I am often asked the difference between manipulation and motivation. In fact, they are really the same, but manipulation implies an evil intent! It all has to do with context and perception. It is all about the intent of the sender and the perception and engagement of the receiver. Here are 3 questions that help to determine the difference.
Who benefits? Motivation offers incentive, drive, and engagement. People feel good. Manipulation is often seen as solely benefiting the organization/person with control for unfair gain. Engaged receivers see personal
benefits from improving the organization and feel motivated. If people don’t see the benefits, they feel manipulated.
What’s the process? If work needs to be delegated, consider if the employee would enjoy doing the work, if it’s a good fit, or if they would feel valued, then it’s motivation. The employee gains valuable work-related experience, feels appreciated, and experiences more engagement. However, if the employee feels that you handed off a job because they were the first person you saw or you didn’t want to do it, it’s more likely to be perceived as manipulation.
What’s the basis? Motivation is based in mutual understanding of what’s best. Manipulation, again, only benefits one side. If the person believes in your mission, it’ll be considered as motivation. If not, it’s manipulation. You may have the best of intentions, but if it’s perceived as a pure shirking of responsibility—rather than the opportunity to help the organization—the act will be seen as manipulation, control, or authoritative management.
Manipulation kills engagement.
Motivation strengthens it.
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