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Definition Of Motivation Business Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 5375 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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One of the oldest, and most difficult, areas in psychology is the fundamental problem of why people are motivated to do anything at all, and if they do something, why that and not something else. The issue is really two fold; the nature of the driving force (where it comes from: what are its properties) and the direction and maintenance of the drive (what affects does it have on individual behavior).

For Westwood (1992:288), motivation, as a concept, has certain specific features:

Motivation is an internal state experienced by the individual. Whilst external factors including other people, can affect a person’s motivational state, it develops within the individual and is unique to that individual.

The individual experiences a motivational state in a way that gives rise to a desire, intention and pressure to act.

Motivation has an element of choice, intention or willingness. That is, the individual experiencing a state of arousal (externally or internally generated), responds by choosing to act in a way and at a level of intensity that they determine.

Action and performance are a function, at least in part, of motivation. It is therefore important in our ability to predict and understand actions and performance.

Motivation is multi-faceted. It is a complex process with several elements and the possibility of multiple determinants, options and outcomes.

Individuals differ in terms of their motivational state and the factors that affect it.

Furthermore, the motivational state of an individual is variable; it is different across time and across situations.

(John Arnold et al, 1995)

There are two types of motivation as originally identified by Hertzberg et al (1957):

Intrinsic motivation-The self generated factors that influence people to behave in a particular direction. These factors include responsibility, autonomy (freedom to act), scope to use and develop skills and abilities, interesting and challenging work and opportunities for advancement.

Extrinsic motivation-what is done to or for people to motivate them. This includes rewards, such as increased pay, praise, or promotion, and punishments, such as disciplinary action, withholding pay, or criticisms.

2.2 The process of motivation

Motivating other people is about getting them to move in the direction you want them to go in order to achieve a result. Motivating yourself is about setting the direction independently and then taking a course of action, which will ensure that you get there. Motivation can be described as goal -directed behavior. People are motivated when they expect that a course of action is likely to lead to the attainment of a goal and a valued reward-one that satisfies their needs. But managers still have a major part to play in using their motivating skills to get people to give of their best, and to make good use of motivational processes provided by the organization. To do this it is necessary to understand the process of motivation-how it works and the different types of motivations that exist. A need -related model of the process of motivation is shown in the figure below. This suggests that motivation is initiated by the conscious or unconscious recognition of unsatisfied needs. These needs create wants, which are desires to achieve or obtain something. Goals are then established which is believed will satisfy these needs and wants and a behaviour pathway is selected which is expected will achieve the goal. If the goal is achieved, the need will be satisfied and the behaviour is likely to be repeated, the next time a similar need emerges. If the goal is not achieved, the action is less likely to be repeated. This process of repeating successful behaviour or actions is called reinforcement or the law of effect (Hull, 1951). It has, however, been criticized by Allport (1954) as ignoring the influence of expectations and therefore constituting ‘hedonism of the past’. (Michael Armstrong, 2001: 155).

Attain Goal


Take Action

Establish Goal

Figure2.1: The motivation process

(Source: Michael Armstrong, 2001:155).

2.3 Approaches to motivation

2.3.1 Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas Mc Gregor proposed two distinct views of human beings: one basically negative, labeled theory X, and the other basically positive, labeled theory Y.

Under Theory X, the 4 assumptions held by managers are:

Employees inherently dislike work, whenever possible, will attempt to avoid it.

Since employees dislike work, they must be coerced, controlled, or threatened with punishment to achieve goals.

Employees will avoid responsibilities and seek formal direction whenever possible.

Most workers place security above all other factors associated with work and display little ambitions.

In contrast to these negative views the nature of human being, Mc Gregor listed 4 positive assumptions that he called Theory Y:

Employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play.

People will exercise self-direction and self-control if they are committed to the objectives.

The average person can learn to accept, even seek responsibility.

The ability to make innovative decision is widely dispersed throughout the population and is not necessarily the sole province of those in management position.

Mc Gregor himself held to the being that Theory Y assumptions were more valid than Theory X. Therefore, he proposed such idea as participate in decision making, responsible and challenging jobs, and good go up relation as approaches that would maximize an employee’s job motivation.

Critics of the theory: Unfortunately, there is no evidence to confirm that either set of assumptions is valid or that accepting theory y assumptions and altering one’s acknowledgment will lead to more motivated workers.

(Stephen P. Robins, 1993: 208)

2. 3.2 Human Relation Approach

The main emphasis of the classical approach was on structure and the formal organization as the basic for achieving high levels of work performance. But during the 1920’s greater attention began to be given to the social factors at work and to the behaviour of people in the organization that is human relations. The major impetus to the human relations approach came with the famous Hawthorne studies at the Western Electric company in America (1924 – 1932).

