I have been under-managed for my entire career, starting with my college thesis, moving onto a succession of jobs, and in grad school. This is generally ok - I don't feel the need for a lot of hand-holding and am generally content to do my own thing.
However, even though I don't need a great deal of external motivation, it would still be nice to get some positive feedback every once in a while.
When I was working on the project from hell, I had an unhappy client rep on-site non-stop, we were doing some experimental stuff that had all sorts of time and budget constraints (always a bad combination) and so nobody knew what they were doing, and I was trying to manage about six "difficult" people. By manage, I really mean "keep from killing each other". After each 13-hour day, I would spend 45 minutes on the phone with my boss and get lectured on how we were hemorrhaging money and how was I going to get the project (which I had no initial input into) back on track.
Toward the end of the job, we'd had a big "oopsie" and I had to physically get between the client rep and someone else to redirect them away from screaming at each other and toward fixing the problem. A technical expert who was outside the lines of authority pulled me aside and told me that he was impressed by my ability to handle the different personalities and keep an impossible project going forward.
That was the only positive thing anyone told me. It made me indescribably happy that someone with no stake in the game thought I had done well, and it almost made up for all the bullshit I'd been through.
It made me think - when had I last told someone at work that they had done a good job? Said more than, "thanks!" and then gone on with my day? From then on, I resolved to make an effort to notice when coworkers go above and beyond, and then compliment them.