Work Motivation: Meaning & Significance

Let us assume that we are a part of an organization. We work daily and produce good results that motivate the company and ourselves. In doing so, what pushes us to get up from bed and go to work? What entails us feeling productive and motivated to work more in the organization?

Meaning of Work Motivation

A fundamental psychological mechanism is motivation. Few would contest that it is the microscopic approach to organizational behavior's most crucial focus. The environment, various mediating processes, and motivation interact and work together. The fact that motivation is not visible like other mental abilities must also be kept in mind, and what is visible only is behavior. It is incorrect to link motivation with conduct because motivation is a speculative concept employed to explain behavior. Many contemporary organizational behavior theorists "believe it is vital for the study to reemphasize behavior," although acknowledging the crucial significance of motivation. While many paradigms explain work motivation, the ones with the most prominent usage and wide applicability in current times have been discussed.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy

The straightforward application of Maslow's needs hierarchy to job motivation differed from his intention, and he could have gone into great detail about what drives people in organizations. Considering Maslow's lack of intention, his theory was widely accepted in organizational theory because of individuals like Douglas McGregor. The needs hierarchy strongly correlates with job motivation and has a strong intuitive appeal. Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory can be roughly translated to the content paradigm of work motivation.

The lower-level needs of employees would typically be addressed if Maslow's calculations were applied to a hypothetical firm. However, just a handful of the social and self-esteem needs and a negligible portion of the self-actualization needs would be satisfied. The authors of organizational literature and practitioners frequently accept Maslow's hierarchy of needs without question. Unfortunately, little empirical evidence is provided for the idea by the scant study that has been done. Maslow did make an effort to explain his stance about ten years after the publication of his initial paper, claiming that satisfying the need for self-actualization in growth-motivated people can augment rather than lessen this need. He also tempered certain of his additional initial theories, such as the notion that higher demands might materialize after lesser ones that had been blocked or unmet for a while were met. He emphasized how multiple factors shape and motivate human action.

Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

Many years ago, Frederick Herzberg did motivational research on 200 accountants and engineers working for companies located in and near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He collected data for analysis using the critical incident method. The study's professional participants were asked two issues: (1) What warmed you up when you felt very positive about your job, and (2) What drove you off when you felt particularly negative about your employment? He concluded that job content influences job satisfaction, whereas job context influences job dissatisfaction. Herzberg identified the motivators for satisfaction and the hygiene reasons for dissatisfaction. Herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation is the result of combining the motivators and the hygiene elements. The two-factor hypothesis proposed shed new insight into the characteristics of job motivation. Up until this moment, management had mostly focused on hygiene-related issues. The usual response to a morale issue was increased compensation, additional perks, and improved working conditions.

Nonetheless, as previously noted, this straightforward method was ineffective. The fact that their employees need to be more motivated despite receiving high wages and salaries, a fantastic array of fringe benefits, and exceptional working circumstances often baffle management. Herzberg's hypothesis provided a solution to this issue. Management should have encouraged their staff by focusing solely on cleanliness issues. There are presumably only so many employees or associates who believe they deserve their raise

On the contrary, many unhappy managers and employees believe they need to receive a sizable rise. This straightforward observation highlights how hygiene elements significantly avoid unhappiness but do not result in satisfaction. However, like in Maslow's perspective, dangling any additional cleanliness factors in the face of employees will not motivate them if "the stomach is filled" with hygiene factors, as is the case in most modern firms. According to Herzberg's thesis, employees can only be motivated by a demanding job that offers chances for success, distinction, ownership, progress, and development.

Adams' Equity Theory

The individual will try to bring the ratio back to equity if they believe it is different from the other. The incentive for working is attributed to this "striving" to reestablish equity. The considered level of injustice directly relates to how strong this motive is. The individual may manipulate the contributions or consequences, psychologically falsify the sources or results, leave the scene, intervene in the other, or transform the other to restore equity.

It is crucial to remember that injustice does not simply occur when someone feels defrauded. Adams, for instance, has looked into how perceived overpayment affects equity. According to his research, employees favor fair compensation over overpaying. Employees on piece-rate reward systems who feel compensated will work less hard to make things fair. However, it is more typical for people to feel underpaid (result) or overburdened (source) compared to their coworkers. In the latter scenario, there would be an incentive to reinstate equity in a manner that would be organizationally dysfunctional.

Expectancy Model

The Porter and Lawler model has contributed substantially to our knowledge of work motivation and the connection underlying performance and satisfaction but not much to our insight into managing human resources.

However, it offers certain recommendations that may be implemented. For instance, it has been proposed that at the front end (the connection between motivation and performance), the said obstacles must be tackled

  • Uncertainty regarding talent, expertise, or knowledge

  • The job's physical or pragmatic viability

  • The job's reliance on other individuals or activities

  • Ambivalence in the job specifications

Understanding how other psychological factors, including self-efficacy, affect the links between effort and accomplishment might help you overcome these obstacles. The employee's sense of self-efficacy grows due to a string of victories and encouraging comments, which may increase their confidence that "I can do this." Increased effort is frequently the outcome. Besides psychological concepts like self-efficacy, there are pragmatism issues like the need for an opportunity to perform. In addition, recommendations like the following have been made on the back end (the connection between performance and satisfaction)

  • Ascertain the rewards that each worker values.

  • Specify the intended outcome.

  • Make the performance you want possible.

  • Connect desired rewards to accomplishments.

Managers should be aware that employees looking to leave a company sometimes evaluate their chances of finding employment in the future and, more crucially, frequently perceive a link between performance and compensation, which encourages reduced endeavor in a group or team setting. The lowered value is based on the notion that group incentives are less beneficial than individualized rewards and that an individual's efforts alone are insufficient to improve group performance.


Work plays a significant role in a man's life since it fosters social connections, self-fulfilment, and a sense of identity, in addition to serving economic needs. Being motivated at work is beneficial since it helps to energize, focus, and keep and step-up efforts to achieve specified objectives. Workplace motivation is a complicated task involving demands, urges, goal knowledge, and rewards that encourage employees to put in the effort. However, outcomes only materialize when motivated people are given a chance to work and when they possess the means and capacity to do so. If an individual is efficient and the company notices it, rewards are given out that satisfy the individual's initial needs and motivations.

Updated on: 06-Jan-2023


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