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Motivation of Employees

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Motivation of Employees


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People work a variety of jobs throughout their lives.  Out of all of the jobs held, one usually stands out.  What made that job unique and special? Was it the people, the work environment, or the supervisor?  Chances are it was a combination of several variables, but something stood out over all the others. “People often say that motivation does not last. Well neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”

This quote, written by Zig Zagler, has a very important meaning; employees cannot be motivated once and expect to stay motivated.

They need to be motivated each and every day.  This research paper will discuss employee motivation on a practical level. It will discuss definitions, myths about motivation, employee motivation theories, what drives an employee to be motivated, how supervisors can motivate their employees and the results of employee motivation.


Many people settle into a daily routine going to and from work.  What motivates people go to work and come back?  What drives them to work?  Better yet, what motivates them to continue this pattern? Motives are defined as needs, wants, drives, or impulses within the individual; motives are directed toward goals (Hersey & Blanchard, 1993).

  There are many different motives for peoples’ behavior. Commuting to work everyday could involve several motives.  For some people, money could be the primary motivation.  However, if money is not a major concern, what would motivate them to come to work?  Would it be coworkers, benefits, leadership?  It is, often, hard to find a reason to do something, unless motivation is involved.  Employees often want to know what benefit they will gain. Not only should a good supervisor motivate their employees, but also employees must find a way in which to motivate themselves.

Myths about Motivation

Supervisors may think they know how to motivate their employees; oftentimes, they are clueless.  Most managers do not realize that it is unacceptable to try to motivate employees to reach unattainable goals.  Employees are the organizations greatest asset; they can make or break a supervisor as well as a company; therefore, they must be treated as such.   Employees perform at their peak when motivated.  Here is a list of the top six employee motivation myths written by Carter McNamara, PhD, listed on the management website www.managementhelp.org:

Myth # 1- “I can motivate people” (McNamara, 2007).  According to McNamara, employees need to motivate and empower themselves; supervisors can assist by setting up an environment to be motivated.

Myth # 2- “Money is a good motivator” (McNamara, 2007).  Money will not in itself make people happy.  It cannot be used as a singular motivational tool.

Myth # 3- “Fear is a damn good motivator”.  At times fear seems to motivate basic trainees and children, but this technique is short-lived (McNamara, 2007).

Myth # 4- “I know what motivates me, so I know what motivates my employees” (McNamara, 2007).  Different employees are motivated in a variety of ways.

Myth # 5- “Increased job satisfaction means increased job performance.”  If the goals of the organization are not aligned with the goals of the employees, then the employees are not effectively working toward the mission of the organization (McNamara, 2007).  An employee might be satisfied with their job, but they do not perform their best because the goals of the organization are not allowing them to perform their best; therefore, the mission will not get accomplished.

Myth # 6- “I cannot comprehend employee motivation-it’s a science” (McNamara, 2007).  There is no excuse for not being able to motivate your employees.  If a supervisor does not understand how to motivate their employees, then the supervisor needs to do some research on how motivate them. Plenty of books have been written on the subject. For a manager, it is important to try before you give up on motivation.

Employee Motivation Theories

For most managers, motivation got them to their current position.   Motivation can come in the form of self-improvement, or it can surface as a desire to be like a previous supervisor.  Countless studies have been performed and several books and articles have been written on the subject.  This heightened interest in the subject goes to show how crucial this component is to the success or failure of an organization.  Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg, V. H. Vrooms, J. Stacy Adams, Douglas McGregor and Chris Argyris have all researched motivation.  Maslow’s theory placed employees’ needs into five levels (Maslow, 1943): physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization or self-fulfillment.  “It is only when these needs are met that workers are morally, emotionally, and even physically ready to satisfy the needs of the employer and the customers” (Understanding Employees, 1997).  Some examples of these needs are recognition, acknowledgement, rewards and when a person realizes their dreams and potential.  One thing that drives someone else to be motivated is not always the same thing that drives another person to be motivated. “There are at least 13 factors (also called “variables”) that can be manipulated to some extent to boost motivation: exercise, good nutrition, sleep, rewards, challenges, friendship, kindness, security, authority, independence, creative expression and meaning” (Epstien, 2001).  Some employees are motivated when they get to exercise during their work day versus when they get off.  On the other hand, there are some employees who are motivated about work because it challenges them.  As described in our book, other things that motivate employees are things like a pleasant work environment, getting along well with co-workers, an easy commute, and flexible work hours. In some large corporations today, onsite daycare is available. Not having to pay day care fees is definitely something that motivates a lot of working mothers. “Anger is an emotion that can also aid people in becoming more motivated when it is used in a positive way” (What is Your Motivation, 2007).  Sometimes people get mad with the way things currently are and get motivated to change things.

