two different ways. First part of one refers to my professional work. In my job, I have been rated by patients through several factors that's why the biggest incentive to pursue my career is smile on their lips after fixing the tooth. They pay special attention to taking a dental appointment without the pain. Either injection of anesthesia or treating the teeth should be making completely painlessly. If I can see a glad patient after visit, they will come again to fix their tooth. It means they have been relaxing during my work. Second part of this question is related with my studies. I have degree of dentistry, but I decided to continue my education in other field, history. Reason of this study haven't connected with earn for living. That's why the remarks aren't the most important issue as a incentive. I have always wanted to have deep knowledge in various areas of life. To be honest, get high self-esteem and self-confidece motivate me to study. Therefore, I think it isn't last word in my education.
Thinking about my future dreams of being successful in life motivates me to keep studying harder to achieve those dreams .
the thing that motivates me to study that if i hard study now i can easy find a good job in the future and earn much money more easier.
What motivates you in your job or studies? I think if the relationship between managers and workers is honestly all of them will work motivated.
There are many things which could make my studies sessions enjoyable like starting lessons after 10 a.m., listening to the teacher sitting on a comfortable armchair( chairs are too uncomfortable at school, expecially for tall guys like me!) and doing different homework than usual... I hate monotony and doing same boring things everyday! However nowadays there is none of this. I think it's important to reach a result and not how I will reach it. Everyone has a different routine and nobody could treat us at the same way! I hope something will change in the future.

Hello Hazeliikoo

The easiest way to download the audio is to use a computer: just click on the audio player with the right mouse button and then choose 'Save As ...'

Happy listening!


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!!!! Talking about the work, I would like to have more freedom on my work schedule, time to do personal things through the day without have the feeling of being everyday at work without time to do anything else; maybe more flexibilty on weekends or compensative days. Summarising, have time.
Hello, could you please advise why question 5 is true? I couldn't find anything about future jobs in the passage. thank you,

Hello SOBHI,

The speaker explains that non-creative jobs will become automated, leaving creative jobs for people to do:

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hiya! I appreciate what the contents you've got on this site. But I/we would be more appreciative if you should make those audios and videos downloadable for offline use. I love those mellifluous voices. Please be kind to consider my earnest request. Best wishes.
In my opinion a requirement to produce a better performance is to enjoy the job, this means, the person need to enjoy the activities that him / her performs. Then, when they have flexibility in the job schedule and have opportunities to relax in the workplace, the posibilities that the people don't enjoy the job is decreased and therefore the performance is increased. That is my experience.
Really appreciate your work . hey Peter M ,this is Himanshu . what you share that add value to others life . I love your website and hope this will grow in future . you can check my website where I share valuable contents and also I am working on the topic https://------------------------------------- hope you like this. Thank you

Hello Himanshu

Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid we don't generally allow links to other sites, except for dictionaries, the Wikipedia or other similar reference sources. This is why the link you posted has been edited.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Someone please tells me why It's false 6. People always work better when they start the day later and work into the night.

Hello hamo0ody,

The final paragraph says that people work best when they can choose how to 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. 

In other words, people should be able to choose. Starting later and working into the night is one possibility, not something that everyone should do. It is given as an example, not a solution for everyone. Therefore the claim that people 'always' work best in this way is not true.



The LearnEnglish Team

I have completed the lesson for 'A Talk About Motivation' . The level I chose was Upper Intermediate B2.
What is motivating me in my job is to receive good words from my management . also the incentive can motivate me too.
for me it can be higher salary,good looking places with an interesting design and the creativity potential that the job has.also when i do things that have engaging audiences feedback (like making games) i am more motivated.
In my opinion the best incentive to do a good performance is to have a person that has a big leadership and that can direct your decision in doing something at work. I'am thinking to a boss, a chief or someone else that has an ascendent on you and that is a good example for all the members of a working group, something like a spirituale guide, an example to follow, not only at work, but generally also in your life.
In my previous job as a aftersalesmanager in automotive they offered me a fix salary and in addition a bonus in growth revenue. After the first year I was obligated to ask after the first evaluation. Within the first five months there was a revenue increase of 5 %, in the sixth month our top mechanic felt sick and he was out for eight months caused by a hernia with no replacement on the workfloor. My bonus for the whole year was gone ! Now I'm looking for a new job with a better agreement.
What motivates you in your job or studies? In my job, good working environment, good salary, good job nature motivates me a lot to work harder and even to do overtime. Also a job of my hobby and a job is important for my lifetime career is a lot matter for me as well. In my studies, I like the subject, stories, abstracts and thesis are giving me greater knowledge and useful for my life. I also like to achieve higher grades and distinctions in my studies as well, and I believe that is motivating me a lot to study harder to achieve greater results.
When I was student, the best thing that motivated me when I work was the fear of failure. When I think that I’ll fail if I don’t work, I am more and more motivated. On the other hand, I like to be free in my choice, It’s bit difficult for me when I am constrained to work on a thing that I don’t like, I am less motivate.
I found the exercises very interesting. They motived me to do more exercises and learn more English.
The audio of the listening is not downloadable. I think there should be a download option for the listening and the tasks so that the people can download them and share with friends.