Work Motivation

Forces That Energize Work Motivation in Organizational Settings

Motivation is the result of external and internal forces that influence most of our behaviors. The external forces originate from our environment where we live, while the internal forces are our needs, desires and wants.

The internal forces that move within the individual and have been given a general name called motives.

  • A motive is an inner state that directs or channels behavior toward goals (Berelson and Steiner, 1964).

The word ‘motivate’ is derived from the Latin word ‘movere’ which means to move or to activate. Thus, motivation is an internal state of a person that activates and maintains his or her behavior.

Motivation is basically a process that starts with a physiological or psychological deficiency or need that activates a behavior or a drive that is aimed at a goal or incentive.

What Then Is Work Motivation?

Within the context of the organization, Work Motivation is generally defined as a series of energizing forces that originate from within and beyond an individual. These forces both initiate the work-related behavior and determine the nature, direction, intensity, and duration of the individual’s behavior.

Still within the organizational context, the term Organizational Motivation refers to the process of inspiring employees to work hard to achieve the desired goals of the organization.

According to William Scott, motivation means a process of stimulating people to action to accomplish desired goals. It consists in arousing need and desire in people so as to initiate and direct their behaviors in a purposeful manner.

The total performance of individuals in the organization is usually expressed as:

  • Performance = Ability x Motivation

Research attempts to explain work motivation through two basic types of motivational theories: content and process theories.

Content theories are concerned with what energizes behavior, whereas process theories focus on how behavior is energized.

The Basic Motivation Process

There exist three common denominators which characterize the phenomenon of motivation. That is, when we discuss motivation, we are primarily concerned with three components:

  1. needs or expectations (what energizes human behavior)
  2. drives (what directs or channels such behavior), and
  3. incentives

These components consider those forces in the individuals which start with a physiological or psychological feeling of wantedness or deficiency (need) that activates behavior (a drive) and directs it towards the attainment of a goal (or incentive). It is an internal process that cannot be directly observed in any situation, but it activates and directs our behavior.

There is agreement among researchers that needs determine a person’s behavior. Individuals have a multitude of needs in varying degrees of intensity. These needs, or activators, create a state of disequilibrium within the person.

The individual develops an urge to fulfill the need or needs he or she is experiencing. Consequently, the individual begins to search the environment for potentially satisfying goals which, once attained, will lead to the reduction of the disequilibrium or the fulfillment of his or her needs.

Similarly, there are many desires which are psychological and deprivation of those desires also lead to creation of needs. For example, needs for food and water is translated into the hunger and thirst drives. Similarly, the need for friends becomes a drive for affiliation.

All of these needs compete for their behavior and ultimately the need with the maximum strength at a particular moment leads to activity. When a need is satisfied, it is no longer a motivator of behavior.

These forces known as activators are generally characterized by two phenomena.

  1. First, the emergence of such a need, desire, or expectation generally creates a state of disequilibrium within the individuals which they will try to reduce, hence, the energetic component of our definition above.
  2. Second, the presence of such needs, desires, or expectations is generally associated with an anticipation or belief that certain actions will lead to the reduction of this disequilibrium, hence, the goal orientation component of our definition.

At the end of the motivation cycle is the incentive. Incentive is basically anything which will alleviate the need and reduce the drive (see Figure below).

Therefore, attaining an incentive will tend to restore physiological and psychological equilibrium. One need getting fulfilled does not stop there—it may lead to some other need.

A generalized model of motivation process
A Generalized Model of Motivation Process

In a work situation, motivation is explained by the degree to which employee needs can be satisfied on the job. Motivation level can be weak or strong, can vary between individuals and under different work situations, and can be related to multiple needs.

This brief description of the motivation process implies that human needs are the primary determinants of work related behavior.

In the next literature, we distinguish between two types of motivation: extrinsic Opens in new window and intrinsic motivation Opens in new window and examine how they influence job satisfaction Opens in new window.