Research Paper: Motivation in the Workplace

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Workplace Motivation

Motivation in the Workplace: New Perspectives

Motivating employees is one of the most difficult and important jobs with which management must contend. Motivated employees mean greater productivity and lower absenteeism. Understanding the factors that motivate employees has been an essential topic of study for industrial psychologists for many years. Several factors have been identified which contribute to and which hinder employee motivation. The following research will explore the topic of employee motivation and the factors that influence it and hinder it. It will take a research-based approach to the problem and will focus on the role of employee review and its role in employee motivation. The research will support the thesis that more frequent employee reviews will help to increase employee motivation in all types of employees.

Current State of Research on Employee Motivation

In the past, it was thought that the primary motivation for employees revolved around pay. However, this misnomer has been proven to be false. Pay and benefits might be the sole motivation for some employees, but for most, their reason for working goes well beyond the monetary and material benefits that they receive. The following research summarizes the most recent studies on what motivates employees.

The four most important motivators for employees are employee engagement in their jobs, organizational values and vision, managerial recognition, and the sense of authenticity from management (SHRM, 2010). Employee engagement reflects the extent to which employees feel a sense of commitment to the employer. This factor influences how hard they are willing to work and how long they intend to stay. Organizational vision has to do more with how well employee values and vision are in alignment with corporate vision. The employee must feel this alignment in order to be motivated by it. How well employees feel that they are treated is one of the most important factors in creating happy, long-time employees. face-to-face interactions with management that encourage the employee were found to be one of the most important factors in employee motivation (SHRM, 2010).

Teams have become one of the most important aspects of the work environment. Emotional intelligence has been found to be one of the most important elements of team members that have an effect on team performance (Othman, Abdullah, & Ahmad, 2009). These researchers found little research that related Emotional intelligence to work motivation, but references were found that relate the ability to control ones emotions was related to achievement. Achievement has been directly related to motivation. Therefore, as Othman and associates, surmised, emotional intelligence can be linked to a direct causal affect with motivation. Emotional intelligence has a direct affect on an employee's behaviors, attitudes and work outcomes.

Theories of self-efficacy have evolved into group efficacy theories. The theory of self-efficacy supports that idea that in order to achieve a goal, a person must first be able to envision themselves accomplishing the task. They must believe that they will be able to accomplish the task at hand. If they do not believe that they can accomplish the task, they will not take action in that direction, and consequently, they will not accomplish the task. This same concept has been extended to team. Group efficacy supports the theory that a team must believe that they will be able to accomplish a goal in the time allotted in order to make their vision a reality (Gibson & Earley, 2007). Several factors influence the development of group efficacy. These are member abilities as they relate to task difficulty, self-efficacy of individual group members, group feelings about past performance, group cohesion, the amount of cooperation among the group, and how members of the group view the importance of the task (Gibson & Earley, 2007).

Workplace friendships are one of the most important influence on workplace effectiveness. Studies support responses that workplace friendships can have both positive and negative influences. For instance, workplace friendships have been found to have positive effects on stress, creativity, and motivation. However, they have also been found to result in a loss of focus on the task, groupthink, conflict of interest and the appearance of favoritism by management (Dotan, 2009). If one thinks back to their own work experiences, it is probable that one can think of at least one example that illustrates many, if not all of these consequences, both positive and negative. Dotan identified six key reasons why individuals form friendships at work. They are work safety/trust, missing roles, sanity checks, work values and life similarities, proximity, and mutual benefit. Dotan suggests that if people form friendships for such varied reasons, it helps to explain the different results of these friendships. The results of Dotan's study support her hypothesis. It was found that each of these factors resulted in either a positive or negative effect on the workplace.

Dotan's work makes it difficult to make general statements about the overall positive or negative affects of friendships on the workplace. It seems as if they can be either positive or negative depending on the reason for the development of the friendship. I can recall one particular instance where friendships had both positive and negative consequences in the workforce. I was working at a call center and the manager and secretary would have private little meetings in the manager's office. They would laugh and gossip about the other employees. Then when a few people in the office were fired, it was suspected that office politics rather than job performance were the reasons. This separated the team and people started trying to get the secretary on "their side." Backstabbing, sabotaging people's efforts and other activities began to take place. It became a very hostile work environment and productivity dropped. The secretary and office manager continued to have their private sessions and then more people were terminated. Everyone had the feeling that their job security depended on whether the secretary liked you or not. Before it was all over, department productivity had dropped significantly, all due to the perception of favoritism by the office manager. This example illustrates the results of Dotan's study and the connection between positive and negative feelings towards one's work environment.

Summary of Workplace Motivation Research

Many theories on workplace engagement and motivation have been developed. One of the earliest was based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This theory stated that people were motivated to work in order to achieve higher order needs (Martin, 2009). It would be easy to see why some people might see work as a way to satisfy their basic needs. The very poor are often willing to take jobs that they would not otherwise in order to be able to provide food and shelter for themselves. However, when one gets to the higher income levels, this is does not seem to hold true. Let us consider the very wealthy. After a certain point, people can have so much wealth that they no longer have to worry about anything else for the rest of their lives. Once they get to the level where they have multiple estates and their own private airplanes, it is difficult to see why they continue to work, yet many of them do continue to work throughout the rest of their lives. This would lead us to believe that their motivation for working goes beyond provision of their material needs. Without interviewing them, it is difficult to say what motivates the very wealthy to keep working. The reasons are probably different for every one of them, but one could confidently determine that it goes beyond material needs.

Value-based theories propose that people prefer conditions of value and equity in their workplaces. They will make a judgment as to what they put into their work and what they get out of their work. IF they feel that they are not getting enough, they will become unhappy and begin to look for better opportunities elsewhere (Martin, 2009). They will also assess how much self-efficacy they feel in the ability to perform another job or to take on a higher managerial position in their current position. Several theories highlight the ability to adapt to one's work environment. Social learning and the ability to regulate one's own emotions is a key to planning, task management and persistence in a task (Martin, 2009).

When one considers that various theories on workplace motivation that have developed throughout the years, it is difficult to determine which one is the most relevant to workplace motivation. They all have strengths and the ability to explain a certain set of circumstances, but they only apply to certain types of employees. The key weakness of all of the theories on workplace motivation is that the human factor. Everyone is different. Human motivation is one of the most difficult topics in the field of psychology. What drives one person will have an effect on another. A person's personality, life experiences, attributions, and perceptions all form an equation that drives motivation. This equation is different for every individual. The question that must be asked is which… [END OF PREVIEW]

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