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The Hawthorne Studies have been subject to criticize and to a number of different interpretation. But however, the results are regarded; the studies have important implications for organizational structures. They generated new ideas on social interaction, output restrictions and individuals within work groups. The human relations approach marked a change in emphasis away from the precision of scientific management and led to ideas on increasing productivity by humanizing the work organization with the human relations approach, recognition was given to the importance of the informal organization which will always be seen as individuals and members of a social group, with their behaviour and attitude as the key effectiveness. (Laurie J. Mullins, 1992:59)

2.3.3 Scientific Management Approach

The scientific management movement was pioneered by the American, Frederic W. Taylor. He saw workers who do manual work to be motivated by money, the ‘greedy robot’, and to be too stupid to develop the ‘one best way’ of doing the task. The role of management was to analyze scientifically all the tasks to be done and then to design jobs to eliminate wasted time and motion.

The application of scientific management resulted in significant productivity increases. However, the emphasis on specialization was to become one of the targets of critics of scientific management. They argued, that specialization was ultimately inefficient but, more importantly; it did not allow people to achieve their full potential at work. (Henry L. Tosi et al, 1994:9)

Scientific management is often referred to as a machine theory model. It adopts an instrumental view of human behaviour together with the application of specialization and standard procedures of work. Workers were viewed less as isolated individuals and more as units of production to handle in much the same way as machines. The scientific study of work can lead to jobs becoming repetitive, boring and requiring little skills. The ideas behind scientific management have been largely discredited by subsequent management writers. There has been strong criticism of scientific as representing close management control over workers. By removing decisions about their work is cairned out, by division of labour, and by dictating precise stages and methods for every aspect of work performance, management could gain control of the actual process of work. The rationalization of production processes and division of labour tends to result in de-skilling of work, and thus may be a main strategy of management. (Laurie J. Mullins, 1992:56)

2.4 The motivation theories

2.4.1 Content theory Maslow theory

Without doubt the best-known theory is of Maslow (1954). Maslow supposed that people have 5 types of needs that are activated in a hierarchical manner, and are then aroused in a specific order such that a lower order need must be satisfied before the next higher order- need is activated. Once need is met, the next highest need is the hierarchy is triggered and and so forth.

Higher Order

order of progression

Self-actualisation needs

Self-esteem needs

Social needs

Safety needs

Psychological needs

Lower Order

Figure2.2: Maslow’s need hierarchy

Source: A.H.Maslow, Motivation and Personality, 2nd edition,

New York: Harper & Row, 1976)

Psychological needs

Psychological needs are the lowest-order most basic needs and refer to satisfying fundamental biological drives such as the need for food, air, water and shelter. To satisfy these positive needs, organizations must provide employees with a salary that allows them to afford adequate living conditions e.g. food and shelter. Employees need sufficient rest breaks to allow them to meet their psychological needs. Organizations may provide exercise and physical fitness facilities for their employees, because providing such facilities may also be recognized as an attempt to help employees stay healthy by gratifying their psychological needs.

Safety needs

Safety needs are activated only after physiological needs are met. Safety need refer to needs for a secure, predictable, habitable, non-threatening environment free from threats of either physical or psychological harm. Organizations may provide employees with life and health insurance plans, opportunity for savings, pensions, and safety equipment and secure contracts that enable work to be performed without fear and harm.

Social needs

Social needs are activated after both physiological and safety needs. They refer to the need to be affiliative-to have friends, to be liked, included and accepted by other people. Friends, relations and work colleagues help meet social needs, and organizations may encourage participation in social events such as office parties, sports days, competitions which provide an opportunity for meeting these needs. Many organizations spend vast sums of money on facilitate for out-of-work hours activities for their staff so that people in the same organization, but different sections or departments, may meet, chat and affiliate.

Esteem needs

Esteem needs refer to a person’s desire to develop self-respect and to gain the approval of others. The desires to achieve success have personal prestige and are recognized by others all fall into this category. Companies may have awards, prizes or banquets to recognize distinguished achievements. Printing articles in company newsletters describing an employee’s success, assigning private parking spaces, and posting signs identifying the “employee of the month” are all examples of things that can be done to satisfy esteem. The inflation of job titles could also be seen as an organizational attempt to boost employee’s self-esteem.

Self-actualizations needs

Self-actualization needs refer to the need for self-fulfillment-the desire to become all that one is capable of being, developing one’s potential and fully realizing one’s abilities. By working to their maximum creative potential, employees who are self-actualised can be an extremely valuable asset to their organizations. Individuals who have become self-actualised supposedly work at their peak, and represent the most effective use of an organization’s human resources.

