Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

How Does Motivation Affect Job Performance?

Category Job, Motivation
Essay type Research
Words 2444 (9 pages)
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The term "Motivation" could be explained as an internal process leading to behaviour to satisfy needs. A certain need gives rise to a motive, motive in turn generates a behaviour which ultimately helps to satisfy or dissatisfy the need.

Motivation acts positively on the job performance of an individual. It has been found that motivated employees are more productive. If people do not feel inclined to engage themselves in work, they will not put necessarry effort to perform the job well. There are various motivation theories proposed by different social scientists from time to time.

The motivation theories could be broadly divided into two categories - content theories and process theories. Content theories assumes that all individual possess the same set of needs and therefore lay down a definit set of characteristics that should be present in jobs to motivate the employees.

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Process theories stress the difference in individual needs and focus on the cognitive process that gives rise to these differences. An individual's motivation level could be influenced externally by satisfying his needs, giving him a specific goal to achieve and raising his confidence level by giving positive reinforcement including reward and recognition. However, besides motivation, there are other factors too which influence an individual's performance in an organization.

There are several books and scholary articles on this topic.

Literature review

Since the second half of the 20th century variours social science researchers have worked on motivation and its effects on human behaviour. However, because of the complexity of the human nature it still remained difficult to understand and implement to some extent. Of late several researchers have done intensive studies on how motivation could be implemented in various fields of life.

Pablo Alonso (American University) and Gregory B. Lewis (Georgia State University) on the "Public Service Motivation and Job Performance" in the US in 2001. According to the study, people with high public service motivation are more likely than others to choose government jobs, and to perform better on the job.

In 2005, Leonard Bright of South Alabama university published a research work on "Public Employees With High Levels of Public Service Motivation" where he tried to investigate the relationship between motivation and the personal characteristics, management level and monetary preference of public employees. The study revealed that motivation of employees is considerably  related to the gender, education level, management level, and monetary preferences of the  employees. (Bright, 2005, p.138-154)

Gary P. Latham, another social scientist working on the same topic came up with a book named "Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice" in 2007. The book includes several from the major thought leaders in the field of behavioural studies. It contains personal insights from and about leading personalities in the field of motiation. Also, it discusses in detail the theories of motivation in the work place from the 19th century to the present. Also, it analyses some important topics such as job satisfaction, job performance, with respect to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

In 2009, Adrian Ritz (Ritz), a lecturer at  the Centre of Competence for Public Management at the University of Bern, Switzerland, also put forward a comprihensive work on "Public service motivation and organizational performance in Swiss federal government". For the last 20years public sector reforms at Switzerland focused on increasing organizational performance by implementing managerial tools and methods. However, this one-sided, output-oriented reforms met with several criticism.

The study tried to analyse the links between employee attitudes, managerial measures, institutional factors and organizational performance. Ritz found that there is an important link between managerial techniques and the individual perception of organizational performance. (Ritz, 2009, 75. 53-78)

There are several theories on motivation and its effect on job performance. The theories are divided into two categories, namely, content theories and process theories.

Content theories

In the 1960s a number of social psychologists started working on work motivation and came up with new theories to establish a relationship between the needs and drives which motivate people at work. These theories are known as ‘content theories of motivation’.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Abraham Maslow (Maslow) proposed the hierarchy of needs theory to explain motivation. According to Maslow, the behavior of an individual at a particular moment is usually determined by his strongest need. Needs have a level of priority. An individual  first try to satisfy the more basic needs. Once those are satisfied, then he goes for the higher needs. Maslow gave a framework that explains the strength of the needs ("Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs motivational model").

Self Actualization
Esteem Needs
Social Needs
Safety or Security Needs
Physiological Needs

Physiological needs are the most primitive basic needs such as hunger, thirst, sleep and sex. Once these are satisfied to a reasonable level, other levels of needs become important.

Need for safety or security comes in the next level of hierarchy. Security needs refer to being free from of physical danger or emotional harm. Peter Drucker, an eminent social scientist, suggested that an individual’s attitude towards security is an important consideration while choosing a job (Drucker, March 1968). Employees prefer to join those companies which offer pension plan, health benefits, insurance plan etc. Further, people tend to join industries with higher job security.

