Weekly Video Highlight

The Three Types of Effectance


When it comes to motivation, there are all kinds of advice on how to do it, and a lot of people willing to give you their brand of motivational wisdom.

“Effectance Motivation” is a relatively newer theory. It’s based on the premise that there’s a fundamental, underlying force that’s linked to job satisfaction, job enrichment, and individual motivation.

The effectance theory was first discussed by Robert White, a psychologist at Harvard. He suggested that, once basic physical needs are satisfied, there’s a drive to have an effect on your environment, through your own efforts.

Think about one of life’s biggest frustrations. Have you ever heard someone say things like “my life is not my own,” “my boss micromanages me,” “I don’t have time for myself,” or “I am a slave of everything in my life”? This is a very common situation for many. People feel that they’re just not having an effect on their lives.

Further investigation into effectance motivation revealed that people’s environment could be divided into three different categories: Others, Objects or Nature and Yourself.

By understanding how people view these three factors, you can motivate your employees, create better job environments and drive higher performance. Let’s take a look at each of these categories and understand what they mean:

People Effectance

When the real world is pushing you around, you always have the option to have an effect on other people. When you interact with others, whether you are talking to them, coaching them, or listening to them and providing feedback, you have an effect on them.

Relationships tend to have an effect on people. By making someone laugh or helping them solve a problem, you can have a big effect on their mood. Never underestimate the power of relationships.

Object Effectance

When the people thing is not working out, you can always have an effect on things. This refers to our ability to create, build, repair or even destroy things. At work, you can repair something that doesn’t work, you can create a beautiful newsletter layout or design a stunning promotional piece, you can clean up your cubicle or you can manufacture something.

At home, you can paint a room, rearrange your furniture, cook a wonderful 4-course meal, organize a closet or replant your flowers. Even though it sounds like simple and meaningless work, the effectance theory suggests that people can be motivated to participate in a given activity just for the joy of it, and feel better about themselves.

Self Effectance

This is the major motivation behind all the self-help and motivational development programs. When it seems like you are not in control of anything in your life, when it feels like there is nothing you can do to have an effect on anything, you can always affect yourself.

You can affect your appearance by getting a new haircut or hair color, or getting a new outfit. You can affect your lifestyle by improving your eating habits, working out or quit smoking. You can affect your knowledge by reading a book, watching a documentary or taking a class. You can affect your skills by learning a new sport or hobby.

When you really think about it, there are many ways to affect yourself. Once you understand the three types of effectance, there are lots of applications at work.

Enjoy a 1-minute preview of “The Three Types of Effectance” below:

The Three Types of Effectance

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Krista researches, analyzes, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at the industry shifts and trends that matter to L&D and HR professionals, and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.