Motivation in the workplace

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Introduction. 2

Literature review.. 2

Answering the case study. 4

Conclusion. 5

References. 6


Motivation is the activation of goal-oriented and reward-oriented behavior (Klein, 2001). Motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. In intrinsic motivation, the urge to meet certain goals and get rewards comes from within the self. People with a passion for doing something are said to be intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation comes from the expectation that a positive outcome of a certain behavior will be rewarded through money, recognition, promotion, and power (Davis, 1992).


This paper contains a literature review of different theories of motivation. The literature review is then used as a basis for analyzing a case study relating to the issue of motivation. the motivation-related issues affecting the participants in the case study are analyzed using four different theories discussed in the literature review: needs theory, expectancy theory, equity theory and goal-setting theory

Literature review

Locke (1996) assesses the role of goal-setting in motivation. According to him, employees are motivated to engage in a certain type of work depending on the goals that they have set out to achieve. Some people are self-motivated, that is, they compete against themselves in order to achieve the goals that they have set. Goals motivate such people by directing their attention, encouraging persistence and effort, and fostering action plans and strategies aimed at goal-attainment (Locke, 1996).

House (1974) defines the expectancy theory as a decision theory of choice and human motivation. The theory, according to House, ought to be of interest to people who study decision sciences. The central idea in the theory is that an individual’s force to exert a certain amount of effort is always a function of the expectation that this effort will bring about a particular outcome. It is also a function of all personal utilities and satisfactions that he is expecting to derive from this outcome. According to this theory, this function is non-linear, and it monotonically increases with expectations, utilities and satisfactions.

According to the equity theory of motivation, people who perceive that they are either being under-rewarded or over-rewarded tend to experience distress (Huseman, 1987). This distress drives them into making efforts in order to restore equity. Huseman (1987) talks about the concept of equity sensitivity, whereby he proposes that people’s reactions to inequity/equity are always a function of their individual preferences for various outcome/input ratios.

Alderfer (1969) provides an alternative to Maslow’s theory of needs. He conceptualizes a theory of needs that is based on existence, growth, and relatedness. Alderfer’s theory of needs does not assume that lower-level satisfaction is a prerequisite for higher-order needs to emerge. Rather, it includes propositions on the impact that higher-order frustration has on the strength of one’s lower-order needs.

Urdan (1995) focuses on academic achievement motivation, whereby he notes that research is increasingly shifting towards ability goals and task goals. Urdan proposes that a thorough understanding of motivation in schools could be derived if the focus was put on an examination of social goals. Focus ought to be on the perceived social purposes of achievement in the field of academics (Tubbs, 1991). Learning can greatly influence a learner’s social goal orientations (Pinder, 2005). The nature and function of all social goals that are correlated to motivation ought to be subjected to further research (Locke, 2002).

The concepts of intention and goal appear not to have been adequately differentiated in the literature relating to goal-setting and work motivation (Locke, 1968). The intention, as described in different theories of intentional behavior, is a cognitive representation of both the means and the end, and, therefore, it is broader a concept than merely a goal (Locke, 1990). Through an examination of the role and nature of human intentions during the motivation, clarification on several issues relating to work motivation literature can be made easily (Schunk, 1991). This clarification involves the process through which different assigned goals influence people’s behavior. Further research is needed in order for a clearer relationship between intentions and motivation to be established (Gollwitzer, 1993).

Answering the case study

Analysis of Matt’s motivation using needs theory, equity theory, expectancy theory and goal-setting.

According to the needs theory, Matt is motivated by the satisfaction that comes with seeing his clients being satisfied. He is not motivated by money or power. Matt feels satisfied when he works hard in order to do the things that his clients want to be done. However, his motivation suffers a blow when he notices that Jack, who just loves the projects that bring in a lot of money, earns more than himself, and for this reason, he is rated very highly in the performance appraisal.


