Management Essays – Employee Motivation



The purpose of writing this paper is to examine work motivation and show why organizations should have a motivated work force. Motivation is central because it determines the time and effort people put into their work to help achieve company goals.

It shall try to explain why individuals with similar abilities and different levels of motivation won’t necessarily produce similar results. Some will care about their tasks and others simply wont. Managers should therefore make sure that employees are motivated enough to help the organization meet its goals because de-motivated employees hinder achievement of those goals.

Organizations that ignore employee motivation have ultimately paid the price and because of that, some have adopted motivation programs which have paid off handsomely for them and ensured effectiveness in the organization.

This study suggests that future managers should motivate their employees from the word go rather than choose to wait for something bad to first happen.


According to James. R Linder (1998) a motive is an impulse that causes a person to act. Motivation is an internal force that drives a person move toward a personal or organizational goal. According to Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p181, it includes 1) direction of behavior, which is behavior a person chooses to use. 2) Level of effort, which is how hard someone works. 3) Level of persistence, which is how hard someone keeps behaving despite obstacles faced.

Motivation is one of the many factors that affect job performance and because of that a high level of motivation will not necessarily lead to high performance on the job. Therefore they shouldn’t assume that low or high performance is as a result of low or high motivation otherwise they will miss the actual cause Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p184

The job of a manager in the workplace is to get things done through employees. To do this the manager should be able to motivate employees. However, that’s not an easy thing to do. Motivation practice and theory are different, some managers know the theory but putting it into practice fails them. To understand motivation one must understand human nature itself which is where the problem lies. Human nature can be very simple, yet very complex too. Understanding this is a needed to ensure effective employee motivation in the workplace and therefore effective management and leadership.

Motivation can either be intrinsic or extrinsic, and according to M Ryan and Edward L. Deci (2000) intrinsic motivation is defined as doing an activity for its own sake and satisfaction rather than for a separable reason. Such people are motivated to act for the fun or challenge rather than external reasons like rewards. Extrinsic motivation is done to obtain a separate outcome like rewards and for this reason it contrasts with intrinsic motivation.

Several motivation theories have been put forth and these include 1) Need theory which looks at workers needs as the source of motivation and includes theories like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which states that human beings have five sets of needs that they seek to satisfy in order of bottom to top and Alderfer’s ERG theory which says human beings have three needs and states that higher needs can be satisfied before lower needs are. 2) Expectancy theory, which focuses on which specific behaviors to perform and the effort to exert. 3) Equity needs which focuses on fairness of work outcomes and input. 4) Social justice needs which focuses on overall fairness in an organization (Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p186

Motivation in an organization should therefore be emphasized but this isn’t the case since some firms neither have the time nor resources to do so or they deliberately choose to ignore it. We shall therefore seek to know the consequences organizations face when they choose to motivate or not to motivate their workers.


For many companies having a motivated workforce is not really a priority because they of the costs associated with it, for example salary raises and bonuses. Others are willing to invest in motivating their workforce because ultimately it affects the organization. However other companies might think they have a motivated workforce when actually they don’t. Therefore the research problem is organisations not being able to detect the symptoms of a workforce that is de-motivated and therefore how they should know that something is wrong.

The research problem is that despite organizations knowing the importance of having a motivated workforce, many continue to intentionally overlook or ignore it and as a result they pay the price.


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The objectives for conducting this research will be to,

  • Establish techniques and ways of motivating employees in an organization
  • Establishing and understanding employees level of needs
  • Establishing a relationship between motivation and job performance


The research will be limited to the research problem which is why companies continue to maintain a de-motivated workforce despite knowing the drawbacks involved. It will also be limited to the research objectives as stated above.


Having a de-motivated work force and not knowing. (Looking at the symptoms)

According to David Javitch (2005) highly motivated employees are regarded as company assets. They are productive, willing to take on extra responsibilities, and pleasant to work with. But every organization, has poor performing, unmotivated employees as well. Therefore, for organizational success, managers need to deal with this obstacle by identifying unmotivated employees and turning them around. However, this isn’t as easy at it may seem, because you can’t motivate them if they don’t want to be motivated. Managers should first identify the signs of de-motivated workers then create a surrounding that encourages these de-motivated employees to motivate themselves.

