Importance Of Motivation In The Workplace Business Essay

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Motivation in the workplace is one of the most important aspects within an organization. The following study defines motivation and analyzes needs and drives which is the starting point of motivation. It also analyzes five major approaches that have led to our understanding of motivation and those are; Maslow’s need – hierarchy theory, Herzberg’s two factor theory, Vroom’s expectancy theory, Adam’s equity theory and Skinner’s reinforcement theory. The following paper also outlines the role of motivation and how important is for an organization to have motivated employees. Furthermore, this study addresses several motivating factors responsible for employee motivation. In doing so, this paper intends to analyze of what employee motivation is and also to clarify the importance of motivated employees in our rapidly changing workplaces.


In the past, employees were considered just another input into the production of goods and services. What may changed this way of thinking about employees was research, known to as the Hawthorne Studies, conducted by Elton Mayo from 1924 to 1932. This study found out that employees are not motivated only by money and employee behaviour is linked to their attitudes. The Hawthorn Studies were the starting point of the Human Relations approach to management, whereby the needs and motivation of employees become the primary function off all functions managers perform. ( Wikipedia).

A motivated workforce is an important aspect of an organization’s successfulness and competitiveness therefore this issue is underlined on the minds of corporate leaders. However, in recent years an engaged workforce has become more challenging for three reasons. First, several changes such as globalization, information technology etc, have altered the employment relationship. Second, the reduction of the numbers of supervisors in the organizations in order to reduce their cost resulted a bigger number of employee supervision for each supervisor and the last can’t keep a watchful eye out of laggards. The third factor is that the new generation brought different expectations to the workplace than the past generations as McShane and Von Glinow (2008: 134) state.

Furthermore, when people join an organization, they bring with them certain needs that affect job performance. Some of these needs are psychological and others are bind to psychological and social values. The last are much more difficult to identify and satisfy and they vary from one person to another. This study begins with the definition of motivation and continues by analyzing the core motivation theories in organizational settings.

Motivation defined

Motivation can be defined in a number of ways. For this paper, motivation is operationally defined as the forces within a person that affect the direction, intensity, and persistence of voluntary behaviour. Motivated employees are disposed to exert a particular level of effort (intensity) for a certain period of time (persistence) toward a particular goal, as McShane and Von Glinow state (2008: 134).

Further, motivation can be separated in to three concepts: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and self control which is also known as self motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from rewards inherent to a task or activity it self, for example the enjoyment of a puzzle or even the love of playing. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the performer. For example in sports the crowd may cheer the performer on and this motivates him or her to do well. Also for the employees of an organization, money is the most obvious example but also coercion and threat of punishment are also common extrinsic motivations. The self control motivation is increasingly understood as a subset of emotional intelligence. In other words, a person may be highly intelligent according to a more conservative definition, yet unmotivated to use this intelligence to certain tasks. Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory, which is going to be analyzed in this paper, provides an account of when people decide whether to exert self control to pursue a certain goal.

McShane and Von Gilnow (2008: 135) state that motivation starts with individual needs and their underlying drives. Needs can be described as deficiencies that activate or trigger behaviours to satisfy those needs. The stronger your needs are, the more motivated you are to fulfil them. Contrariwise, a satisfied need doesn’t motivate. Drives can be defined as the instinctive or innate tendencies to seek specific goals or maintain internal stability. Every human being has the same drives and they most likely exist to support the species survive. Needs are created by drives, but they may also be strengthened through knowledge and social forces such as culture and childhood upbringing.

Last but not least, motivation is essential to be successful in any endeavour you undertake. It can be positive or negative, subtle or obvious, tangible or intangible. It is crucial in organizations as it plays a vital role in the effective performance of employees. Also motivation in recent years has become more challenging due to the fact of an increasingly turbulent environment in the workplace, the endistancement of direct supervision as a motivational instrument, and the confusion or even better the luck of understanding about what motivates the youth entering the workforce.

Motivation theories

4.1 Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy Theory

In 1943, Dr. Abraham Maslow, at his article: “A Theory of Human Motivation ” and with further expansion at his book: ” Toward a Psychology of Being”, he attempted to formulate a needs based framework of human motivation and based upon his clinical experiences upon human. His motivation theory remains valid until today for understanding human motivation, management training, and personal development. Abraham Maslow’s book “Motivation and Personality”, published in 1954, formally introduced The Hierarchy of Needs. (

According to Maslow’s theory of motivation, there are five levels of human needs, which employees need to have fulfilled at work. Those needs are structured into a hierarchy and that lower level need had to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees. For example, an employee how has no money to buy food, she or he will be motivated to achieve a basic wage in order to buy food before worrying if she or he is having a secure job.