Critics of the theory: The theory has enthusiascally applied to the world of work. However, few have been able to find evidence of the five-(or two-) their system (Mitchell &Nowdgill 1976), and there is precious little evidence that needs are activated in the same order. Furthermore, it is not certain how, when or why the gratification of one stimulates or activates the next highest category (John Arnold et al, 1995). Adelfer’s ERG theory

Growth needs

Existence needs

Relate dress needs

Least concrete Most concrete

Figure 2.3: Adelfer’s continuum of ERG needs.

(Paul M.Muchinsky, 1993)

Adelfer’s ERG theory is much simpler than Maslow’s theory, in that Adelfer specifies that there are only 3 types of needs, but that they are not necessarily activated in any specific order. Further, according to this theory any need may be activated at any time. The 3 needs specified by ERG theory are existence, relatedness, and growth.

Existence needs

These are material and are satisfied by environmental factors such as food, water, pay, fringe benefits, and working conditions.

Relatedness needs

These involve relationship with “significant others”, such as co-workers, superiors, subordinates, family and friends.

Growth needs

These involve the desire for unique personal development. They are met by developing whatever abilities and capabilities are important to the individual.

Critics of the theory: ERG theory suggests that, although basic categories of need do exist, they are not exactly as specified by Maslow. The theory has not attracted as much attention as Maslow theory, but seems a reasonable modification of it. However, like Maslow theory it is potentially rather difficult to test (Furnham, 1992). Hertzberg’s two-factor theory

According to the two factors theory, people have two major types of needs. The first of these Hertzberg called hygiene needs, which are influenced by the physical and psychological conditions in which people work. Hertzberg called the second set of needs motivator needs, and described them as being very similar to the higher order needs in Maslow’s (1954) need hierarchy theory.

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Hertzberg at al. (1959) claimed that different types of outcomes or rewards satisfied these two types of needs. Hygiene needs were said to be satisfied by hygiene factors or dissatisfiers, such as supervision, interpersonal relation, physical working conditions, salary, company policies and administrative practices, benefits and job security. When these factors are unfavorable, the job dissatisfaction is the result. Conversely, when hygiene factors are positive, such as when worker perceive that their pay is fair and that their working conditions are good, than barriers to job satisfaction are removed. However, the fulfillment of hygiene needs cannot by itself result in job satisfaction. Unlike hygiene needs, motivation needs are fulfilled by what Hertzberg et al. (1959) called motivator factors or satisfiers such as achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility and advancement.

According to the theory, the factors that lead to job satisfaction are those that satisfy an individual’s need for self-actualization (self-fulfillment) in their work, and it is only from the performance of their task that individuals can enjoy the reward that will reinforce their aspirations. Compared to hygiene factors, which results in a ‘neutral state’ (neither satisfied nor dissatisfied) when present, positive motivator factors result in job satisfaction.

Critics of the theory: Attractive though the theory is, it has little empirical support. There is no doubt attributable to the fact that various methodological errors were introduced in the early theory-testing work. These included the real possibility that all the results were the result of classic attribution errors, such that personal failure is attributed externally (to hygiene factors) and success internally (to motivator factors). Secondly, the theory testing work was nearly all done on white-collar workers (accountants and engineers) who are hardly representive of the working population. McClelland’s Achievement Motivation Theory

The need for achievement underlies the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and also one of Hertzberg’s motivating factors. The importance of achievement is emphasised by Mc Lellands, who has developed a theory of motivation which is noted in culture. The work of Mc Lelland is based on the concept of 3 main sets of needs and socially developed motives:

The need for Affiliation

The need for Power; and

The need for Achievement

People possess all 3 needs but the relative intensity of affiliation, power and achievement varies among individuals and different occupations. (Laurie J. Mullins, 1992: 206)

Those most interested in power seeks positions of control and influence, those for whom affiliation is most important seek pleasant relationship and enjoy helping others; achievement seekers want success, fear failure, are task oriented and self-reliant. These 3 needs are not mutually exclusive. Many people are well motivated by all 3, but invariably one area is predominant. The implication of the theory in practice are that managers can identify employees who are self-motivated, those who rely more on internal incentives and those who could increase their achievement drive through training. (Shaun Tyson et al, 2000: 15)

Critics of the theory: Mc Lelland’s theory implies an individualistic approach to the motivation of staff. The behaviour and performance of work group is as important as for individual motivation. (Laurie J. Mullins, 1992:207)

