Motivation in an Office Environment


This paper summarizes and attempts to highlight the main elements discussed in Chapters 12 and 14 of the textbook ‘Psychology’ 9th Edition by David G. Myers. Myers describes different aspects of motivation in this Chapter ‘Motivation and Work’ and shows how motivation is relevant to working in an office environment or to simply working in an organization.


Motivation is described as the energizing force behind the initiation of action; it is the willingness to exert higher levels of input to achieve a goal. Motivation is a process that can be described as a process that involves the arousal or recognition of a need. This unsatisfied need creates tension and the desire to fulfill that need. The person searches for alternatives to fulfill that need and when the goal is attained, the result is the elimination or reduction of tension. Desire discussed here is related to the ‘Drive Reduction Theory’. A reduction in drive-by eating or drinking helps a person to survive. Drive can be internal, as well as influenced by external factors. For example driving past a McDonald’s fast-food outlet while a person is hungry, here the delicious smell drives a person to act.

Evolutionary Approach: Due to Darwin’s influence, certain types of behaviors were often named ‘instinct’. This led to the lack of in-depth exploratory study of these behaviors and hence this approach lost favor. Another idea prevailed that behavior was hereditary, that is to say, determined by one’s genetic make-up. This theory is still practiced and believed in evolutionary psychology. The optimum arousal theory states that different people work best at different levels of arousal or activation. The intensity of the stimulus required to act varies from person to person.

The Hierarchy of Motives: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be visualized as a pyramid with physiological needs at the bottom of the pyramid followed by safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs in ascending order where self-actualization needs are at the top peak of the pyramid. This shows that physiological needs must be first met by a person to progress to the social needs and so on. Physiological needs can be in the form of basic things like food and drink, safety needs can be protected from any sort of harm, social needs are the need to belong and the feed for friends and affection, esteem needs can be social status and self-respect, whereas self-actualization needs are the need for growth which may be financial or in the form of popularity. However, the order of needs shown in Maslow’s Hierarchy is not universally fixed.

Hunger: The physiology of hunger shows that a person feels hungry not merely by the contractions of the stomach walls but due to the secretion of certain hormones. The hunger impulse is also controlled by the fluctuations in the glucose levels of the body and by the secretion of ghrelin from the stomach walls. These impulses are felt by the hypothalamus in the brain which controls body weight and hunger pangs. The body weight is also maintained by the metabolic rate of a person. The psychology of hunger however states that though the taste is genetic and universal, the culture one lives in plays a major part in taste development. Taste and hunger are also influenced by social pressures to look thin and smart and hence resulting in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia nervosa. These eating disorders are on the rise lately especially in Western women due to the increase in poor body image; this when coincides with low self-esteem and cultural pressure results in eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

Sexual Motivation and the Need to Belong: the physiology of sex shows that a human’s sexual response cycle follows a fixed pattern in men as well as women. Sexual hormones drive sex in animals, and in humans, these sexual hormones along with the hypothalamus decide whether the body will function as a male or a female. The psychology of sex says that people can get sexually aroused by external stimuli. This external stimulus can be in the form of sexually explicit material, this explicit material though causes sexual arousal can disrupt a person’s relationship with their sexual partner as a person may end up comparing his partner with those shown in the sexually explicit material. New methods are used these days to cure sexual disorders like premature ejaculations which show that people are capable of modifying their sexual responses. Adolescent sexuality depends upon one’s culture which is confirmed by varying rates of teenage pregnancy and intercourse worldwide. There is also new evidence that sexual orientation does not depend on one’s will but rather on genetic makeup, prenatal hormones, and certain brain structures. This has led to the acceptance of gays and lesbians and homosexual relationships. People feel the need to belong when they are loved or are feeling lonely. It is shown that people who have friends, families, and love are healthier and happier and those who do not have them are often stressed and depressed.

Motivation at Work: if the work at the office is enriching, satisfying, and sufficiently rewarding then a person feels motivated. Also, personnel psychologists help organizations to match the capabilities of potential employees and current employees with job descriptions to place them at the right place. Structured interviews are also immensely important for the appropriate hiring of personnel. A strong motivation for achievement is required if a person wants to succeed and excel. Also, a good leader can appropriately use his employees’ potential.

In ‘Chapter 14: Stress and Health’ Myers says that stress and illness are interrelated. A person’s health and well-being depend heavily upon how the person handles stress. Stress can be viewed as the way a person responds to threats or threatening situations and can be described as a three-step process the first being alarm, the second step being resistance and the third step being exhaustion. Modern research on stress caused by various issues and their consequences on health is currently going on. A link has been established between coronary heart disease which is a major cause of death and stress. Research shows that Type A people who are more impatient and anger prone and hence take more stress are more susceptible to coronary heart disease. Stress is also known to make a person more vulnerable to infectious and other diseases as it diverts the body’s energy from the immune system. Hence, stress though cannot cause disease on its own, but it can influence the progression of the disease.

Promoting Health: Myers explains how disease and illness can be prevented by stress management. Stress management at an earlier stage is a better alternative than curing disease after it has occurred. As the famous saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure. There are three ways to cope with this stress shown in the text. The first is by directly talking to and negotiating with the stressor or the person who is causing stress. The second way is by focusing on the problem and coping with it through optimism. The third way is the ‘emotion-focused strategy’.

Managing Stress: Stress can be managed by several activities like aerobic exercises, relaxation, and biofeedback. With the help of biofeedback, stress that causes headaches and high blood pressure can be controlled. The same benefits can be obtained by other relaxing exercises. Type A people, who have already suffered a heart attack can be counseled so that another heart attack can be prevented in time. Counseling in collaboration with social support helps people cope better with stress as people who are close friends and family can calm down better than others. This way social support acts as a buffer by neutralizing the effect of the stress and tension. Researchers in these areas of expertise has now undertaken a new task of exploring the relationship and effect of religion on stress and hence health.

Modifying illness-related behaviors: Cigarette smoking is proving to be the major cause of deaths in North America though it is preventable. Researchers and social psychologists are now studying the causes of why adolescents take up smoking. As an answer to this, some people claim the reason to be peer pressure while others claim stress to be a motivating factor that leads teenagers to take up smoking. Researchers are also looking for reasons that provide reinforcements to smokers for continuing smoking as a habit and are also looking into ways of preventing it. Some researchers are also testing the hypothesis that the type of food one consumes affects the mood and behavior of that person while other researchers are exploring the area of obesity and weight control. It has been established that the number and size of fat cells in one’s body is genetic, hence obese people find it difficult to lose weight permanently as the reduced-calorie diet does not reduce the number of fat cells in one’s body. Hence, those wishing to lose weight should bring a change in their overall lifestyle by eating healthy and making more energy available through exercising.


Both these Chapters are very informative and useful when applied to practical life as they help people understand certain aspects of the workings of the body and mind which are unknown to many who have not traveled into the realms of medical and social science.

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