Social needs exist in the third level of hierarchy. Since human beings are social animals, they have a need to belong and to be accepted by various groups in the society. It includes affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship.

The next level of need hierarchy is the esteem needs. These are concerned with self-respect, self-confidence and a feeling of personal worth. Satisfaction of esteem needs give a feeling of self-confidence, prestige, power and control.

In the highest level of need hierarchy is the self-actualization needs. Self-actualization is often stated as the drive to become what one is capable of becoming. It is the need to maximize one’s potential and self-fulfillment.

Maslow’s need hierarchy theory is based on the assumption that human beings are continuously wanting. As one need level becomes substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant. The substantially satisfied need cease to motivate further. The motivator needs to understand in what level of need hierarchy that person is at present and focus on satisfying the needs at or above that level.

However, the problem with Maslow's theory is that the need hierarchy is not so rigid and it is not always necessarry that every person will try to satisfy his needs according to this model. Different individuals gives priority to different needs and one may want for higher level of needs even if some of the lower level needs are still unsatisfied.

Alderfer’s ERG theory

Clayton Alderfer (Alderfer) reworked on Maslow’s need hierarchy theory and labeled it as ERG theory (ERG Theory). According to Alderfer, there are three groups of core needs – existence, relatedness and growth. Existence needs are similar to Maslow’s physiological and security needs, relatedness is similar to social needs and growth is similar to self esteem and self-actualization.

However, unlike Maslow’s theory, ERG does not favor hierarchy of needs concept. ERG argues that a person might work on growth needs simultaneously with his existence or relatedness needs. Also, it believes that frustration in satisfying a higher order need might lead to regression to a lower need.

McClelland’s acquired needs theory

Proposed by David McClelland the acquired needs theory focuses on three needs – achievement (n/ACH), power (n/PWR) and affiliation (n/AFF), (Acquired Needs Theory). Achievement refers to the drive to excel, power is to make others behave in a preferable way and affiliation is the desire for friendly and close interpersonal relationships.

Some people strive to do things in a more efficient way. They seek situations where they can take the responsibility of solving a problem and can set moderately challenging goals. According to McClelland, this drive is the achievement need. The need for power is the desire to have an impact on others, to be influential and to control others. Some people enjoy being in charge and like competitive and status oriented situations. They tend to be more concerned with prestige and gaining influence than effective performance.

McClelland felt that the need for achievement is the most important as in organizations individuals have to work together to achieve goals. Further, achievement-motivated people can be the backbone of most organizations as they progress much faster.

Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Frederick Herzberg (Herzberg) of US promoted two factor theory to explain motivation. Herzberg tried to find out the answer for “what do people want from their jobs?” in his research.  He interviewed various engineers and accountants in different companies in Pittsburg, US, and asked them about the factors that are ‘exceptionally good’ or ‘exceptionally bad’ about their jobs. From his experiment Herzberg concluded that there are two categories of needs which affect behavior in two different ways.

However, these two categories of needs are independent of each other. According to him absence of some job conditions primarily dissatisfy employees; yet, their presence does not motivate employees in a strong way either. These are called hygiene factors or maintenance factors. These are extrinsic factors that include company policy and administration, supervision, salary, job security, working conditions etc.

On the other hand, another set of job conditions form strong motivation and high job satisfaction. But, their absence does not dissatisfy the employees either. These are called motivational factors. These factors have a positive effect on job satisfaction, often resulting in an increase in the employee’s total output. The motivational factors include achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, possibility of growth and the work itself. Since these factors increase level of satisfaction in the employees, these can be used to motivate them for higher output.

According to Herzberg, the factors that determine job satisfaction are different and distinct from those leading to dissatisfaction. When the hygiene factors are adequate, employees will not be dissatisfied. However, neither they will feel motivated to do excellent work. To motivate employees, the managers have to focus on the motivational factors, which are intrinsically rewarding to the employees.

Herzberg felt that personality characteristics of the individuals also influence their motivation level. He classified individuals into two groups – motivation seekers and maintenance seekers. The motivation seekers get motivated by the satisfiers or the motivational factors. On the other hand, the maintenance seekers tend to be more concerned with the hygiene factors.