2.4.2 Process theories Equity theory

Equity theories, borrowed by psychologists from economics (Adams 1965), views motivation from the perspective of the comparisons people make among themselves. It proposes that employees are motivated to maintain fair, or ‘equitable”, relationships among themselves and to change those relationships that are unfair or “inequitable”. Equity theory suggests that people make social comparison between themselves and others with respect to two variables-outcomes (benefits, rewards) and inputs (effort, ability). Outcomes refer to the things workers believe they and others get out of their jobs, including pay, fringe benefits or prestige. Inputs refer to the contribution employees believe they and others make to their jobs, including the amount of time worked, the amount of effort expended, the number of units produced, or the qualifications brought to the job. Not surprisingly, therefore workers may disagree about constitutes equity and inequity in the job. Equity is therefore a subjective, not objective, experience, which makes it more susceptible to being influenced by personality factors (Furnham 1992:139).

Equity theory states that people compare their outcomes and inputs to those of others in the form of ratio. Specifically, they compare the ratio of their own outcomes and inputs to the ratio of other people’s outcomes and inputs, which can result in any of the 3 states: overpayment, underpayment, or equitable payment.

Implication for managers:

The management implications are two-fold: firstly that comparative pay and benefits between different groups, sections and levels in an organization, are a major source of motivation and demotivation; secondly, employees need to feel they are fairly dealt with -that they and their colleagues are rewarded equitably for their efforts.

Critics of the theory: As one might expect, equity theory has its problems: how to deal with the concept of negative inputs; the point at which equity becomes inequity, and the belief that people prefer and value equity equality. Moreover, the theory is too individualistic. (John Arnold et al, 1995). Reinforcement theory

These theories, for there are many, specify how a history of past benefits (or punishments), or reinforcements, modify behaviour so that future benefits will be secured. The direct application of behavioral modification principles to the work situation claims to provide procedures by which human performance can be shaped and altered. At the centre of behaviour modification is the concept of reinforcement contingency: the rate of performance will increase when valued outcomes (reinforcers) are made contingent on the performance. It makes no difference to the theory what the person needs, expects, values or wants, although these factors may impact on the differential power or effect of each reward (and punishment). Furthermore, people perform certain work-related acts that are subject to reinforcement (or punishment and extinction) contingencies. People work with a certain degree of effectiveness, and when a particular behavior result in a reward (there is reinforcement contingency between, say, payment and work efficiency), performance improves.

Learning theorists assert that all behaviour is shaped and sustained through the action of contingent reinforcement; work-related behaviours are simply special examples of this more universal phenomenon. (Furnham, 1992).

Reinforcement and learning theories are among the oldest in psychology. There has long been a debate concerning the usefulness or otherwise of punishment as a strategy. Problems such as resentment and sabotage may accompany a manager’s use of punishment (negative reinforcement) is usually not effective, since it suppresses rather than eliminate undesirable responses. They also noted the more quickly reinforcement is given after the response, the more effective it becomes.

Implication for managers:

Jablonsky and De Vries (1972) have suggested the following guidelines for applying operant conditioning as a motivating technique:

Avoid using punishment as a primary means of obtaining desired performance

Positively reinforce desired behaviour and ignore undesired behaviour if possible.

Minimize the time-lag between response and reinforcement

Apply positive reinforcement frequently on a variable ratio schedule

Determine environmental factors that are considered positive and negative by individual

Critics of the theory: Being very practically oriented, it is very unclear what managers should do to motivate their staff if they are followers of learning theory. Sensitively, subtly and discretely applied, it works well, but sophisticated workforce is sometimes hostile to it. (John Arnold et al, 1995). Expectancy theory

Expectancy theory asserts that people are mostly motivated to work when they expect they will be able to achieve and obtain the things they want from their jobs. Expectancy theory characterizes people as rational, logical and cognitive beings, who think about what they have to do to be rewarded and how much the reward means to them before they perform their jobs. Expectancy theory specifies that motivation is the result of 3 different types of beliefs cognitions that people have. These are known as:


The belief that one’s effort will result in performance


The belief that one’s performance will be rewarded


The perceived value of the rewards to the recipient

Employee may believe that a great deal of efforts will result in getting much accomplished, whereas others believe there are other occasions in which hard work will have little effects on how much gets done. It is possible that even if an employee works hard and performs at a high level, motivation may falter if that performance is not suitably rewarded by the organization-that is if the performance was not perceived as instrumental in bringing about the rewards. If behaviour is not explicitly rewarded, people are unlikely to repeat it. Furthermore, even if employees receive rewards based on their performance, they may be poorly motivated if those so-called “rewards” have a low valence to them.