            Herzberg’s developed a two-factor theory for motivation:  motivators and hygiene (Herzberg, 1959).  The first factor is motivators which include achievement.  Achievement and recognition produces job satisfaction.  The second factor is hygiene which includes: the organization, policies, salary, job security, and working conditions.  These can produce job dissatisfaction, and may not help in the area of motivation.  For this theory to work all areas must be accomplished simultaneously.  Development of the working environment is a key to this theory being successful.

Vrooms expectancy theory showed that the more positive the reward the more motivated the employee (Vroom, 1964).  He found employees wanted to be treated as equals and wanted their rewards to be equal as well.  Rewards may be either positive or negative, but none the less equal in nature.   J. Stacy Adams theory states “employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers.  Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs (Adams, 1965).”   In order for a corporation to be successful or for a person to be successful as a manager it is important to understand what motivates an employee, while at work.  It is important to realize that what motivates an employee today may or may not do so tomorrow.

McGregor based his theories on employees at work; he formulated two models Theory X and Theory Y (McGregor, 1960).  In the beginning of his book he asked “What are your assumptions (implicit as well as explicit) about the most effective way to manage people?”   Theory X is every human hates work and only does so because he/she has to in order to live.  Some of the theories are: because people dislike work they must be controlled, most people like to be told what to do and not have the responsibility of decisions.  Theory Y is based on that people will direct themselves if committed to the organization and if the job is satisfying, imagination and creativity is important.  For McGregor these theories are two very separate unique attitudes. The last theory in this document to be looked at is “Organizational Learning” by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon:

“[Members] require external references. There must be public representations of organizational theory-in-use to which individuals can refer.  This is the function or organizational maps.  These are the shared descriptions of the organization which individuals jointly construct and use to guide their own inquiry…

Organizational theory-in-use, continually constructed through individual inquiry, is encoded in private images and in public maps.  These are the media of organizational learning (Argyris, 1995).”

Their basic theory is people put into an organization based on what they know about the organization.  If the organization gives their employees all the pieces then the input from the employees will be beneficial, even profitable.  However, if they only small portions are given to each employee and the employee could mentally construct the rest. This could be detrimental to the organizations development.  This can also lead to employees becoming dissatisfied with the organization.  This theory might work better if both theories were blended.  No organization wants to give out all their secrets, nor do they want the employees bored or suspicious. By giving employees a personal ownership in the organization lets them be involved enough to remain motivated in the development of the organization.

What Drives an Employee to Be Motivated?

               Motivation comes in many forms and usually when a person feels strong emotions it can be used to motivate them as well as others. There are four basic drives that are in inside every human being they affect what causes an employee to be motivated.  “First is the drive to acquire objects and experience that improve status relative to others. Second is the drive to bond with others in long-term relationships of mutual care and commitment. Next is the drive to learn and to make sense of the world and of ourselves.  Last is the drive to defend ourselves, our loved ones, our beliefs and our resources from harm.  The independence of these drives is what forces people to think and to choose, because not all drives can be met all the times.  These four drives are what make people distinctly human-complex beings with complex motives and complex choices (Leadership Advantage, 2001). There are some who believe that the drive to defend is what motivated people to join the military before and after 9/11.

               Pay is another factor that motivates employees, but it is not always an important factor.  “Performance-related pay has three aspects to it.  Paying the employee for output is an objective method of assessing performance.  Likewise, paying the employee for input is a subjective method, since it is hard to value the effort.  The third method is a hybrid of the two, where both input and output are measured” (Coursework.info, 2007).  Most people work for a paycheck, but that doesn’t mean it motivates them to work and to be enthusiastic about it.  Bills have to be paid and people like nice things so they work for the money, but it’s not what necessarily drives someone to go to work every day.

               Rewards are also seen as motivational tools.  A reward can be either intrinsic or extrinsic.  An intrinsic reward is obtained through the work itself such as the sense of how meaningful the work is and the satisfaction retained once the organizational goals are accomplished.  Extrinsic rewards are rewards that are considered to have value to them such as money, company incentives, and/or career advancements.  Other factors that contribute to motivational outcomes are personal loyalty to the employees, tactful discipline, and sympathetic help with personal problems according to Linder.  Linder implied that, these factors are insights into employee motivation (Linder 1995).  Linder suggested that the most important factors should be satisfied to achieve overall employee satisfaction.  Written by Levey, he proposed that continuing education is also an important way to keep your employees motivated (Levey 1987).  This statement is supported by the fact that company productivity increases as a result of continuing training on the job.