            On the basis of expectancy theory, Matt expects the performance appraisal to reflect accurately on the efforts that every employee has made in every respect, including maintaining a high level of satisfaction among all clients. Matt is frustrated with Peter’s performance appraisal reviews since they do not reflect the extra mile he goes in order to make as many clients as possible happy. In most cases, this does not translate in the highest revenues. This is the reason why Matt’s expectations in terms of performance-related rewards end up not being met. Matt’s and Jack’s main sources of motivation are the expectations that they derive from their positions. As House (1974) notes, an individual’s force to exert a certain amount of effort is always a function of the expectation that this effort will bring about a particular outcome.

            The case study can also be analyzed using the equity theory. Matt is dissatisfied with the rewards that are accorded to Jack because there is lack of equity in the criteria used to hand out these rewards. Matt believes that his input is more than that of Jack. For this reason, he feels that the performance appraisal method should reflect this state of affairs. Within the equity theory, whenever people feel that they have been under-rewarded or over-rewarded, they are bound to fall into distress (Huseman, 1987).

            The goal-setting theory is also greatly relevant to this case study. Matt has set clear goals for himself. These goals direct his approach to his daily work. His goal is to help his clients in the best possible manner in order to ensure that they are always a happy lot.

If you were Peter Finch, what would you do to make sure that Matt was motivated?

If I were Peter, I would adjust my performance appraisal standards in order to incorporate the issue of client satisfaction. Additionally, I would make him understand that money is the main reason why he is working for the company. I would tell him to graciously accept that there is need to get as much money from every client. This is because the business needs that money in order to be able to continue to survive. Without the money, the business would not exist in the first place.


            In summary, all the four theories discussed in the literature review – needs, equity, goal-setting and expectancy theory – are relevant in the case study. They bring about different dimensions to the concept of motivation, thereby facilitating a clear understanding of why people engage in diverse work-related behaviors.

            Employers and company owners should understand all these theories of motivation in order to appreciate their employees’ needs better. They should incorporate different dimensions of motivation when they are reviewing the performance appraisals of their employees. This is a fundamental measure that would avoid scenarios whereby some employees fall into distress after feeling that they are not being adequately rewards for their full-hearted work-related efforts


Alderfer, C. (1969) An empirical test of a new theory of human needs, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 4(2), 142-175.

Davis, F. (1992) Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation to Use Computers in the Workplace, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 22(14), 1111–1132.

Gollwitzer, P. (1993) Goal Achievement: The Role of Intentions, European Review of Social Psychology, 4(3), 1812-1834.

House, R. (1974) Expectancy Theory as a Predictor of Work Behavior and Attitude: A Re-Evaluation of Empirical Evidence, Decision Sciences, 5(3), 481–506.

Huseman, R. (1987) A New Perspective on Equity Theory: The Equity Sensitivity Construct, The Academy of Management Review, 12(2), 222-234.

Klein, H. (2001) The Assessment of Goal Commitment: A Measurement Model Meta-Analysis, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 85(1), 32-55.

Locke, E. (2002) Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation, American Psychologist, 57(9), 705-17.

Locke, E. (1996) Motivation through conscious goal setting, Applied and Preventive Psychology, 5(2), 117-124.

Locke, E. (1990) Work Motivation and Satisfaction: Light at the End of the Tunnel, Psychological Science, 1(4), 240-246.

Locke, E. (1968) Towards a theory of task motivation and incentives, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3(2), 157-189.

Pinder, C. (2005) Work Motivation Theory and Research at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century, Annual Review of Psychology, 56(4), 485-516.

Schunk, D. (1991) Self-Efficacy and Academic Motivation, Educational Psychologist, 26(3), 207 – 231.

Solomon, R.  (1978) An Opponent-Process Theory of Motivation, The American Economic Review, 68(6), 12-24.

Tubbs, M. (1991) The Role of Intentions in Work Motivation: Implications for Goal-Setting Theory and Research, The Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 180-199.

Urdan, T. (1995) Beyond a Two-Goal Theory of Motivation and Achievement: A Case for Social Goals, Review of Educational Research, 65(3), 213-243.

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