Negative motivation

Humans are not rational creatures. We are the most complex beings on this planet and what is irrational to us, might be rational to another person. This is why it’s difficult to motivate people without understanding more about who they are and what they want.

Understanding Negative Motivation

Negative motivation is a psychological principle that states that people will work harder to avoid a negative consequence than they will, to gain an equivalent positive outcome.


Negative motivation is the opposite of positive motivation. It means that people are more likely to work hard when they know there is something negative at stake, like being fired, rather than if there were something positive at stake like a raise. Negative motivation is not always bad and can even be used as an incentive for employees or students.

Negative motivators have some benefits in the workplace. They can help people get motivated to do their best and stay focused on their goals. Workers may be able to produce more for less if there are negative consequences involved with not meeting goals.

stop being too nice

Why is there a necessity to understand the type of motivation of an individual?

Understanding what motivates someone to do something is key to achieving what’s desired from that person. For instance, designing a customized product or campaign that will actually lure the targeted consumers.


This without knowing the subtle details of motivation and the type of motivation of the people in target isn’t achievable. The product, no matter how good, won’t sell or the ad no matter how appealing, won’t appeal to those whom we wanted, because it doesn’t appeal to them.

Hence we are more likely to design products and campaigns that have the desired effect, and this is only possible if we know what drives the people towards it, their motivation style. 

An example of negative motivation.

Have you ever wanted to avoid a situation, get away from something, or never wanted to have something which you can’t get rid of? 


Yes, that desire to get away from something is the negative motivation, the away from motivation. You get away from a mad dog, because it may bite you. Or you may avoid a situation, an opportunity perhaps because you are hopeless. 

Is negative motivation useful?

Negative motivation isn’t always bad though, in fact, it’s something we can’t live without. It’s necessary for survival. And sometimes it’s this desire of riddance that gives us a hard push to fight back. Sounds relevant?

Motivation is key to success in any field. Without the right motivation, it is hard to achieve your goals. In fact, many people can get discouraged and quit at the first sign of failure. However, negative motivation can be a powerful force pushing you to do your best.

In this section, we will explore what negative motivation is and why it can have a powerful effect on someone’s behavior.

Using negative motivation for Productivity.

Enforcing people to be productive and creative by inculcating stress or fear is what negative motivation can do.

Time after time, we see that people are more creative and productive when they are under pressure. As an example, some of the most iconic compositions in music history were written during periods of personal struggle for the composer. 

The same is true for writers, a tragedy crafts the writer in them; sufferings and struggle often ignite an artist’s passion; entrepreneurs who start businesses to make a difference in the world around them.

In other words, negative motivation isn’t just a motivating factor for some people; it can also be a way to channel energy and produce better work overall.

Using negative motivation in work environment

Negative motivation can be a powerful tool when trying to motivate employees and get them to work harder.

The most well-known motivator is the carrot and the stick. The stick is negative and the carrot is positive.

We should not rely on one or the other when trying to motivate people. We must know the right blend to apply on each individual customized according to what suits him or her.

Different people respond differently to negative motivation, so it’s important that we find out how they react before we do anything that might push them away or make them angry if they are introverts and need more time for themselves or if they are extroverts who want more social contact at work.

Which motivators are negative motivators?

The triggers that enforce you into the zone of negative motivation. Following are a few patterns mentioned by Dr. Burns in his book DO-NOTHINGISM & HOW TO BEAT IT.

The 13 Negative Motivation Patterns

According to Dr.Burns, there are 13 types of procrastination:

  1. Hopelessness
  2. Helplessness
  3. Overwhelming Yourself
  4. Jumping to Conclusions
  5. Self-labeling
  6. Undervaluing the Rewards
  7. Perfectionism
  8. Fear of Failure
  9. Fear of Success
  10. Fear of Disapproval or Criticism
  11. Coercion and Resentment
  12. Low Frustration Tolerance
  13. Guilt and Self-blame

Why is negative motivation not good?

It generally isn’t good for the positive outcomes in life. Because you strive for what’s in focus, and when you don’t have an outcome in focus then you don’t have a target. And getting away from something isn’t a target if you’re thinking so.

Though it’s not undesirable as we do feel a requirement to get out of a situation sometimes. Hence negative motivation isn’t unnecessary, but when you want a positive outcome, go for a positive motivation or towards motivation.


How do you overcome negative motivation?

When you get the need to avoid something, when you want to get rid of something or get out of a situation in your life then you’ll have negative motivation. 

For instance, if anyone wants to get rid of poverty, then he’ll have the motivation to do so. What if I ask that person “ what would you get or what do you need to get out of poverty?”

What would the answer be if it were you? Money? Wealth? Get rich? Job? Business? Whichever of these or any other that comes up to you. Guess what? What kind of motivation will these give you? Positive.. So think of what you want to get rid of what you’re sick of, and you’ll get the right kind of motivation. 

What is the best form of motivation?

Different people need different things in order to stay motivated in their work, and that’s not something easy to understand when you’re not actually the one doing the work. Motivating someone might mean giving them bonuses, or a promotion. It might mean offering them opportunities for professional growth or even giving them a new challenge that will make them feel like they’re growing as a person.

There is no such thing as a perfect motivational technique that will work on everyone. What works on one person might not work on another. In fact, it would be quite difficult to find a single technique that will work for an entire group of people. So what’s the solution?