Motivation in the workplace has to do with the ability of an employee to achieve a goal. Motivation can be defined as the emotional or psychological state that develops when an individual focuses his or her mind, produces energy, or does a desirable activity. Workplace motivation can take several forms, including individual motivation, performance motivation, group motivation, or corporate motivation. No matter what type of motivation is used in the workplace, employees have to be motivated in order for them to be productive. In order to motivate employees, employers need to understand their needs and determine what actions will help meet those needs.
Motivation theory has been studied for decades and attempts to describe the various factors that lead people to perform specific tasks and achieve specific outcomes. For the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on work engagement, which is closely related to productivity and profit margins. By understanding how employees gain and maintain work engagement, managers can increase overall productivity and improve profitability.
Organizational Equity Motivation Theory suggests that some behaviors are important for individuals to be successful in the workplace. Equity theory defines four key behaviors to look for when evaluating an individual’s potential for success: commitment, integrity, passion, and competence. When employees are committed to their objectives and recognize the influence they have on their supervisors and coworkers, they feel valued by their employers and take pride in their work. Employees are also more likely to engage in high quality work if they are committed to their own personal growth and understand the value of improving their skills, talents, and career objectives. Finally, workers who are committed to their coworkers and the success of the company and its mission are more competent and have more opportunities for advancement.
The fourth behavior attributed to equity theory is professionalism. Workers who exhibit a sense of professionalism are excellent at getting the job done. This means that workers want to do the right thing, want to be effective, and are able to complete tasks with minimal effort. Employees who demonstrate these behaviors also set the expectations for how the workplace should be conducted. These behaviors increase productivity because workers know what to expect, how to behave, and how much they should put in to their work.
Another important element of the motivation and performance concept is social cognitive theory, which suggests that employees’ mental states can be altered through the processes of positive thinking and the processing of negative thoughts. In general, high levels of self-efficacy and social cognitive theory support a positive view of the workplace and are necessary for employees to thrive. Self-efficacy is the ability to think and evaluate oneself and one’s abilities. An employee’s level of self-efficacy can be influenced by many outside sources such as the quality of his workplace environment and the relationships he has with other employees.
One important theory in the area of workplace motivation is called intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is based on the understanding that workers possess inherent characteristics that make them desirable. These traits, when used appropriately, can improve job satisfaction and output. These theories include the following:
These workplace behaviors can be modified through positive and negative feedback, promotions or demotions, recognition, praise, or prizes. Rewards and prizes are given based on the performance of a specific goal, an event, or a process. Employees who recognize themselves for being effective will be encouraged to continue their efforts. A promotion or demotion that is based on extrinsic rewards or outcomes is considered as a poor form of workplace behavior.
When considering how to use workplace behavioral theories to change employee behavior, several factors need to be considered. One factor is the relation between the employees’ intrinsic characteristics (the same ones used in the job-based theories) and their extraneous behavior (such as their attitudes, interpersonal skills, and communication styles). Another factor is the relation between the employees’ intrinsic characteristics and their job-based expectations (such as whether they should be given credit for their efforts and if they have special duties that are required of them). Lastly, some people study the relationship between motivation and job performance to understand whether increased or decreased motivation influences the performance level of employees. This study, however, should be considered as preliminary information.