As per his theory those needs are:

i) Physiological needs: These are important needs for sustaining the human life. Food, water, air, sleep, shelter, warmth, medicine, education, etc, are the basic physiological needs which are included in the primary list of need satisfaction. Maslow argued that until these needs were satisfied to a degree to maintain life, no other motivating factors can operate.

ii) Safety needs: Once physiological needs are fulfilled, one’s attention turns to safety and security in order to be free from the threat of a physical or emotional harm. Such needs might be satisfied by living in a safe area, job security, financial reserves, medical insurance, etc. According to Maslow’s beliefs, if a person feels that he or she is in danger of getting harmed, higher needs will not be emerged.

iii) Social needs: Once a human being has satisfied the lower level physiological and safety needs, higher level needs become significant, the first of which are social needs. Social needs are those related to interaction with other people and may include both giving and receiving love and affection, the sense of belonging, the need for friends, etc.

iv) Esteem needs: Once the first three classes of needs satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. Esteem needs may be classified as internal or external. Internal esteem needs are those related to self esteem such as achievement and self respect. External esteem needs include needs such as recognition and social status. When these needs are satisfied the person feels self confident and valuable as a human being in the world.

v) Self Actualization needs: When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied then the needs of self actualization are emerged. Self Actualization is the summit of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Unlike lower level needs, this need cannot be ever fully satisfied. Maslow describes Self Actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which a person was born to do. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, etc. Self Actualized people tend to have needs such as truth, wisdom, justice, meaning. Maslow argues that only a very small percentage of human beings reach this level.

Therefore, it is important that leadership in organizations should offer different incentives to employees in order to help them satisfy each need in turn and progress up the hierarchy. However, not all human beings are driven by the same needs. It is important to understand and clarify the needs that each employee wants to fulfil. To motivate an employee, the manager must recognize the needs stage at which an employee is operating and use those needs as levers of motivation.

4.2 Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

To better comprehend employee attitudes and motivation, Frederic Herzberg performed studies to assess which factors in an employee’s workplace caused satisfaction and dissatisfaction. He published his findings in the 1959 book “The Motivation to Work”.( Wikipedia)

Herzberg’s studies included interviews of 200 accountants and engineers in the USA in which employees where asked what satisfied and what dissatisfied them about their work. Herzberg’s findings were that the factors causing job satisfaction were different from those causing job dissatisfaction. He developed the Motivation Hygiene Theory to explain these results. He named the satisfiers motivators and the disenchanted hygiene factors, using the term hygiene with the meaning that they considered maintenance factors that are needful to avoid dissatisfaction but at themselves do not provide satisfaction.

Essentially Hygiene factors are needed to ensure an employee does not become dissatisfied. They don’t lead to higher levels of motivation but without these factors there is dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors include:

Company policy and administration

Wages, salaries and other financial remuneration

Quality of supervision

Quality of interpersonal relationships

Working conditions

Feelings of job security

Motivator factors are based on an individual’s need for personal growth. When they occur, motivator factors actively create job satisfaction. If they are effective they motivate an employee into higher performance.

Motivator factors include:


Opportunity for advancement

Gaining recognition


Challenging / stimulating work

Sense of a personal achievement and personal growth in a job

According to Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory, leadership in organizations must provide both hygiene factors to avoid employee dissatisfaction and factors intrinsic to the work itself in order for employees to be pleased with their work. (wikipedia)

Herzberg stated that job enrichment is required for intrinsic motivation, and that it is a continuous management process. According to Herzberg:

4 The job should have significant challenge to utilize the full capability of the employee.

5 Employees who show increasing levels of ableness should be given increasing levels of responsibility.

6 If a job cannot be designed in such way in order to use an employee’s full ability, then the organization should consider automating the task or replacing the employee with one who has lower level abilities. If an employee cannot be fully utilized then there will be a motivation problem.

4.3 Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

Whereas Maslow and Herzberg mainly explain the relationship between internal needs and the resulting effort expended to fulfil them, Vroom separates effort which arises from motivation, performance and outcomes. Vroom’s expectancy theory is based on the idea that work effort is leaded toward behaviors that people believe will lead to desire outcomes. Through experience, we develop expectations about whether we can accomplish several levels of job performance. We also develop expectations about whether job performance and work behaviors direct to severally outcomes. Finally, by nature we direct our effort toward outcomes that support as satisfy our needs. ( McShane and Von Glinow, 2008: 143)

Victor H. Vroom introduces three variables at his theory which they are Valence (V), Expectancy (E) and Instrumentality (I). The three variables are significant behind choosing one element over another because they are clearly defined: effort performance expectancy (E>P expectancy), performance outcome expectancy (P>O expectancy). E>P expectancy means our assessment of the probability our efforts will direct to the required outcome. P>O expectancy means that our assessment of the probability our successful performance will direct to assured outcomes. (wikipedia).