Porter and Lawler

Over the years, Porter and Lawler (1968) adapted and expanded the theory. According to this model, job performance is a multiple combination of abilities and skills, effort and role perceptions. If individuals have clear role perceptions, if they possess the necessary skills and abilities, and if they are motivated to exert sufficient effort, the model suggests that they will perform well. Abilities and skills refer to both physical and psychological characteristics.

Role perceptions refer to the clarity of the job description and to whether individuals know how to direct their efforts towards effectively completing the task. Those who have clear perceptions of their role perceptions apply their efforts where they will count, and perform correct behaviours. Those who have incorrect role perceptions tend to spend much of their time in unproductive efforts that do not contribute to effective job performance.





outcome / reward

Outcome /






outcome / reward

Perceived equity of outcomes / rewards

Job design,

Organizational policies

and practice

Ability and traits,

Role clarity organizational

supports, etc

Figure 2.4: Porter and Lawler’s expanded expectancy model

Source: Adapted from Porter and Lawler (1968)

Implication for managers: Arnold et al. (1991:176) argues that, if expectancy theory were correct it would have important implications for managers wishing to ensure that employees were motivated to perform their work duties:

They would need to ensure that all 3 of the following conditions were satisfied:

Employees perceived that they possessed the necessary skills to do their jobs at least adequately (expectancy)

Employees perceived that if they performed their jobs well, or at least adequately, they would be rewarded (instrumentality).

Employees found the rewards offered for successful job performance attractive (valence).

Critics of the theory: Although some specific aspects of the Expectancy theory have been supported (particularly the impact of expectancy and instrumentality on motivation), others have not (such as the contribution of valence to motivation, and the assumption that expectancy, instrumentality and valence are multiplied.) Arnold et al. (1991) note how little attention the theory pays in explaining why an individual values or does not value particular outcomes: no concept of need is involved to address this question. The theory proposes that people should ask someone how much they value something, but not bother about why they value it. (John Arnold et al, 1995) Goal Setting Theory

This approach to motivation was pioneered by Ed Loche and his associate, starting in the 1960s and continuing with increasing strength and sophistication ever since. The above figure represents goal setting theory, and shows that the characteristics of a goal and attitudes towards it are thought to be influences by incentives, self-perceptions and the manner in which goals are set. In turn, those goals characteristics and attitudes are thought to determine behavioural strategies, which lead to performance within the constraints of ability knowledge of results (also called feedback) is thought to be essential to further refinement of behavioural strategies.

Goal Setting Theory

Participation in goal setting

(Self-perceived) ability

Financial incentive

Goal commitment

Goal acceptance

Goal difficulty

Goal specification





Knowledge of results



Figure 2.5 Goal Setting Theory

Source: Adapted from Psychology of work Behaviour by F. Landy. Copyright © 1989, 1985, 1980, 1976. Brooks / Cole Publishing Company, a division of International Thomson Publishing Inc. By permission of the publisher.

What does research say about goal setting?

Some further comments can be made on the basis of research evidence first financial incentives can indeed enhance performance. Loche et al. (1981) report that this occurs either through raising goal level, or through increasing commitment to a goal. Second, and unsurprisingly, ability also affects performance. Third, research on goal setting has been carried out in a range of context and fourth, goal setting is magnificently deal about how managers can enhance the performance of their employees. Some other research has directly investigated specific potential limitations of goal setting.

Earley et al. (1989) suggested that goal setting may be harmful where a task in novel and where a considerable numbers of possible strategies are available to tackle it. It seems that when people are tackling unfamiliar and complex tasks, goal setting can induce them to pay much attention to task strategy and not enough to task performance itself.

Goal setting could be criticized in its early days for being a technology rather than a theory. It successfully described how goal focus behaviour, without really addressing why or through what process goals influenced behaviour. Furthermore, goal setting, suggests that people are most motivated by difficult tasks where success is (presumably) not certain.

A continuing issue in goal setting concerns participation. Locke et al. (1981) concluded that there was no evidence from published research that participation in goal setting by the person attempting to achieve the goal produced better performance than if the goal was assigned to him or her by someone else.

Kanfer et al. (1994) got students to attempt a simulated air traffic control task and repeated the findings that goal setting can harm performance of unfamiliar complex tasks. But they also found that giving people time to reflect on their performance between repeated attempts at similar tasks eliminate that effect. The breaks enabled them to devote intentional resources to their strategies without having simultaneously to tackle the task itself. (John Arnold et al, 1998)

2.5 Job satisfaction and motivation

Locke (1976) defined job satisfaction as a ‘pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job or job experience’. The concept generally ref


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