Managers should begin by identifying the Signs of de-motivated workers. This could include 1) A decrease in productivity by comparing past to current performance. 2) Absentism from work is another reason especially when there is no genuine back up reason and when it’s done a lot. 3) Little or no interaction with other employees especially if the employee in question used to interact with them before. 4) When fellow employees comment or signal that something is wrong with an employee like saying he shows less interest in work. 4) When the employee starts showing up late at work and or leaving before closing work hour time. 5) Changes in attitude, where the employees who were once cheerful, excited now appear moody, silent, sad and angry. 6) More errors being performed on the job like putting wrong figures on the invoice. 7) Stress reactions like being short tempered and difficult to get along with.

He there fore states that managers should first interview the employees and try to establish the reasons for change. Second they should Identify previous motivators and determine which one’s no longer exist and establish the present ones which no longer motivate the employees. Lastly managers should identify new motivators

Establishing techniques of motivating employees in an organization

According to Myron Curry (2004) what drives an employee should first be established

Since it’s the key to what will motivate him or her. Many companies use money as incentive for motivating employees. Big pay raises and bonuses are always something that a person can use. Money is always a good choice to use for employee motivation because everyone likes money to be able to fulfill their physiological needs.

Myron Curry (2004) goes on to say that, money should not be the only tool used for motivation. There are many other choices that can increase employee motivation like,

Employee contribution, where employees are often able to contribute thoughts, ideas, and suggestions to problems. This gives them a sense of accomplishment which makes them feel important and, hence, their motivation is elevated.

Recognition is another form of motivation where employees need to be told when they perform well or do something nice rather than only being scolded when they do something wrong. This makes them feel they are being recognized for the good they do and not only the bad which is the case in most organizations.

When employees feel they have the respect of their colleagues and managers, it boosts their motivation. Negative comments in the workplace create friction amongst employees and managers and this tends to lower their motivation. Therefore managers should ensure that there is a mutual flow of respect amongst employees and themselves.

Employees need to be kept “in the loop.” This basically means they should know what transpires in the organization. When employees feel they are not up to date with what is occurring in the company or in their department, it is a message to them that says, they are not important. That’s not the kind of message that increases motivation. Information should keep flowing to each employee and once this happens they get motivated because they know they matter.

Staying flexible, whereby managers ensure there is limited or no beauracracy or red tape in the organization. An employee should be able to solve problems with ease and if there are too many company rules affecting his or her progress, an employee feels nothing but frustration.

According to James R. Lidner (1998) motivated employees are productive and as such ensure survival of the organization. Different motivation tactics can be used to motivate employees such as 1) Job security where employees are motivated by the thought of knowing they wont loose their jobs. 2) Help with personal problems where the organization goes out of its way to assist employees who might be having personal problems.3) Promotions and growth where employees are certain the organization will develop them and not use them.

According to some human resource experts believe that non cash rewards are a better motivator than cash rewards. Methods like training employees give them confidence and moral to do their jobs well. He states that the most important motivation tool can be communication. A company can ensure that information flows freely between managers and employees by conducting activities like brainstorming sessions that create a feeling of solidarity amongst employees. Richard Lowe Jr. (2002) also states that communication is a bigger motivator than money. Manager should communicate freely and honestly with employees, problems should be discussed and not hidden. By doing this employees become free with management.

Understanding employees levels of needs

Getting to know employees needs is important because without knowing them, we can’t know how to motivate them or why they become motivated. Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p186

Accordingly 4 theories are put forth to try explain the needs of employees. They are,

Need theory

This focuses on the needs of employees as the sources of motivation. Employees have a variety of different needs that they need to meet and these can include food, clothing and so on. They are therefore motivated to work in order to fulfill those needs. Theories by Abraham Maslow and Clayton Alderfer describe the specific needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs;

This states that human beings have 5 basic needs that need to be met. They include 1) Physiological needs which include basic needs like water, food and shelter and other bodily comforts.2) safety needs which include need for a safe and stable environment. 3) Belongingness need which is a need affiliating with others and feeling accepted. 4) Esteem needs which are a need to feel respected and recognized by others and to like oneself. 5) Self actualization needs which is the need to realize ones potential

