What is work motivation?
Work motivation is defined as the motivation, or an energy based force, which can put external and internal desires into motion that initiate behavior which is work-related. Work motivation is also defined as a force which can help determine the intensity, focus, length and direction of work related behavior. Work motivation can be inspired by both internal and external factors, such as a personal work ethic or by job related incentives or demerits. For example, someone who believes that working hard will bring great rewards will have the work motivation to perform well at their job every day; someone who is offered a substantial bonus by their employer if they finish a particular task in a specified amount of time will have the work motivation to complete that task. Both internal and external factors can have a substantial positive or negative influence on work motivation.
Work motivation is considered to be one of the most important, if not the most important, aspect of any company which relies on multiple employees. Without work motivation, employees would not adequately perform their jobs. Work motivation is required in order to keep production, sales and profits on an increasing scale.
The psychology behind work motivation is still being researched due to the complexities behind motivation and motivation which is based upon a specific job or duty, which is considered by some to be a significantly different type of motivation than motivations based on other factors, such as non-essential desires or goals. Unlike motivation to, for example, go on a trip to the other side of the country, work motivation is intrinsically based on essentials and needs. Employment helps secure money, and money helps secure needs such as food, shelter, and security. In this sense, work motivation is considered to be much more psychological than other, luxury-based motivations.
How do need-based theories explain work motivation?
There are various need based theories which suggest that work motivation is caused by an individual's inherent psychological drive to meet and satisfy specific needs which are considered to be necessary for human beings. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed in 1943 and is today being used to explain why work motivation may exist. Maslow's theory states that human beings have the inherent psychological drive to satisfy needs in a certain hierarchical order--beginning with physical needs such as food and ending with psychological needs called self-actualization, which includes needs such as morality and creativity. Work motivation can be explained by applying the theory of hierarchical needs to the workplace—that is, that individuals will strive to work because they want to satisfy physical needs like obtaining food, water and a place to sleep; they will strive to work harder to obtain the need of safety, such as earning a salary high enough to allow them to live in a safe neighborhood; and so on. Although this theory may explain why work motivation exists—to satisfy needs—some believe that the Maslow theory does not adequately explain or describe the needs and desires experienced by human beings. For example, Maslow’s theory indicates that human beings will not attempt to satisfy needs on the higher hierarchical levels until they have satisfied the needs on all the levels below it. This would mean that someone who has not satisfied the need for friendship will not want to satisfy their need for morality or creativity, which are on a higher level. Anecdotal research indicates that this simple theory about human needs is too rigid to accurately describe the complexity of human needs and, subsequently, work motivation.
However, it is important to note that Maslow’s theory does lay the foundation for countless other need-based theories which have a much better reputation among business psychologists when it comes to explaining work motivation.
The Need for Achievement Theory was developed by Atkinson and McClelland and is currently considered to be among the most relevant of the need-based theories as they relate to work motivation today. The need for Achievement Theory states that achievement motivation, or work motivation, should be broken into three different categories: Achievement: seeking advancement in position, positive feedback, and a general sense of accomplishment; Authority: the need or desire to lead a group, to make a visible impact on others, and to be listened to by others; Affiliation: the need for social interaction which is friendly and the need to be liked by others.
According to the Need for Achievement Theory, work motivation is based upon satisfying these three categories. An individual who desires advancement, leadership and friendly social interaction is considered to be much more likely to work harder in the work place—and thus, to have more work motivation. This particular theory has also shed some light on why work motivation may exist at all. Unlike other motivations outside of the workplace, work motivation—according to the Need for Achievement Theory—is based upon largely social needs and desires. The need to be liked, for example, indicates that the internal pressure of the individual to be considered socially positive is strong enough to inspire harder work motivation. All of the needs within the three Achievement categories can be considered inherently social, which is what makes work motivation—again, according to this theory—so different in the world of business psychology. Typically, motivation in this category is based upon monetary factors, such as the desire for food, a bigger house, and more luxuries. But the Need for Achievement Theory believes that work motivation is an inherently social and personal motivation, based upon the desire for individuals to be liked, have positive relationships and to have a specific role within a group.