Motivation In The Workplace Essay

Length: 20 pages Sources: 20 Subject: Leadership Type: Essay Paper: #88271910 Related Topics: Theory X And Theory Y, Employee Motivation, Abraham Maslow, Albert Einstein
Excerpt from Essay :

Workplace Motivation

This paper investigates the issue of motivation as it applies to an organizational setting.

The research regarding motivation in the workplace has been a major area of investigation that is of interest to corporate leaders, managers, organizational psychologists, and educators. The issue that this paper will discuss has to do with the particular factors that managers and leaders can address to increase the motivation of their workers to perform as well as to increase the job satisfaction levels of their employees. However, motivation is only one issue regarding increased productivity or increased job satisfaction; we would certainly think that at a basic level an employee would need a certain level of motivation to perform as well as the ability to actually do the job (as it turns out the research is consistent with this type of common-sense thinking). However, the actual types of interventions/activities that can be used to motivate employees have been subject to debate and the empirical research indicates that there are certain approaches that are more effective in motivating employees than others. It is this classical research on motivation that this paper will review; however, before discussing the classic theories of employee motivation is important to understand exactly what the term motivation implies and to identify two important designations regarding motivation.

What is Motivation?

Motivation has traditionally been viewed as the "why" force that drives the behavior of organisms/individuals/groups (Weiner 2013). Fundamentally, motivation is an internal construct or state of mind resulting from internal and external factors that influence a person to achieve some goal (Weiner 2013). As an internal factor that moves behavior, motivation is a concept that is dependent on the interaction between conscious and unconscious processes in the mind of the individual. These factors include the intensity of the need or desire for the person to reach a goal, the value or incentive value of the goal to the person, and the expectations that the person has regarding their ability to reach the goal (Richard and Deci 2000; Weiner 2013). There have been many different theories proposed to describe how people become motivated or what the specific motivating factors that drive people's behaviors are beginning before Sigmund Freud's time (who proposed that instinctual drives were motivating) to more modern theorists who divided up motivators based on their tangibility (concrete rewards vs. internal cognitive/affective states; Hall, Lindzey, and Campbell, 1998) One distinction that repeatedly surfaces in theories regarding motivation is the notion that motivation consists of intrinsic and extrinsic factors (Richard and Deci 2000).

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

The intrinsic factors of motivation are related to factors that are internal to the person, such as a fear of failure, a need to excel, or a strong desire to be acknowledged for one's accomplishments (Richard and Deci 2000). These factors will vary in both intensity and importance from individual to individual and represent a challenge to leaders who need to identify which factors are important in the individuals that wish to motivate and then how to stimulate them. Typically the potential of intrinsic factors to produce motivation is related to the individual's locus of control (especially for a person with a higher internal locus of control regarding the situation; Rotter 1966), the person's levels of self-efficacy regarding their ability to perform a task, and their interest in the task (Lunenburg 2013).

Extrinsic factors are those that are external or outside of the individual such as salary, benefits, vacation time, trophies, and so forth. While external factors are undoubtedly influenced by the internal factors of motivation these factors are much more tangible and easier for a manager to influence in order to attempt to produce the desired effect; however, the motivating power of external factors also will vary from person to person and from situation to situation. There has been some research to indicate that the overuse of extrinsic motivators might lead to an overjustification affect and a reduction in intrinsic motivation, whereas other research has found the opposite effect (see Gneezy and Rustichini 2000; Kohn 1993).

Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors can be used by leaders to increase the motivation and workers; however, the effectiveness of either factor regarding its ability to increase motivation depends on the particular work environment, situation, needs of the employee, and other factors that need to be considered (Richard and Deci 2000). Researchers have attempted to identify how these factors motivate people to perform a job, increase job satisfaction, resulted in higher output by workers, etc. Some of the theorists have developed their models based on empirical evidence, whereas others have used a more philosophical approach. Several of the more "classic" theories will be discussed in the following section. Most of the following theories of motivation can be viewed in the light of the notion of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.