Vroom’s Expectancy theory is based on three concepts:

Valence which is the expected satisfaction or dissatisfaction that a person feels toward an outcome. Management must find out what employees value.

Expectancy means that employees have different expectations and levels of dependence about what they are able to do. Leadership must discover what resources, training or supervision employees needed.

Instrumentality refers to the perception of employees as to whether they will finally receive what they wish even if it has been promised by a manager. Management must make sure that promises of rewards are fulfilled and that employees are aware of that. (Hew Richards,

As McShane and Von Glinow (2008: 146) state, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory remains, until present, among the better for motivation and predicting work effort. It has been applied to a wide variety of studies and research shows that this theory can predict employee motivation in different cultures.

4.4 Adam’s Equity Theory

Equity Theory developed in 1963 by John Stacey Adams, and like other motivational theories, Adam’s Equity theory acknowledges that subtle and variable factors influence an employee’s assessment and cognizance of their relationship with their work and their employer. In other words, Adam’s equity theory proposes that employees strive for equity among themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs.

Inputs may include:




Hard work








Personal sacrifice

Trust in superiors

Support from co workers and colleagues

Outcomes include any of the following:

Job security



Employee benefit


Sense of advancement/growth




Sense of achievement



While many of the points mentioned above cannot be quantified and perfectly compared, Adam’s theory states that management should seek to find a fair balance between the inputs an employee gives, and the outputs received. Furthermore employees should be content where they perceive these to be in balance.

4.5 Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory

Reinforcement Theory developed by B.F Skinner and his theory states that those employees’ behaviors that direct to positive outcomes will be repeated and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated. Skinner’s theory is based upon the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behaviour. Skinner also stated that reinforcers are defined by a change in response strength, and that which is a reinforcer to one person might not be the same to another. (wikipedia) Therefore, according to this theory, managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that direct to positive outcomes. Also management should negatively reinforce employee behaviour that leads to negative outcomes.

Types of reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement: This is an increase in the future frequency of behaviour because of the addition of a stimulus directly following a response.

Negative reinforcement: is an augment in the future frequency of behaviour when the consequence is the removal of an abhorrence stimulus.

The Role of Motivation

Why do we need motivated employees? The answer is survival. Every person has different reasons for working. Some people work for personal fulfilment while others work for love of what they do or to accomplish goals and to feel as if they are contributing in something larger than themselves. Therefore, the reasons for working are as individual as the person. But we all work because we obtain something that we need from work, and that thing obtained from work impacts morale, employee motivation and quality of life.

Therefore managers need to understand what motivates employees within the framework of the roles they perform because motivated employees are significant in our swiftly changing work environment. Motivated employees help organizations survive, be productive and more competitive. Also employees in any organizations need something to keep them working and that thing is motivation. If there isn’t any motivation in employees, then these employees’s quality of work will demoted.

Of all the tasks a manager performs, employee motivation is the most complex. But keeping an employee working at full faculty is the paramount goal of employee motivation and therefore the ultimate goal of organizations too because employees are the greatest asset and no matter how efficient a technology or the equipment of organizations may be, it is no match for the effectiveness and efficiency of their employees. (wikipedia)

Motivating Factors

There are several factors leading to employee’s motivation and ten of these factors are mentioned below:

Job security

Sympathetic help with personal problems

Personal loyalty to employees

Interesting work

Good working conditions

Tactful discipline

Good wages

Promotion and growth in the organization

Feeling of being in on things

Full appreciation of work done


Motivating employees is one of the most important tasks that managers perform within their organizations, as work motivation plays an important role for the company’s success. As McShane and Von Glinow state, motivation is one of the four cardinal drivers of individual behaviour and efficiency, and therefore is an integral component of employee engagement. An engaged workforce is a significant predictor of a company’s competitiveness, consequently, it’s easy to understand why employee motivation is constantly the focal point of corporate leaders.

In this paper they have been mentioned, a definition of motivation and some of the most important theories of motivation such as Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy Theory, Adam’s Equity Theory, and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. Hereupon, it has been an allusion to the role of motivation and to several factors that lead to employee motivation. Without dispute employee motivation has plenty of positive effects on organizations, therefore managers need to understand the importance and effects of motivation by identifying key factors that determine the rate of motivation in their employees.

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