Term Paper: Motivation Is a Central Principle

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¶ … motivation is a central principle within the science of psychology. When people fail and succeed, especially in the workplace, their tendencies and actions give a clear description of their personality and character. Some people fail and give up on their attempts, taking the perspective that is always easier to prevent themselves from failure again rather than keep trying. While conversely, others may fail and try harder, motivating themselves to succeed through failures. Both of these types of feedback signs are found in empirical studies, however, little application has been found in how to use this data in interpreting workplace relationships and the motivational tactics of management.

This specific study looks into the distinction between promotion vs. prevention focused individuals, and how motivational tactics within these two character types can work together or separately. It is necessary in the workplace environment to find a focus on broad perspectives in which a unique assessment of promotion vs. prevention characterization is derived within the workplace environment.

Fundamentally the distinction between advancement (prevention) focused and security (prevention) focused individuals takes place within how they interact on both a physical and social level. When considering needs, certain individuals are much more concerned with how much nourishment, growth and development they experience, while others concern themselves more with shelter, safety and protection. E.T. Higgens advanced the theory that prevention vs. promotion focused individuals not only concern themselves with differing sets of values and emphasis, motivations for advancement and security also can created "different modes of goal pursuit." In specific, that people "represent and experience basic needs for advancement in an entirely different fashion than basic needs for security." This revolutionary theory, has dramatic application to the workplace. Managers who differ in motivational mindset from employees, could have conflicting value standards that dramatically decreases their effectiveness in motivating production and positive work environment.

Within the workplace environment, the connection between employees and employers is extremely important to sustain productivity and workplace culture. Many times however, a breakdown in communication can be caused by uncontrollable incompatibility between management style and employee behavior. To attribute this incongruity to a conflict between promotion vs. prevention motivation might be too ambitious, however, further research needs to be demonstrate a direct link between these two factors. The purpose of this particular study is to find out what influence does having opposing personality styles (promotion focused vs. prevention focused) have, on productivity and movitation in the workplace. In addition, the actual negative impact on promotion focused employees if they work within a prevention focused management environment, and vice versa. First however, we need to define a more concrete understanding of promotion vs. prevention personality types.

Prevention vs. Promotion: The Research

Higgins proposed in groundbreaking research that the two basic self-regulation systems individuals have are grounded in the prevention vs. promotion conflict. The first system, security (prevention) focused, regulates how individuals avoid punishment. While, in contrast, the second system regulates the achievement of rewards and focuses people on promotion goal. Although this theory is not distinctly revolutionary (having been proposed by many prominent psychologists in the early 1960s), it does present a much clearer and unified definition of the prevention vs. promotion personality system. Higgins argued that when people are under a prevention focus, they are sensitive to punishments that may result from poor performance. In contrast when people are under a promotion focus they become greatly sensitive to the rewards that may be gained from having better performance. Thus, the specific fit between the regulation focus and outcome is ultimately what determines motivation. Higgins forwards the idea of "congruency" as the primary method to determine between character types. Idea of congruency states that the prevention system becomes active when actions are recognized to have negative outcoes, because such outcomes are congruent with the individual's purpose, which is the avoidance of punishment. Thus, the promotion focused individual becomes active when actions will result in achieving their specific focus which is to approach rewards. This theory was thoroughly tested by Higgins, where he notes that when individual think about gaining money, the motivation level was strongly positively correlated within the promotion focus and negatively correlated with prevention focus. When the test was reversed to focus on losing money however, respondents showed that they were their was a negative correlation with promotion focused individuals, and positive correlation with prevention focused individuals. The conclusion of Higgin's research is that motivation that is found when there is congruence between "regulation focus and outcome saliency is higher than the motivation found when their incongruence between these factors."

In more layman terms, when pursuing promotion concerns, people are focused much more on gains. They view themselves as individual striving towards positive outcomes and avoiding the absence of such outcomes. In the application of such theory across genres, promotion focused individuals improve their relations with others through representative goals such as strengthening social connections and avoiding missed social opportunities. Whereas withina prevention focused system, individuals would attempt to protect their relations woth others by eliminating actions and events that might threaten their established social connections and the strong avoidance of social exclusion. The extent of how deeply promotion vs. prevention systems is ingrained in individual personality can be related to the emotions associated with such personality types. Gains are experiences as the result of positive outcomes, thus promotion focused individuals strive to achieve the pleasurable state of elation and cheerfulness. Whereas prevention focused individual strive to achieve the state of "non-loss," therefore their highest emotional status may be the pleasurable absence, such as relaxation and general quiescence.

The effects of a contrast in two mindsets induce differences in how individuals perceive pleasure and pain, but they also effect how individuals enjoy the intensity of pleasure vs. pain. Promotion focused individuals strive for elation, and as a result they are involved in consistently high motivational arousal. Prevention focused systems tend to provoke less intensive positive feelings. Thus promotion focused individuals tend to be feel more intensely than the calmness of people who able to focus solely on prevention. However, the evident tradeoff is that low motivational arousal entails that failures also have a dramtically reduced affect on prevention focused individuals, because they tend to put themselves in positions of emotional and physical security. Whereas those who are highly aroused emotionally, feels a much harder emotional impact from failure. Thus promotion focused individuals amplify both their pleasure and pain in a variety of spectrums.

The application of promotion vs. prevention research however, does not explicitly mean that such personality systems reflect desired positive or negative endstates. It is much more a broad application of how general desires can approach either approaching positives or avoiding negatives. The classic example forwarded by Higgins within the context of employee motivation is a situation of two employees working for a corporation. Both employees are highly motivated to work more than the standard forty hours a week, in order to gain a promotion at the end of the calendar year. Both of these individuals are striving towards a positive endstate. However, for the first employee who has a promotion focused mindset, working overtime in order to earn a promotion is the next step towards improving his status within the corporation and help his career. Whereas the second employee views his overtime and subsequent promotion as a necessary action to protect his status within the corporation and to keep up with his fellow employees. Thus although both employees have the same endstate in mind, how they approach these motivations from a general personality system is invoked in their thought pattern, not in their ultimate outcome. The ambiguity that arises from simple assumptions of promotion vs. prevention mindsets can arise from merely assessing outcomes. Simple comparisons are made between established desires to either approach certain gains or avoidance certain losses. Researchers testing hypotehesies tied to the problem of motivation for promotion and prevention often make the mistake of using ambiguous endstates that can be applied to both personality systems.

Although there is a significant difference derived from promotion vs. prevention motivation systems, one question that comes to mind is what causal factors determine when each of these motivations become active. If individuals have within them both advancement and security needs, then it merits dissection of how each need becomes active. Higgins conducted further study into this question in 2000, because promotion vs. prevention focuses are associated with very distinct representations and experiences, and the situations that evoke them. When individuals goals involve gains incentives, pursuit of such goals tend to be promotion motivated. Wheras, goals that involve loss incentives will be prevention motivated. Still no clear method can be used to test how such needs will be specifically activated within individuals, this decision is very much one that is influenced by self-standards. Self-standards that involves terms fo gaining or not gaining positive outcomes will inevitably lead to promotion focus, whereas the same can be said for prevention focus. Duty and obligation for instance are viewed through self-standards as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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