The extrinsic/intrinsic motivation distinction is often an integral part of these models that may or may not be specified. Perhaps the seminal theory of human motivation that can be applied across different contexts including the workplace comes from psychologist Abraham Maslow.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow (1943) originally described his hierarchy of needs theory as a sort of alternative view to the Freudian notions of motivation that dominated psychology at that time. Freudian thought conceptualized motivation in the form of physical drives, especially drives regarding procreation and later a drive to return to one's origins (eros and thanos; Hall, Lindzey, and Campbell 1998). Maslow disagreed with the classical Freudian notion that the major impetus of human behavior had to do with sexual impulses or impulses to control anxiety and believed that other factors motivated behavior. He developed his overall theory of needs by studying people whom he believed to be exemplary such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein as well as what he considered the healthiest proportion of college students he was exposed to (Maslow 1943).

Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory parallels many of the other theoretical conceptualizations regarding human development and developmental psychology of his time; however, his terminology and ideas have endured and were the foundation for the formulation of the "third force" or humanistic paradigm in psychology (Hall, Lindzey, and Campbell 1998). His hierarchy of needs remains a very popular topic in management training and psychological/sociological research. The needs from most basic to more advanced are as follows (Maslow 1943; 1954; Hall, Lindzey, and Campbell 1998):

1. The physiological needs. These needs represent physical requirements for survival. If these needs are not met the person will fail and of course eventually die. So basic needs like food, water, clothing, shelter, etc. must be met in order for the organism to survive. If these are not adequately satisfied the organism will not experience significant motivation to fulfill other needs.

2. Safety needs. When physical needs are adequately satisfied safety needs will tend to be the primary motivation and behavior. Such things as personal safety, family safety, economic safety, financial security, wellness and relative good health, etc. would fall under this category. In the absence of safety needs such as financial or economic safety workers will be more motivated to seek job security, standardized minimal wages, disability accommodations and so forth. Thus it is that this level where pay raises, health benefits, etc. may have their peak motivating power; however, even if this need is relatively satisfied workers could be motivated by better pay and benefits.

3. Belongingness needs. After the above two needs, which are primarily extrinsic, are relatively fulfill interpersonal needs and feelings of belongingness become extremely motivating, although in many cases this need can override the need for safety as witnessed to individuals who continue to maintain abusive relationships. Here such motivating factors as friendship, family, intimacy (love), feeling as if one is part of a group, etc. are primary motivating factors. However it is important to understand that the need for belongingness can be very powerful and can dominate physiological and security needs depending on the situation.

4. Esteem needs. People have been inherent desire to feel respected or acknowledged and this desire becomes the primary motivating factor once the above three factors are relatively satisfied. These needs give the person a sense of recognition and pride in their achievements and accomplishments; however, Maslow believed that these needs will not be as strong in people that are starving, insecure, or have no sense of belongingness. There are two levels of esteem needs. Lower esteem needs are concerned with respect from others in need for status, recognition, prestige, etc., whereas higher esteem needs are concerned with the need for self -- respect.

5. Self-actualization. At this level in person desires to become everything that they can become, to fulfill their potential. This became the highest level of needs and Maslow's hierarchy and he felt that very few people reach this point. At…

Sources Used in Documents:


Argyris, C. 1993, Knowledge for action: a guide to overcoming barriers to organizational change, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Chien, J.C. 2013,'Examining Herzberg's Two Factor Theory in a large Chinese chemical fiber company' World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, vol. 78, no. 248, pp.1433-1438.

Gneezy, U. And Rustichini, A. 2000, 'Pay enough or don't pay at all', Quarterly Journal of Economics vol. 115, no. 3, pp. 791-810.

Hackman, J.R. And Oldham, G.R. 1980, Work redesign. Pearson Education Inc., Upper Saddle River, N.J.

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