Motivation in Organizational Behavior

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 4
Words: 826
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

The motivation of employees plays a crucial role in organizational behavior; probably, it is one of the most difficult parts of it. If an employee lacks skills, he or she can be trained, if working conditions are not sufficient, those can be improved, but motivation is an indicator that is extremely hard to change. A lot of authors have been interested in this question and tried to understand where motivation comes from, what value it brings, and how it can be increased (Griffin & Moorhead, 2013; Mullins, 2007; Schermerhorn, Osborn, Uhl-Bien, & Hunt, 2011). This paper provides a brief literature review of the topic.

The Definition of Motivation and its Role in Organizational Behavior

Schermerhorn et al. (2011) define motivation as a set of forces, which determine the “direction, level, and persistence” of people’s efforts made to work (p. 102). Griffin & Moorhead (2013) give a narrower definition and focus mostly on the direction, saying that motivation is a set of forces that “causes people to engage in one behavior rather than alternative behavior” (p. 90). The same authors present an interesting equation, which assumes that the job performance of an employee equals the sum of three variables: motivation, ability, and environment (Griffin & Moorhead, 2013, p. 90). Moreover, out of these three factors, motivation is the most difficult to address since it is much easier to provide workers with needed equipment/materials/resources (environment) or to train their skills (ability) than to encourage them to work and do their best.

Different Perspectives on Motivation

All authors mentioned above present several theories of motivation in their works. Griffin and Moorhead (2013) firstly talk about historical perspectives: the traditional approach that says that people are motivated by money, the human relations approach that implies that motivation is connected to the social needs, and the human resource approach, which assumes that people want to contribute to the common cause, and that is where motivation comes from (p. 92). Schermerhorn et al. (2011) and Mullins (2007) skip this part and move to more modern theories, or so-called need-based theories of motivation, which Griffin and Moorhead (2013) present next. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs goes first on the list. The hierarchy begins with the most fundamental needs, physiological ones; the next levels contain security needs, belongingness needs (friendship), esteem needs (status), and self-actualization needs (challenges and achievements) (Griffin & Moorhead, 2013, p. 93; Mullins, 2007, p. 257; Schermerhorn et al., 2011, p. 103).

When one of the levels is already achieved, an individual wants more, and that desire becomes a source of motivation. Another important need-based theory these authors consider is the two-factor or the dual-structure model. Frederick Herzberg, the founder of the model, conducted the study among workers, and then came up with his theory (Schermerhorn et al., 2011, p. 106). He says that motivation should be considered within the framework of job satisfaction: there are motivation factors that contribute to job satisfaction and hygiene factors, which perform the inverse function (Griffin & Moorhead, 2013, p. 97; Mullins, 2007, p. 262; Schermerhorn et al., 2011, p. 106). Then, the authors describe several process-based theories of motivation that focus on how employees act and think in their efforts to meet their needs.

The Relationship between Job Satisfaction and Motivation

As has already been mentioned above, motivation is directly dependent on job satisfaction. Thus, to raise motivation, job satisfaction should firstly be increased. Mullins (2007) addresses this issue very well. The author identifies five core factors that determine job satisfaction among workers. Firstly, that is the variety of skills that makes an employee to be engaged in different activities and use his or her skills and talents (Mullins, 2007, p. 281). When the work is routine and monotonous, people quickly lose interest in it, and motivation decreases. Two next important factors are task identity and task significance, which determine the extent of competition needed to complete a particular task and the meaningfulness of that task (Mullins, 2007, p. 281).

The fourth relevant factor is autonomy, which is about freedom and independence that workers have or do not nave (Mullins, 2007, p. 281). For example, employees usually appreciate the opportunity to innovate and the flexibility of work. Finally, feedback makes a difference (Mullins, 2007, p. 281). Every worker wants to see the results of his or her work and be valued. Considering all of these factors, the author presents an equation that calculates the motivating potential score as the arithmetical mean of the first three factors (skill variety, task variety, and task significance) multiplied by autonomy and feedback (Mullins, 2007, p. 281).

Still, although a lot of theories of motivation have been founded, and even the equations to calculate the value of this quantity have been presented, motivation remains one of the most complicated factors of organizational behavior. However, it is one of the most effective as well. If employees are motivated, they will always do their best instead of fulfilling only the required minimum.


Griffin, R., & Moorhead, G. (2013). Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations (11th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Mullins, L. J. (2007). Management and Organisational Behaviour (8th ed.). Essex, England: Pearson Education.

Schermerhorn, J. R., Osborn, R. N., Uhl-Bien, M., & Hunt, J. G. (2011). Organizational Behavior (12th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.