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Chapter Summary

I. Why Study Motivation?

Motivation is one of the most traditional topics in organizational behaviour and it has become more important in contemporary organizations as a result of the need for increased productivity to be globally competitive and the rapid changes that organizations are undergoing.

II. What is Motivation?

When we speak about motivation we usually mean that a person "works hard," "keeps at" his or her work, and directs his or her behaviour toward appropriate outcomes.

A. Basic Characteristics of Motivation

Motivation is the extent to which persistent effort is directed toward a goal.

The four basic characteristics of motivation are effort, persistence, direction, and goals.

Effort. This refers to the strength of a person's work-related behaviour.

Persistence. This refers to the persistence that individuals exhibit in applying effort to their work tasks.

Direction. This refers to the quality of a person's work related behaviour.

Goals. This refers to the ends towards which employees direct their effort.

B. Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Experts in organizational behaviour distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation stems from the direct relationship between the worker and the task and it is usually self-applied. Extrinsic motivation stems from the work environment external to the task and it is usually applied by someone other than the person being motivated. The extrinsic/intrinsic motivation relationship suggests that if intrinsic outcomes and extrinsic outcomes are both highly attractive, they should contribute to motivation in an additive fashion. In general, research has shown that both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards are necessary to enhance motivation in actual work settings.

C. Motivation and Performance

Performance can be defined as the extent to which an organizational member contributes to achieving the objectives of the organization. Although there is a positive relationship between motivation and performance, the relationship is not one-to-one because other factors such as personality, general cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, task understanding, and chance can intervene.

General Cognitive Ability. General cognitive ability refers to a person’s basic information processing capacities and cognitive resources. General cognitive ability predicts learning and training success as well as job performance in all kinds of jobs and occupations. It is an even better predictor of performance for more complex and higher-level jobs that require the use of more cognitive skills.

Emotional Intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) has to do with an individual’s ability to understand and manage his or her own and others’ feelings and emotions. Peter Salovey and John Mayer have developed an EI model that consists of four interrelated sets of skills or branches. The four skills represent sequential steps that form a hierarchy. Beginning from the first and most basic level, the four branches are: Perception of emotions, integration and assimilation of emotions, knowledge and understanding of emotions, and management of emotions. EI predicts performance in a number of areas including work performance and academic performance and is particularly important in jobs that involve a lot of social interaction and emotional labour.

III. Need Theories of Work Motivation

Need theories of motivation attempt to specify the kinds of needs people have and the conditions under which they will be motivated to satisfy these needs in a way that contributes to performance. Needs are physiological and psychological wants or desires that individuals can satisfy by acquiring certain incentives or achieving particular goals. It is the behaviour stimulated by this acquisition process that reveals the motivational character of needs:


Need theories are concerned with “what” motivates workers (needs and their associated incentives or goals). They can be contrasted with process theories, which are concerned with exactly “how” various factors motivate people. Need theories and process theories are complementary rather than contradictory.

A. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a theory based on satisfying certain needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a five-level hierarchical need theory of motivation that specifies that the lowest-level unsatisfied need has the greatest motivating potential. These needs include physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, motivation depends on the person’s position in the need hierarchy. Individuals are motivated to satisfy their physiological needs before they show interest in their self-esteem or safety needs. When needs at a particular level of the hierarchy are satisfied, the individual turns his or her attention to the next higher level. Maslow's hierarchy also implies that a satisfied need is no longer an effective motivator.

B. Alderfer's ERG Theory

Another need-based theory called ERG theory was developed by Clayton Alderfer. ERG theory is a three level hierarchical need theory of motivation that allows for movement up and down the hierarchy. The name ERG stems from the compression of Maslow’s five-category need system into three categories of needs: existence, relatedness, and growth needs.

Alderfer's theory differs from Maslow's theory in that there is not a rigid hierarchy of needs and that if higher-level needs are ungratified, individuals will increase their desire for the gratification of lower-level needs.

C. McClelland's Theory of Needs

Psychologist David McClelland has developed a need theory based on the specific behavioural consequences of needs rather than a hierarchy of needs. McClelland’s theory of needs is a nonhierarchical need theory of motivation that outlines the conditions under which certain needs result in particular patterns of motivation. Individuals have needs for achievement, affiliation, and power. The theory outlines the conditions under which these needs result in particular patterns of motivation.

