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Applying Work Motivation Theories to Business Situations

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Synthesis

My selection of the topic, Applying Work Motivation Theories to Business Situations, has many directional reasons why I chose this topic for my paper. This theory is very interesting as Industrial Organizational Psychologists must match the right motivation tactic to the right field of work, allowing for variances throughout the process as situations and employees may move from one needed process to another to be successful. I selected this process as in the military, the situation at work can change drastically and have long lasting effects to both personnel and resources. In the office in which I work, we have employees that are in their late 60s, and airmen as young as 18 years old.

These individuals are unique and would different approaches/thought out motivational processes for each to be successful and meet mission requirements.I believe that this topic is the cornerstone of any successful organization either civilian, military, public or private enterprise. By not paying attention to this theory and not allowing it to be flexible could also result in mission failure and in the case of the military, loss of equipment, life, and the likelihood of losing the conflict altogether. Work Motivation theories can be broken down into multiple elements. Each element is just as important as the other.

The first element is that leader/supervisor must spell out or specify the determinants or solo/independent variables that affect the stream of behavior. Second, the theory must list out and/or describe the nomological network of relations between the latent variables and the implications or rather outcomes of these relations for observable behavior. Third, the leader/supervisor must specify the motivational consequences, the dependent variable, or behaviors most likely to be affected by changes in the motivational system (Kanfer, 1990).


The following is a summarization of the references selected for research. With each article, a new direction towards the theory is found, yet they all point to the conclusion – that without applying work motivation theories to business situations, leaders and supervisors may miss the opportunity to hit the problem on the head. Or miss an opportunity to lead by example, reward those individuals that show above and beyond the standard work ethic, or fail to bring new ideas that could revolutionize the workplace.

Literature Review

According to Buchner (2007), performance management has been identified as management’s systematic use of processes designed at optimizing human/technical performance in any given organization. The reliability on the process is at point. When this is defined, organizational performance management can carry an unfavorable label when the process is considered accordingly from the report’s perspective – as it could be inferred as a unfavorable act done to people. Modern and progressive actions bring the communication portion to the front, as a process for establishing an understanding what is to be achieved, and how it is to be achieved. Also, as an approach to managing certain people certain ways that increases achieving success. While a better process, this definition continues to represent a top-down orientation.

Champoux (1991) states that the employment characteristics theory of work motivation has enjoyed repeated examination since coming on board in the early 1980s. When conducting research, two types of analytical strategies, moderator variable and similarities between individual independent and individual dependent variables. A close look at the theory, shows it is listing multivariate connections between both sets of variables. The theory shows a set of five core job characteristics to show the level of a set of three critical psychological states. Skill variety, task identity/significance are the mostly linked with reliability of the work.

In his research, Eden (1988), shows that the Pygmalion, goal-setting, and need-for-recognition approaches use performance effort expectancy to explain work motivation. The motivation to show effort is distinguishable from the effort to choose a specific task. What is expected is identified as both a stable trait and as a changing state. A conclusion of different hypotheses is derived from expectancy/achievement theory motivation is warranted. An intertwining model posits that raising the bar on expectations and setting hard to reach goals are meaning to reinforce efforts that can boost out-put.

Gagné (2015) defines self-determination theory as human motivation that is being used more and more by organizations to make strategic human resources decisions and to educate and train managers. It defends for a look on the quality of workers’ motivation versus a look over quantity. Employees motivation that is focused on meaning and interest is showed to be more important to motivation that pressure and rewards is based on. Work environments that make workers feel included, free to make their own decisions, and related to others facilitates the right type of work values, goals, and motivation.

Green, Finkel, Fitzsimons & Gino (2017) writes that the lead characterization of work ethic as a positive emotional state that requires an important clarification: disengagement, that is a state of low or limited energy. Disengagement comes to light when positive emotions go missing. However, it can be observed that dedication and retainability sometimes go hand in hand with the negative affect, this suggests that work engagement may have both a positive and negative element. For example, an employee can be working a problem to be solved, and this can be positive or negative depending on the task.

Griffin & Wayne (1985) believe that the value of Work Motivation is that the motivation itself presents an overview of the lead theories of motivation, talks about and evaluates the research to give credibility of the theories, and identifies the true value of the theories for leaders/managers. Its coverage is unparalleled, and it has identified future directions for theory and research.