However, Herzberg's model does not held true in all conditions as there is considerable amount of mixing of maintenance and motivating factors.

 Process theories

Process theories are recpectively new age theories. These focus more on the cognitive process of human behaviour and difference in individual needs.

Equity theory

Equity theory states that employees make comparisons of their job inputs (experience, education, competence etc.) and outcomes (salary, promotion, recognition etc.) with those of others seemingly at a same level ("Equity Theory and Employee Motivation" 2006). In our mind, we compare the outcome-input ratio of our job to that of relevant others. If we find that our ratio is at par with others then we feel that our situation is fare and a state of equity exist. However, if we see the ratio as unequal, we experience equity tension. When we feel that we are under-rewarded, the tension creates anger. When we are over-rewarded, sometimes the tension gives rise to guilt.

Employees may compare themselves with friends, neighbors, co-workers, or colleagues in other organizations or compare their present job with past jobs they themselves have had. Researchers found that both men and women generally go for same sex comparisons.

Expectancy theory

The expectancy theory was proposed by Victor Vroom (Vroom). According to him, people feel motivated to do things to achieve some goals. They expect that certain actions on their part will help them to achieve the goal. The Expectancy Theory is based on the concept of value, expectency and force. Vroom proposed motivation as the algebric sum of products of valences multiplied by expectations.

Motivation (Forces) = Sumation of Valence * Expectancy

Valence is the strength of an individual's preference to a particular outcome. It includes things like incentive, attitude etc. Valence is positive when an individual prefers to attain a particular outcome. If the individual does not prefer to attain that outcome, valence becomes negative. A valence of zero occurs when the individual is indifferent towards the outcome.

Vroom further analyses valence as the resultant of instrumentality of the first and second level outcomes. For example, an employee desires promotion and feels that superior perfomance is a major factor to attain that goal. His first level outcomes could be superior, average or poor performance. And second level outcome is promotion. The first-level outcome of hih performance thus acquires a positive valenceby virtue of the expected relationship to the preferred second level outcome of promotion. (H.G. Hunt and J.W. Hill, 1969.p.104)

Expectancy is the probability that a particular action will lead to the desired outcome. However, it relates to the first level outcomes only.

Vroom's model recognises individual differences in work motivation and propose that motivation is a complex process.

Goal-setting theory

The goal-setting theory states that setting specific goals increase performance. Goals tell the employee what needs to be done and how much effort one should put to get it done. Further, intention to work toward a goal is a major source of work motivation. The goal-setting theory was proposed by Edwin Locke in the late 1960s.

It has been observed that specific goals produce a higher level of output than making generalized statements like ‘do your best’. Also, difficult goals extract higher level of performance. The researchers explained that difficult goals direct our whole attention to the task at hand, away from irrelevant distractions. We stay more focused when we work on challenging goals. Also, they energize us as we have to work harder to attain them. We discover new strategies to perform the job more effectively and often come up with some better ways to perform the job.


It could be concluded that motivation is an important factor both in an individual's life and in an organization. People do those things that they want to do, or, in other words, are motivated to do. Job performance is considered as a function of ability and motivation. While ability depends on education, experience and training, motivation is that urge to get success or achievement that drive people to reach their goal. Motivation could be influenced by adopting certain methods like satisfying employee needs, setting work related goals, treating people fairly, positive reinforcement etc.


Alonso Pablo  and Lewis Gregory B., (2001), The American Review of Public Administration,  31. p. 363-380

Bright Leonard, (2005), Review of Public Personnel Administration, 25, p.138-154

Latham Gary P., (2007), Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice, Sage Publications

Ritz Adrian, (2009), International Review of Administrative Sciences, 75. p. 53-78

H.G. Hunt and J.W. Hill, (1969), "The New Look in Motivation Theory for Organisational Research", Human Organisation, p.104

Drucker Peter, (March 1968), ‘How to be an Employee, Psychology Today.

"Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs motivational model",

"ERG Theory",

"Acquired Needs Theory",

"Equity Theory and Employee Motivation" (2006),


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