According to this theory employees have to satisfy the needs in order from bottom ones to top one and therefore can satisfy the top ones when the bottom are unsatisfied. Managers therefore need to identify which needs are satisfied and which are unsatisfied so they can know how they should motivate their employees. (Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p187

Alderfer’s ERG theory

According to this theory, human beings have three universal needs and states that higher needs can be satisfied before lower needs. According to him, there is no order in satisfaction of needs. Huitt W. (2001)

The needs are 1) existence needs which are survival needs like food and shelter. 2) Relatedness needs which are needs to have good relations with people. 3) Growth needs which are needs for self development.

Expectancy theory

According to Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p189 this theory states that employees will not be motivated to contribute their inputs to the organization unless they believe it will result in achieving a given level of performance. In other words, when employees feel they are not capable of performing at a certain level even with a lot of effort, their motivation to perform at that level will be so low. Three major factors determine an employee’s motivation, 1) Valence, which looks at the desirability of outcomes from jobs. 2) Instrumentality which looks at the link between job performance and the outcome for example a sales man will expect that if he closes a big deal his performance will result in a hefty commission. 3)

Expectancy which looks at the link between effort and job performance. It’s an employee’s perception that the effort he or she puts in will result in a certain level of performance.

In order for an employee to be motivated to perform at a high level, the following conditions are necessary Valence must be high, Instrumentality must be high and expectancy must be high

Equity theory

According to Charlie Corry (2006) the Equity theory describes the relationship between how fairly an employee perceives he is treated and how hard he is motivated to work.

The idea is that employees want to balance what they put into their jobs and what they get from them. According to the Equity theory, the most highly motivated employee is the one who perceives his or her rewards are equal to the contributions. If he or she feels that they are being rewarded and treated in a way that is equal to how fellow employees are being treated then he or she will judge that they are being treated fairly

This however, doesn’t mean that every manager should treat every employee identically, because every worker does not measure his contributions in the same way. For example, short working hours might motivate a working student more than a pay raise. Research on Equity theory and employee motivation has shown that, in general, over-rewarded employees will produce more and of a higher quality than will under-rewarded, less motivated employees.

According to Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p194 there are two types of inequity overpayment inequity and underpayment inequity. Overpayment inequity occurs when an employee perceives that his outcome input ratio is greater than the ratio of a referent while underpayment equity occurs when an employee perceives that his outcome input ratio is less than that of the

referent. For example Victor and Hugo work in a fast foods restaurant and use each other as referents. Victor is very hardworking and always on time while Hugo is Lazy and a habitual latecomer. However, they earn the same salary and bonuses which makes Victor perceive underpayment because he contributes more than Hugo Hugo on the other hand

is perceiving overpayment because he contributes less than Victor but earns same outcome.

However, equity can be restored in situations like the one involving Victor and Hugo. 1) employees can change their inputs or outcomes.2) they can try to change the inputs or outcomes of their referents. 3) They can change their perception of inputs and outcomes. 4) Employees can change the referent. 5) Employees can leave the organization or force the referent to leave. Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p195

Organizational justice theory

According to Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p196 this is an employees perception of overall fairness in an organization. It looks at whether the methods used to assess inputs and performance and distribute outcomes are perceived to be fair. When procedures are perceived to be unfair, motivation levels drop because workers feel unfairly treated.

Organizational justice is made up of

1) Distributive justice which is the perceived fairness of the distribution of outcomes. For example if workers feel like they are earning less pay than they should yet their inputs are high.

2) Procedural justice which is the perceived fairness of the procedures used to make decisions about distribution of outcomes. For example if a manager fails to increase salaries because he is basing the employee’s performance on past evaluation, he is using unfair procedures. If however, employee’s performances are evaluated frequently, then they get what they deserve because the procedures about distribution are fair.

3) Interpersonal justice which is the interpersonal treatment employees receive from their managers need to treat their employees with respect. For example if managers made rude remarks to employees it would amount to a form of injustice. If however he did the opposite and treated the employee’s with dignity, it would be interpersonal justice

4) Informational justice which is the way managers explain to employee’s the decisions they make and the procedures they use to arrive at them. For example managers can explain to employee’s how they evaluate their task performance.

