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Motivation Case Study

Pages:4 (1230 words)


Subject:Personal Issues


Document Type:Case Study


Problem with Extrinsic Motivation and How Maslow's Theory Can Help


Tesla has been identified as a company that struggles with employee motivation under CEO Elon Musk, who has attempted to push his employees to outperform in order to meet production targets (James, 2019). Rather than using intrinsic motivation to compel employees to self-actualize and reach their fullest and maximum levels of potential, Musk uses extrinsic motivation—which only takes one so far before the trade-off between excessive labor and long hours fails to seem worth it to employees (James, 2019). As Gerhart and Fang (2015) explain, pay, benefits and bonuses are extrinsic motivators that companies use to push employees to meet targets. However, at some point employees will conduct a cost-benefit analysis of their own and determine whether the additional labor and longer hours are worth the extra benefits or bonuses. The reliance by the company upon extrinsic motivators hits a wall. The solution to this problem is to promote intrinsic motivation, which is where the employee is motivated by a desire to succeed, to do a job as well as it possibly can be done, and by an internal drive within himself that aims to improve at every opportunity (Youssef-Morgan & Noon, 2017). Those who are intrinsically motivated want to do something because they feel the work is its own reward and they genuinely enjoy doing it. However, when too much pressure and unrealistic expectations are put on employees who have not reached that level of self-actualization, production begins to break down. This paper will show why the solution to Tesla’s motivation problems is to provide a better basis for the development of employees’ self-actualization so that they can be intrinsically motivated to help the company succeed.


In recent years, Tesla has struggled to meet production targets, which Musk set to share shareholders that the company was indeed growing and able to scale. The production targets were lofty and after years of coming up short, Musk began to put immense pressure on employees, calling for round the clock production, planned bathroom breaks, and even production in an outdoors tent, hastily constructed so as to keep the production line moving. Employees complained of horrific working conditions that led to workplace accidents, people using the bathroom right on the floor, and shoddy production practices leading to inferior products (Wong, 2018).

Musk himself is intrinsically motivated,…

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culture needed to help employees become self-motivated, as James (2019) recommends.


Possible solutions that James (2019) points out would be “1) ceding employees maximum control over their work assignments and  2) creating support systems, like in-house day-care, that will allow employees the freedom required to become intrinsically motivated.” Freedom to work as they know how to work would help to create a happier, more peaceful environment where employees feel trusted, confident and motivated to do the jobs they were hired to do. They will be more likely to reach a state of self-actualization if their esteem levels are high, according to Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs and theory of human motivation.


Since Tesla is currently facing a motivation challenge stemming from a lack of intrinsic motivation among workers, the company could benefit from the application of Maslow’s theory of human motivation, which focuses on making sure employees have basic needs met first—such as support for families and esteem—and then they will be more likely to be able to push themselves to accomplish great goals. The idea is that humans can be self-actualizing, and all it takes is for the lower level needs in the hierarchy…

Sample Source(s) Used


Automotive News. (2019). Tesla burning through execs like cash. Retrieved from

Gerhart, B., & Fang, M. (2015). Pay, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, performance, and creativity in the workplace: Revisiting long-held beliefs. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 2, 489-521

James, G. (2019). Elon Musk Ain't All that Great at Motivating Employees. Retrieved from

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370.

Wong, C. (2018). Tesla workers say they pay the price for Elon Musk's big promises. Retrieved from

Youssef-Morgan, C. & Noon, A. (2017). Industrial/Organizational psychology (2nd ed.). Retrieved from " target="_blank" rel="NOFOLLOW">  

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