Harrison (2007) states in his review that goal-setting and self-efficacy are at the heart of work motivation. While reinforcement principles are important, they are not vital to certain employees. One can speak to the role of organizational vision in work motivation, but this not the foothold we need in work motivation. One must seek out the social exchange theory as the theory can not only support goal-setting, but self-efficacy as well.

Looking at a different theory, Howard, Gagné, Morin, & Broeck (2016) state that self-determination theory questions that certain individuals experience different types of motivation in various degrees. While it is researched that these types of motivation show different outcomes, little attention has been given to how they react within individuals. Studies point out the same time approach occurrence of certain motivation types within employees by using a person approach on two samples of workers from different areas of the globe. Four same style motivation profiles were found across multiple samples, representative of motivation, report regulated and uniquely motivated employees.

Kanfer (2009) Talks about the study of work motivation progress as it comes through the inspiration that is derived from creating new realizations between scientific understanding and the consideration and practical use. By using practical concerns related to work motivation with everyday concerns related to work motivation with modern scientific trends to encourage leaders/supervisors in the development of new research agendas in the field, can lead to new work motivations, theories, and possible new ways to limit loss yet gain new prospects.

Kanfer & Ackerman (2004) go on to say that the workings of adult development bridging the life span is paramount as we are in a cross culture as the age range in employees greatly varies. When challenging the question of related changes in motivation, it is suggested that contemporary, process-oriented theories of work motivation are not good enough for identifying the causes of age-related differences in work progression and or motivation. It is known that older workers, in the same arena as younger workers, are often more reluctant to engage in new skill training. This is where the social exchange theory would be beneficial to both younger workers and those that are planning their retirement. Latham & Pinder (2005).

Speak to various theories that speak to motivation. These are goal-setting, social cognitive, and organizational justice. Lately, behaviorism and expectancy theory have been taken over by goal-setting and social theories. The ability to predict, understand, and influence motivation in the workplace has increased because of the attention that has been given to an employee’s motivation. The dependent variables historically studied were limited to traditional measures of job performance and satisfaction, today’s dependent variables range from citizenship to counterproductive behavior. Locke & Latham (2004) talk about six recommendations for building theories of work motivation that are valid, complete, broad in scope, and useful than existing theories.

These include integrate extant theories that can build work motivation theory, creation of an boundaryless science of work motivation, studying the types of relationships that could hold between general and based on the situation, specific motivation, study both the conscious as well as subconscious motivation, using introspection in theory building, and to in the end point outthe role of volition in human action when formulating theories. The concept of motivation can infer to factors within that impede action and to external factors that can act as inducements to action. The aspects of action that motivation affect are duration, intensity and direction. Motivation will affect how people learn their skill and abilities but also how and to what extent they utilize what they have learned in any given situation.

Maclagan (2003) states that the concept of self-actualization may be the best way forward.This is defined as the realization of the individual’s potential in the job which would also possibly be the idea of self-actualization that one should treat everyone, as an ‘end’ and not merely as a means. In operationalizing the concept of self-actualization, researchers should recognize this moral potential. Moreover, the apparent interchangeability of the terms self-actualization and self-realization and the use of the latter in ethical lends further support to the claim that self-actualization as applied to humans necessarily entails recognition of our moral potential.Michaelson (2005) adds to the motivational psychology by discussing meaning motivation for work.

This is at the heart of the entire paper, as why work motivation is important. It could be realized that the lack of emphasis on this question results from a thought process that the answer is obvious: we need to motivate workers to boost productivity. It is thought that the motivation for leaders and or managers to answer it is to improve individual along with group performance, while the drive for researchers is to support theories of effective management. The attention is lacking to the question as a normal matter. It can be remarkable, since the editors make a direct connection between early developments in motivation theory along with a background in philosophical and psychological ethics. Work motivation ethics theory is important because motivational efforts can exert control over individual moral autonomy.

Every business needs to be concerned with service, to include external and internal. If it is not, personnel will turn to the unions or more stable institutions like government.In today’s climate, again noting this article was prepared in 1967, the critical long-range considerations are those related closely to social rather than to economic goals. Unless the high-level managers/leaders of global major corporations think through and act on this fact, one wonders whether the global society will adjust and or tolerate aggregations of economic resources in the absolute control of corporation managers, for example the collapse of Enron and several firms along wall street in recent years.