Establishing a relationship between motivation and task performance

Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p183 because the level of employee motivation determines how efficiently and seriously they do their tasks, it would seem that performance depends on it. Motivation is one among the many factors that are responsible for level of task performance. Others can be difficulty of the task, personality, resources, ability and so on. The relationship between motivation and performance is such that other factors may

come into play such as personality and therefore even if an employee is low on motivation, performance may still be high and vise versa. For example a computer programmer who is creative may develop high quality programs even though his motivation is low.

According to Mareike Wieth and Bruce D. Burns (2000), previous studies have shown a co-relation between initial motivation and subsequent performance. However, it is possible that the relationship is due to a third factor such as ability or personality. Therefore motivation on its own is not directly responsible for changes in task performance


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Source of information

Required was secondary data and it included Journals articles and text books.

Processing of the information

The information was processed by drawing inferences from the literature review and making personal opinions from critical analysis of the literature review


The study faced two limitations. Fist limited financial resources for acquiring articles and second it was limited to secondary data, meaning the more accurate primary data in form of surveys and interviews wasn’t carried out.

Presentation of findings

The information will be presented and will be applicable for use by any organization in any industry.


David Javitch. (2005) explains how managers can know they have a de-motivated workforce by simply looking at the symptoms. Symptoms like poor performance might not be due to de-motivation because there are other factors that contribute to level of work performance like availability of resources, personality, ability, luck and so on. Therefore the above symptoms like drop in productivity might be for some other reason like ability rather than motivation. The symptom of little or no interaction with employees might be due to an employee being moody and not necessarily being de-motivated. The symptom of more errors being performed on the job might not be a sign of de-motivation but rather a sign of fatigue from long working hours. The symptom of comments from fellow employee’s like saying an employee doesn’t show interest in work anymore might be as a result of internal company politics, jealousy and not de-motivation. Therefore because the symptoms might sometimes be misleading, managers should look deeper into them in order to know that the changes are not as a result of some other problems as mentioned but rather a result of de-motivation. Failure to do this could result into providing a solution for the wrong problem for example increasing salaries when the employee actually lacks ability and isn’t de-motivated as suspected.

According to Myron Curry (2004). Money is always a good choice to use for employee motivation because everyone likes money to be able to fulfill their physiological needs. He goes on to say that, money should not be the only tool used for motivation. There are many other choices that can increase employee motivation like employee contribution, recognition, respect, being kept in the loop and staying flexible.

However choices like being kept in the loop where employees know what’s going on in the company may not be as easy to implement. This is because some of the procedures and decisions that managers make may be sensitive and not supposed to be known by every employee for fear of information leaks to competitors.

Flexibility might not be as simple to implement as well because sometimes when an organization has no red tape, systems like vouchers and credit can be abused by employees. Therefore these systems despite there drawbacks help to keep employees in check. Sometimes employees want be respected when they haven’t fully earned it. Respect is something that has to be fully earned and only then can it be shown otherwise every employee could take advantage and want respect when they don’t fully deserve it.

According to James R. Lidner (1998) Different motivation tactics can be used to motivate employees such as 1) job security 2) help with personal problems.3) promotions and growth. Job security which entails employees being sure of maintaining their jobs might not be easy to guarantee because employees are bound to make costly mistakes which affect the company and when this happens, the company might have to get rid of them or else it looses. Promotions and growth need to worked for and only then can they be attained. When this is not done, employees could get promotions they don’t deserve and as such won’t be able to handle the new responsibilities which will seriously affect the company. Being helped with personal problems is a good gesture from the company but sometimes employees could take advantage so that the company solves their every personal problem and they could go as far as creating problems that don’t exist.