Supervisory Role in Motivation

Often, people join an organization wanting to accomplish certain objectives, and organizations hire individuals to contribute to the company.  Such contributions help the organization achieve its goals, which is the ultimate focus of all businesses.  The responsibility of the mangers is then to motivate the employee so they want to help the company achieve its goals.  Offering rewards is often how mangers encourage employees to share their talents with their business.  By motivating employees, managers ensure that employees continue to be valuable contributors and that those contributions are useful, helpful and geared towards organizational goal attainment.  By helping a company achieves its goals; employees consequently achieve their own goals and achieve a sense of fulfillment.  Employee motivation and satisfaction can add to a company’s success; therefore, worker happiness does have an impact on the bottom line.

Companies sometimes have trouble hiring and holding onto the most valuable workers.  However, a company that motivates employees well by offering big benefits and incentive packages often keeps their most valuable players.  Cash holds less value than it once did as a motivator; on the other hand, holiday bonuses, spot bonuses and other cash payments used as motivators are almost expected and most employees consider these perks as part of their normal take home salary (Miller, 2007).  As a result, employees experience a sense of entitlement and the incentive packs less of a motivational punch.

In a survey conducted of 1400 CFO’s (chief financial officers) and 536 office workers, 35% of the workers and 30% of the CFOs said frequent recognition was the nonmonetary reward most desired.  Regular communication was a strong second chosen by 20% of workers and 36% of CFOs.  No other form of compensation equals a personal “thank you” to show gratitude, says Max Messmer (Miller, 2007).  In the Maritz poll of 1,002 full time employees 29 % wanted a monetary reward, 27% wanted non-monetary rewards, such as gift cards or trips; 27% wanted a trophy or plague, and 40% wanted a written praise.  People need to feel that their work is appreciated and that it has a positive impact.  Additional down time and flexible schedules are always appreciated, but these incentives are seldom the most valued.  For long term loyalty, down time and flexibility are rated high but daily inspiration in spoken form and actions prove most valuable.

As a manager, it is imperative to know what motivates different employees; what works on one employee will not work on all employees.  One employee might love the idea of being recognized in public while another employee may look at the situation more negatively because they hate being in the public.  Mangers need to know their employees preferences in determining how they are motivated.  By doing this, the manger brings out the best in all employees and ultimately helps the organization reach its goals.  It is crucial to keep the communication lines open in the workplace because management pays the heavy price when employees have motivation problems.

Motivational Results and Discussions

Sibson Consulting, says that “for 2006, they recognize the importance of both wanting success and knowing what to do to achieve it.  The Rewards of Work (ROW) framework provides a method for measuring and improving upon these fundamental elements of engagement.  Developed over the course of the past 10 years, our ROW framework finds its foundation in national research studies completed in 2000, 2003 and 2006. These studies survey a random sampling of workers and provide a comprehensive examination of the value exchange between employees and their employers (Motivational Results, 2007).  Some results have been used from other companies such as Good Year Tires and Wal-Mart.    Results from a personal interview with Sergeant First Class Cummings, he said that when you invite your soldiers in on what needs to be accomplished and what future training plans; the soldiers’ morale and participation level goes up” (Cummings, 2007).  Companies listed in the Fortune 500 have implemented employee rewards to further motivate and make their employees loyal to the organization.  For instance, FedEx has implemented an incentive reward program for its employees because they believe that employee motivation is #1 reason for employee recognition (Employee Motivation, 2007).  According to Rene Godefroy; “when the employee motivation begins, employees learn to ethically exploit the company they work for as a result,” not just the success of a company (Motivational Speaker, 1998).  Many companies use motivational theories to be successful.  Another company who explains why motivation is important to its company is the Levi Strauss Co.  The Levi Strauss Co concluded that less turn over, productive results including positive attitudes and quality work are results that are longevity for their company (www.womengateway.com, 2004).


In conclusion motivation is needed for empowerment in an organization.  It is necessary to give employees the confidence and tools to strive for achievements.  Motivation is what drives employees to be loyal and satisfied with their jobs and careers.  How to keep motivation within an organization is left up to the managers of the company.  Myths have been used to show how and what results are when motivation is not applied in the appropriate way.  It can be too much and not produce any positive outcomes or too little and have no influence on the employees at all.  The manager’s responsibility is to ensure employees know what contributions they have made to company and what an asset they are to the company.  Many companies have taken part in this new program.  Companies such as FedEx, Wal-Mart, Target, and Good Year Tires have used employee incentive programs to show recognition to employees and to the company overall.  Whether the results are good or bad in a company’s motivation level, it is all left up to the leadership and how they implement motivational techniques.

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Cite this Motivation of Employees

Motivation of Employees. (2017, Jan 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/motivation-of-employees/

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