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Discussion of employee motivation - Different theories

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  1. Introduction
  2. Motivation theories & their implications for leaders
  3. Conclusion

Motivation comes from the Latin word ?movere?, to move (Kreitner, 1998) and is defined in organizational context as ?the willingness to exert high levels of efforts towards organizational goals, conditioned by the efforts' ability to satisfy some individual needs? (Robbins, 1993). For Robbins, unsatisfied needs create tension that in turn makes the individual act to reach satisfaction. More clearly, people are always looking for satisfying their needs; making them feel that by acting in a certain way, they will receive a fair compensation that will help them to fulfill their needs is a strong motivator.

The perceived importance of motivation in firms' success is illustrated by the huge amount of research and papers concerning the subject, bringing sometimes confusion instead of understanding, due to their important divergences (Tai K. Oh, 1972). However, in spite of this apparent diversity, Ramlall (2004) highlights that the differences between theories come only from different views of the needs that people try to satisfy. Motivation is a quite complex field, as it has to do with human beings; as Adair (2007) illustrates, 50% of motivation come from the environment but the remaining 50% come from inside the individual. This is why there is no ?universally established rules? to be followed by leaders willing to motivate their staff, different motivation theories and the advice they bring are based on different views of human beings.

[...] Work and the nature of man. Cleveland: World. Herzberg, F. (1968), more time: how do you motivate employees ?', Harvard business review, 46: pp. 53-62 Jalajas, D.S. & Bommer, M. (1999), influence of job motivation versus downsizing on individual behavior', Human resources development quarterly, 10: pp. 329-341 Kanfer R. (1990), ?Motivation theory & industrial and organizational psychology', in M.D. Dunnette and L.M. Hough (eds.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology, Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press pp. 75-170 Kreitner, R. [...]


[...] Consequently, motivation is conditioned by two variables: whether the individual thinks that the effort will bring performance and the extent to which the individual thinks that the outcomes of this performance are desirable (Steers, 1983). Vroom (1964) expanded this theory by adding the dimension of choice (?choices made by a person among alternative courses of actions are lawfully related to psychological events occurring contemporaneously with the behavior?, Vroom, 1964), explained by factors classified into three groups: valence (affective orientation towards the outcomes), instrumentality (the degree to which a first outcome will lead to a second) and expectancy (the degree to which a certain outcome is evaluated as possible by the individual) (Pinder, 1984). [...]


[...] By trying to empirically test different motivation theories in equivalent situations, he found out that none of them seems to be better than others. Consequently he deduces that strategies for motivation should be tailored to suit the situations and the members of the team, using at best their strength and undermining their weaknesses (Miller, 1981). However the common point of all of these theories is that they have been produced because motivation has been found to have great positive effects on organizations. [...]

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