Richard Lowe Jr. (2002) states that communication is a bigger motivator than money. In theory this might be true but for most employees, bonuses and pay rises are very important because they have to make ends meet. Communication is very important, yes, but what use is communication when an employee can’t pay his monthly rate on time because it has been increased and his current salary isn’t enough to settle it.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, needs be met in the order of bottom to top needs According to this theory, once the lower needs are satisfied, they cease to become a source of motivation. This isn’t necessarily true because when the employee fails to satisfy the top needs, his motivation to satisfy the bottom needs increases, something that Alderfer’s theory agrees with. Therefore employees won’t necessarily cease to be motivated by their bottom needs and management should be aware of that so that it continues to motivate its employees.

According to the equity theory, Research on Equity theory and employee motivation has shown that, in general, over-rewarded employees will produce more and of a higher quality than will under-rewarded, less motivated employees. However, sometimes over rewarded employees can loose consistency or become complacent because they feel they have gotten to the top and may tend to relax which can lead to lower input while the under rewarded employees and less motivated employees could decide to pull up their stockings so that they can get a taste of high reward.

According to (Charlie Corry 2006) the Equity theory describes the relationship between how fairly an employee is treated and how hard he is motivated to work.

The idea is that employees want to balance what they put into their jobs and what they get from them. However in the real world that balance is very hard to achieve because other factors won’t be constant. Factors like the organization might be experiencing financial difficulties, there might be economic problems like recessions or company politics might not play in the employees favor. Because of this, it might be hard to motivate the employees and therefore organizations should endeavor to make their employees understand that sometimes certain factors are beyond their control but where they are in their control like company politics, they should try to fix them because in the end if they don’t, they loose.

According to Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) p196 organizational justice is an employee’s perception of overall fairness in an organization. It states procedural justice as the perceived fairness of the procedures used to make decisions about distribution of outcomes. However the question is, who is the judge of whether the procedure used is a good one or not. Sometimes employees might be so bitter and biased that to them even a good or fair procedure they will view as bad and unfair. In such cases, the organization should outsource certain functions to a neutral whose fairness won’t be doubted.

“Interpersonal justice” is the interpersonal treatment employees receive from their managers. It states that managers need to treat their employees with respect. However, what it doesn’t mention is whether employees need to treat their managers with respect too. Employees have a tendency of not respecting their managers and therefore for them to receive manager’s respect, they should be willing to give it.

According to “Informational justice” managers should explain to employee’s the decisions they make and the procedures they use to arrive at them. Sometimes however, the information might be sensitive and can’t be given out for fear of it leaking. Secondly, explaining to employees all the time decisions and procedures can be a time costly exercise. Therefore companies should reveal only important information to save on time and for that which is sensitive a few trusted employees can be included in the loop.


The research had two limitations and these could have affected the accuracy of the research. The first limitation was that it was limited to secondary sources of information like journal articles and text books while no primary data was collected. Primary data though more costly is more accurate. The second limitation was cost, since most of the journals had to be gotten online, some had to be purchased and because of financial constraints, not all could be purchased meaning some vital research information could have been missed.


It can therefore be said that motivation is a very critical element in an organization and though the findings have shown that motivation does not directly affect performance, if totally neglected managers who ignore it pay the ultimate price which could be a drop in sales or profitability and worse closure. Employees are a very important resource to the

Company and those companies that have realized it like the SAS institute and Starbucks have reaped enormously. This research paper will provide ways in which an organization can motivate its workforce and it will show the demerits of a de-motivated work force. It will further expound on certain motivation aspects which when analysed were found to have some weaknesses or lack consistency. By the end of this paper, the reader will be able to create and maintain a highly motivated workforce.


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1. Myron Curry, (2004) – Effective ways to Motivate Employees

2. James R. Lindner, (1998) – Understanding Employee Motivation

3. Richard Lowe, Jr. (2002) – Motivating Employees

4. Huitt W, (2001) – Motivation to learn

5. Mareike Wieth and Bruce D. Burns (2000) – motivation insight versus incremental

problem solving

6 Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci (2000) – intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and New Directions.

7 Charlie Corry, (2006) – Equity Theory and Employee Motivation

8 Jennifer M. George and Gareth R. George (2008) – Understanding and Managing organizational Behavior (5th edition) Pearson Education International

9. David Javitch. (2005) – How to prevent and rescue burnt out employee’s

10. A Precht- motivating employees

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