People high in the need for achievement have a strong desire to perform challenging tasks. The also exhibit the following characteristics:

A preference for situations in which personal responsibility can be taken for outcomes.

A tendency to set moderately difficult goals that provide for calculated risks.

A desire for performance feedback.

People high in the need for affiliation have a strong desire to establish and maintain friendly, compatible interpersonal relationships. People high in the need for power have a strong desire to influence others, making a significant impact or impression. McClelland predicts that people will be motivated to seek out and perform well in jobs that match their needs.

D. Research Support for Need Theories

Research results show that need theories are valid under certain circumstances. The simplicity and flexibility of ERG theory seem to capture the human need structure better than the greater complexity and rigidity of Maslow’s theory. Research on McClelland's theory is generally supportive of the idea that particular needs are motivational when the work setting permits the satisfaction of these needs.

E. Managerial Implications of Need Theories Need theories have some important things to say about managerial attempts to motivate employees.

IV. Process Theories of Work Motivation

Need theories of motivation concentrate on what motivates individuals, while process theories concentrate on how motivation occurs. Three important process theories are expectancy theory, equity theory, and goal setting theory.

A. Expectancy Theory The basic idea underlying expectancy theory is the belief that motivation is determined by the outcomes that people expect to occur as a result of their actions on the job. There are a number of basic components of expectancy theory.

B. Research Support for Expectancy Theory

Tests have provided moderately favourable support for expectancy theory. In particular, there is especially good evidence that the valence of first-level outcomes depends on the extent to which they lead to favourable second-level consequences. Experts in motivation generally accept expectancy theory.

C. Managerial Implications of Expectancy Theory

The motivational practices suggested by expectancy theory involve “juggling the numbers” that individuals attach to expectancies, instrumentalities, and valences.

Boost Expectancies. One of the most basic things managers can do is ensure that their employees expect to be able to achieve first-level outcomes that are of interest to the organization. Low expectancies might be due to poor equipment or tools; lazy co-workers; employees might not understand what is considered to be good performance; or employees might not understand how to obtain a good performance rating. Expectancies can usually be enhanced by providing proper equipment and training, demonstrating correct work procedures, carefully explaining how performance is evaluated, and listening to employee performance problems. The point is to clarify the path to beneficial first-level outcomes.

Clarify Reward Contingencies. Managers should also attempt to ensure that the paths between first- and second-level outcomes are clear. Employees should be convinced that first-level outcomes desired by the organization are clearly instrumental in obtaining positive second-level outcomes and avoiding negative outcomes.

Appreciate Diverse Needs. Managers should also analyze the diverse preferences of particular workers and attempt to design individualized “motivational packages” to meet their needs.

D. Equity Theory

Equity theory is a process theory that states that motivation stems from a comparison of the inputs that one invests in a job and the outcomes one receives in comparison with the inputs and outcomes of another person or group. According to the theory, individuals are motivated to maintain an equitable exchange relationship. Inequity is unpleasant and tension producing and people will devote considerable energy to reducing inequity and achieving equity. Individuals that perceive inequity might use a number of tactics to regain equity:

Perceptually distort one's own inputs or outcomes.

Perceptually distort the inputs or outcomes of the comparison other or group.

Choose another comparison person or group.

Alter one's inputs or alter one's outcomes.

Leave the exchange relationship.

The first three tactics for reducing inequity are essentially psychological, while the last two involve overt behaviour.

Gender and Equity. Both women and men have some tendency to choose same-sex comparison persons when judging the fairness of the outcomes that they receive.

Research Support for Equity Theory. Research on equity theory is very supportive of the theory when inequity occurs because of underpayment. For example, when workers are underpaid on an hourly basis, they tend to lower their inputs by producing less work. Also, when workers are underpaid on a piece-rate basis, they tend to produce a high volume of low-quality work. Finally, there is also evidence that underpayment inequity leads to resignation. The theory’s predictions regarding overpayment inequity have received less support.

