What Is Motivation?

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What is Motivation?

One major concern of workplaces is motivating employees. It can be surmised that a motivated workforce produces productivity in their tasks and responsibilities. Although, this concept is something seen as “internal” by psychologists, its effectiveness can be seen by managers through the achievement of a goal or obtaining of an incentive which would give an idea if workers are motivated or not (Benton & Halloran, 1991).

Motivation is result of the interaction between the individual and the situation the level of motivation varies between individuals and within individuals at different times. It is also defined as the willingness to exert high levels of effort to reach organizational goals, conditioned by the effort’s ability to satisfy some individual need (Robbins & Coulter, 1999)

The definition above has 3 key elements: effort, organizational goals & needs. Effort is a measure of intensity or drive. A motivated person tries hard. But high levels of effort are unlikely to lead the to favourable job performance outcomes unless the effort is channelled in a direction that benefits the organization.

Need as related to the concept of Effort, as something that is to be addressed. It is an internal state that makes certain outcomes appear attractive. In short, a worker has needs that cause tensions in him that in turn create drives thus exerts effort to satisfy the need and thereby reducing tension.

It should not be understated that, organizational goals are to what employees’ motivation should be directed.

Conceptual Frameworks for Understanding

Several theories and principles abound that tries to explain the concept of motivation.

Carrot and Stick

Oftentimes used as an idiom, this really refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. Some claim that this usage of phrase is erroneous, and that in fact comes from the figure of a carrot on a stick. In this case, the driver would tie a carrot on a string to a long stick and dangle it in front of the donkey, just out of its reach. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot, it pulled the cart and the driver so that the carrot would always remain out of reach.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower factors need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. Thus, after a need is satisfied it stops acting as a motivator and the next need one rank higher starts to motivate.

Maslow’s theory can be easily understood through the use of a pyramid to illustrate the levels of needs. The bottom portion signifies baser needs that are to be fulfilled before the next higher need. [pic]

A sample illustration of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

There are two opposing perceptions of human behavior at work and organizational life:

Theory X and Theory Y

With Theory X assumptions, management's role is to coerce and control employees. Some other assumptions with Theory X are:

1. People have an inherent dislike for work and will avoid it whenever possible. 2. People must be coerced, controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment in order to get them to achieve the organizational objectives. 3. People prefer to be directed, do not want responsibility, and have little or no ambition. 4. People seek security above all else.

Theory Y assumptions, on the other hand, propose that the management's role is to develop the potential in employees and help them to release that potential towards common goals. Its other assumptions are:

1. Work is as natural as play and rest.
2. People will exercise self-direction if they are committed to the objectives (they are NOT lazy). 3. Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement. 4. People learn to accept and seek responsibility.

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