Raymond & Donna (1990) discusses work motivation as simplistic. One view was that the key to motivating people at work was a behavioral version of the carrot and stick: Pay people for being good workers and punish or fire them for being otherwise. In contrast was the notion that a happy worker is a good worker, a notion that has been criticized as the core of the naive human relations movement. Eventually the validity of both formulations was called into question by empirical findings. Reinhardt & Wahba (1975) States that Expectancy theory is a widely researched theory of motivation. Although the assumptions of the concept of motivation limit its explanations to the rational portion of human behavior, the concept of motivation has served as the basis for research in such diverse areas as decision making, learning theory, verbal conditioning, achievement motivation, social power, coalition formation, attitudes, and organizational behavior. Industrial and organizational psychologists have built upon the original Vroom model to describe and predict a wide variety of work related variables.

Sinangil (2008) Shows us that people must see the relationship between what they do and the outcome they can expect; and they must have high self-efficacy (task-specific confidence) that the outcome or goal can be reached. In addition, we learn that the high-performance cycle, a model or framework derived from goal setting and social cognitive theory that public-sector managers can use for creating a high performing highly satisfied work force. “The high-performance cycle states that specific difficult goals, plus high self-efficacy for attaining them, are the impetus for an employee’s high performance. Goals and self-efficacy affect the direction of one’s behavior and the effort exerted as well as one’s persistence to attain a goal.

According to Steers, Mowday, & Shapiro (2004) The topic of employee motivation plays a central role in the field of management–both practically and theoretically. Managers see motivation as a key piece of organizational performance, while organizational researchers see it as a fundamental building block in the development of useful theories of effective management practice. Indeed, the topic of motivation is in many of the subfields that compose the study of management, including leadership, teams, performance management, managerial ethics, decision making, and organizational change.

In his review of Latham’s Book, Thayer (2013) describes that the stated goal in elements of influence is to help the I/O psychologist develop skills that are both ethical and effective for organizational situations. Interpersonal influence skills are essential for effective leadership in any organization. Tubbs & Ekeberg (1991) State the concepts of goal and intention have not been adequately challenged in the work motivation and goal-setting literatures. The intention is an in-depth representation of both means and the end and is a broader concept than goal. It is argued that an examination of the nature of intentions in the motivational process helps clarify issues in the work motivation information, including the process by which assigned goals influence behavior.

Tuttle & Hazel (1974) did research using the Air Force as they had become an all-volunteer force, the Air Force had taken on the development of an in-depth job satisfaction/work motivation research program. The development of such a program took advantage of previous research and realizations of relevant problems by others. This effort attempted to determine what theoretical position was preferred and was goal oriented toward the development of a useful framework for Air Force job satisfaction/retention research. To provide the reader with a wider perspective of job satisfaction research, a bibliography of studies primarily from civilian resources is incorporated as an appendix.


In the world of work motivational theories, there is no shortage of resources, from all levels of leadership/followership, and from every type of business. Even in the Department of Defense, these topics and resources are paramount in the day to day operations of any branch of service. In the late 1990s, the military started to branch out of same operating shell it had been working from since the end of the second world war and embraced the private sector when dealing with work motivation. The military started regarding its personnel as not only military issue material, but also as progressive elements in the success and or failure of the mission at hand.

The articles listed above speak to that very brand of where we are today and where we are headed in the future. Variables in consideration include independent, dependent, and covariate depending on the situation at hand. Certain situations call for unique handling, for example an irate employee on the line due to a payroll mix-up versus the commander coming down to the office to talk about the upcoming Inspector General temporary duty assignment. I find it fascinating that so much information can be found in simple searches across the internet and in the library of the Air Force as well. This truly speaks to the importance of this topic and how it has evolved over time. One of the articles was dated back in the 1960s, and still is very relevant in today’s business world. Theoretical propositions and or hypothesis, are dependent on the situation that occurs. In the reading the articles above it is very apparent that the Industrial Organization Psychologist must have many different approaches in his or her tool belt when going into an organization as one would never know what they are facing until they are into the situation.

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