Managerial Implications of Equity Theory. The most straightforward implication of equity theory is that perceived underpayment will have a variety of negative motivational consequences for the organization, including low productivity, low quality, theft, and /or turnover. Managers must understand that feelings of inequity stem from a perceptual social comparison process in which the worker “controls the equation,” that is, employees decide what are considered relevant inputs, outcomes, and comparison persons, and management must be sensitive to these decisions. Understanding the role of comparison people is especially crucial.

E. Goal Setting Theory

Goal setting is a motivational technique that uses specific, challenging, and acceptable goals and provides feedback to enhance performance.

F. What Kinds of Goals Are Motivational?

Goals are most motivational when they are specific, challenging, and when organizational members are committed to them. In addition, feedback about progress toward goal attainment should also be provided. Goal Specificity. Specific goals specify an exact level of achievement for people to accomplish in a particular time frame.

Goal Challenge. Goals should be difficult but attainable.

Goal Commitment. Goals are not really goals unless people are committed to them and accept them.

Goal Feedback. Specific and challenging goals have the most beneficial effect when they are accompanied by ongoing feedback that enables the person to compare current performance with the goal.

G. Enhancing Goal Commitment

Some of the factors that might affect commitment to challenging and specific goals are participation, rewards and management support.

Participation. Research results are mixed, but participation can often increase commitment when a climate of mistrust exists between supervisor and employee. Also, participation can increase performance when competition or team spirit increase the difficulty of goals an employee is willing to attempt to reach.

Rewards. While there is little doubt that extrinsic rewards like money will increase commitment, there is also ample evidence that simply being challenged to do the job "right" can produce goal commitment. Goal setting has led to performance increases without the introduction of monetary incentives for goal accomplishment.

Supportiveness. There is considerable agreement that a coercive approach to goal setting on the part of supervisors will reduce goal commitment. For goal setting to work properly, supervisors must demonstrate a desire to assist employees in goal accomplishment and behave supportively if failure occurs, even adjusting the goal downward if it proves to be unrealistically high.

H. Goal Orientation

Individuals have been found to differ in their goal orientation. Learning goals are process-oriented goals that focus on leaning and enhance understanding of a task and the use of task strategies. Performance goals are outcome-oriented goals that focus attention on the achievement of specific performance outcomes. A learning goal orientation has been found to be related to greater effort, self-efficacy, goal-setting level, and performance.

I. Research Support for and Managerial Implications of Goal Setting Theory

Goal setting has led to increased performance on a wide variety of tasks. As well, the effects of goal setting appear to persist over a long enough time to have practical value. The effect of group goal setting on group performance is similar to the effect of individual goal setting. The effects of goals on performance are due to four mechanisms: direction, effort, persistence, and task-relevant strategies. The managerial implications of goal setting theory are straightforward: Set specific and challenging goals and provide ongoing feedback so that individuals can compare their performance with their goals. The performance impact of goal setting is strongest for simpler jobs rather than more complex jobs.

V. Do Motivation Theories Translate Across Cultures?

In general, motivational theories which explain the behaviour of workers in North American companies do not always apply to workers elsewhere. It is safe to assume that most theories that revolve around human needs will come up against cultural limitations to their generality. For example, in more collective societies, self-actualization is not the motivator that it is in North America. In collective cultures, there is a tendency to favour reward allocation based on equality rather than equity. Because of its flexibility, expectancy theory is very effective when applied cross-culturally. Finally, setting specific and challenging goals should also be motivational when applied cross-culturally. However, to be effective, careful attention is required to adjust the goal-setting process in different cultures. For example, individual goals are not likely to be accepted or motivational in collectivist cultures. Thus, appreciating cultural diversity is critical in maximizing motivation.

VI. Putting it all Together: Integrating Theories of Work Motivation

Each of the theories of motivation helps us to understand the motivational process and together they form an integrative model of motivation. For example, expectancy and instrumentality from expectancy theory and goals from goal setting theory should lead to higher levels of motivation. Motivation along with the intervening factors of personality, general cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, task understanding, and chance will influence performance. When performance is followed up with rewards that satisfy workers needs (need theory) and are positively valent (expectancy theory) they will lead to higher levels of motivation and job satisfaction provided they are perceived as equitable (equity theory). Job satisfaction also leads to performance.

In summary, each theory of motivation helps us to understand a different part of the motivational process.

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