Motivation in the Workplace

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Motivation and more specifically, motivation in the workplace cannot be defined simply. From an Industrial/Organizational psychology standpoint, motivation can be defined as "those processes within an individual that stimulate behavior and channel it in ways that should benefit the organization as a whole" (Miner, 1992, p. 54). The challenging subject of motivation has been studied and analyzed for many decades. Such interest and study is in part attributable to the understanding and appreciation of how crucial it is to motivate the employee. Theorists offer differing opinions as to what does offer motivation. To a degree, motivation is very personal and what may initiate the motivational drive in some people may not do so for others. Motivation processes set the tone of the organizational goals. While the organization cannot be held completely accountable for the motivation of its employees, the leaders must understand the motivation process since they play such an integral role in its development. The challenge is to improve the motivation process of those individual's comprising the organization. These internal processes may be activated by intrinsic or extrinsic rewards. Regarding motivation, theorists have developed opinions over a period of decades. As early as the 1920's, the Hawthorne Studies conducted a series of experiments at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago. These studies were led by the Harvard Business School professor Elton Mayo who explored degrees of productivity and working conditions. This study concluded that employees are not motivated exclusively by money and that "employee behavior is linked to their attitudes" (Lindner, 1998, p.l). It is believed that the Hawthorne Studies started what is referred to as the human relations approach to management. With this approach, the needs and motivation of employees are the focal point of the employers. Mayo's studies also support the opinion of others who contend that in addition to being affected by motivation, a worker's level of productivity is also influenced by "situational and environmental" factors (Lawler, 1973, p.l). In terms of his studies, there are those who contend that Mayo "stumbled upon a principle of human motivation that would help to revolutionize the theory and practice of management" (Elton Mayo's Hawthorne Experiments, n.d.). Specifically, Mayo chose to explore the impact of fatigue and monotony on the worker's degree of productivity. He further explored how such working conditions as rest breaks, work hours and even temperature could affect productivity and therefore, degrees of motivation. Mayo's ideas proved to be valid; his experiments with factory workers demonstrated that productivity levels increased when two five-minute breaks were given to the employees; when those breaks were doubled to ten minutes each, productivity increased even more. Productivity and motivation, the two seem to be interconnected and interdependent on one another. In fact, there are those who would contend that productivity may in fact be, to varying degrees, the outgrowth of motivation. Following the Hawthorne Studies, many others have continued to study motivation in the workplace. One prominent theorist is Maslow who began studying this issue during the 1940's. His ideas have been referred to as the "need-hierarchy theory". According to Maslow, employees have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego and self-actualizing (Lindner, 1998). It is Maslow's belief that to maximize motivation a person's lower-level needs have to be met first and then his higher level needs. Maslow believed that a person's lower-level needs are the "primary influence activating human behavior" (Miner, 1992, p.55). After these needs are met, higher-level needs do emerge and do in fact become strong motivators. Based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a person's physiological needs appear as the most basic. More specifically,...
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