Leadership and Employee Motivation in the Workplace

“Motivation is an internal state or condition that serves to activate or energize behavior and give it direction” (Kleinginna and Kleinginna, 1981). Franken (1994) describes it as the arousal, direction, and persistence of behavior. It can be viewed as the reason(s) for behaving in a particular way.

According to the online business dictionary, it is the “internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested in and committed to a job, role, or subject, and to exert persistent effort in attaining a goal”. Due to motivation people act in different ways and it’s brought by the exchanges. Motivation is the energizer of behavior and the mother of all action. It results from the interactions, active and subconscious issues among them being: The degree of the desire or want; the inducement or price value of the objective and the prospects of the individual.

The forces that bring motivation are positive and negative. They are fear, need, intimidation or compulsion, and manipulation. How these forces are presented determines whether they could be negative or positive actuators. When these forces come from within an individual they are intrinsic and when they are external they are extrinsic. This gives rise to the main kinds of motivation i.e. intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is determined by circumstances, prize or retribution both materialistic and non-materialistic that bring gain to an individual. Intrinsic motivation on the other hand involves thought, behavioral pattern, or an achievement just for the sake without necessarily having an inducement.

This paper will review the literature on motivation in the workplace giving attention to the fundamental theoretical assumptions in this subject and the experimental evidence it has produced. Little attention has been given to the ways of motivating employees in the employment sector.

The research that has been done has mostly been data-oriented and the guidelines used have been based on the older theories which have not integrated modern-day research. This paper will be based on modern psychological experiments on motivation at the workplace about the distinctive characteristics of employees and the natures of their different jobs. In this line, I will be able to produce a form of job motivation highlighting changeable factors such as technical difficulties in work, objective content, and goal commitment.

Overview of the theories of motivation.

Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow’s belief was that man is naturally good and people have a growing intrinsic drive with great potential. The needs hierarchy system developed by Maslow (1954) is a format for categorizing human motives. His hierarchy was based on two classes i.e. deficiency and growth needs. For the deficiency needs, a lower need has to be satisfied before proceeding to the next level. These levels are:

  • Physiological: water, comfort, sex, hunger, sleep. Without satisfying these basic needs an individual will not feel any higher needs like social needs.
  • Safety and security from harm. This is met by medical attention, job security, and financial capability.
  • Social needs: acceptance and affiliations with others as friends, sense of belonging, the need to love and be loved.
  • Recognition and self-esteem.

According to Maslow, a person will act on the growth needs after meeting the deficiency needs. He distinguished the growth need of self-actualization. (Maslow & Lowery, 1998). These other needs were:

  • Cognitive needs: knowledge and understanding. vi) Aesthetic needs and beauty.
  • Self-actualization and fulfillment. With this comes the quest for meaning, justice, and truth.
  • Self-transcendence is at the peak of the needs and attained after self-actualization.

However, it is important to note that not everyone is motivated by needs that are similar as they will view different factors as motivators. For a manager to motivate his staff he/she should be able to understand their unique needs. Even though Maslow’s hierarchy may be sensible from an intuitive viewpoint, the evidence which may support its hierarchical aspect is scarce. (netMBA,2002). This is more so because some cultures view social needs as more important than others. Though it is very popular Maslow’s theory lacks scientific backing.

Adams’ Equity Theory

John Stacey Adams who was a behavioral psychologist advanced this work motivation theory in 1963. It states that there should be a balance between an employee’s inputs like commitment, skills, hard work, and his output i.e. remuneration, rewards, credit, and gratitude. According to the theory when this balance is maintained a strong stable and fruitful connection with the workers is established thus ensuring they are satisfied and motivated. Adams’s theory recognizes the fact that there are various aspects that determine an employee’s assessment and awareness of their connection with their job and the employer.

It is based on the fact that employees can be de-motivated at the workplace should they feel that they are not rewarded by their inputs. Their reactions to this situation can be demotivation, lack of enthusiasm, dissatisfaction, and displeasure and may even be unruly in extreme cases.

The employer should strive to balance the employee’s input into their work with equitable output. This may result in employee satisfaction. The employee inputs according to this theory are effort, loyalty, hard work, commitment, skill, ability, adaptability, flexibility, tolerance, determination, enthusiasm, trust in superiors, support of colleagues, personal sacrifice.

The outputs on the other hand are financial rewards,( benefits, perks, etc.) and intangible rewards like recognition, reputation, responsibility, sense of achievement, praise, stimulus, sense of advancement/growth, and job security.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation

Victor Vroom advanced the Expectancy Theory of Motivation. The difference between him and Maslow and Herzberg is that he does not lay emphasis on the needs but instead emphasizes the outcomes. This is depicted in the following illustration.

Vroom's Expectancy Theory of Motivation

While Herzberg and Maslow consider the association between internal desires and the effort put into satisfying them, Vroom distinguishes effort originating from motivation, performance, and results.

According to this theory, Vroom assumes that for an individual to feel motivated there has to be a connection between his input (effort) performance and motivation. His proposals for accounting to this are Valence, Expectancy, and Instrumentality. In the theory, Expectancy is the principle that an increase in effort results in improved performance. This implies that effort is directly related to the outcome. Expectancy is determined by factors such as:

  1. Availability of the resources required e.g. time and raw materials
  2. Availability of the personnel with the right skills for a particular task.
  3. Availability of the essential support from the management to do the job.

Instrumentality refers to the belief that a good performance results in an appreciated result. This is the expectation of a reward for something done. Instrumentality is influenced by:

  1. The rule of the reward game, i.e. good understanding of the relationship between performance and results.
  2. Trusting the decision-makers. These are the people making decisions on the outcomes.
  3. Transparency in the decision-making process i.e. in the judgment of performance.

The significance which a person attaches to the anticipated results is called Valence. In light of this, it’s important to understand that a person who is motivated by money or recognition will not view it as valuable other incentives.

With the understanding of these connections, the implication is that an individual will alter the number of their efforts in consideration of how they value the rewards received from the process and on how they perceive the stability of the connections between their effort in the work and the results. All the three requirements must be fulfilled otherwise the individual will not be motivated, even if two out of the three requirements are met.

This theory also suggests that people make comparisons of results for themselves with those of other people. Therefore they tend to change the amount of their effort to make them comparable with other people’s effort depending on how they may perceive it. Expectance theory mainly works on perception. It’s a theory that emphasizes the associations that people develop to achieve anticipated results and the contribution they are comfortable making towards them.

Works cited

Arrod. (2007) Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Web.

Franken, R. (1994). Human motivation (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.

Kleinginna, P., Jr., & Kleinginna A. (1981a). A categorized list of motivation definitions,with suggestions for a consensual definition. Motivation and Emotion.

Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review. Web.

Mindtools eBook.(2007) Edams Equity theory. Mind Tools Ltd, 1997. Web.

NetMBA (2006) business knowledge centre. Management. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Web.

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