Motivation is the reason or reasons for engaging in a particular behavior, especially human behavior as studied in economics, psychology and neuropsychology. These reasons may include basic needs such as food or a desired object, hobbies, goal, state of being, or ideal. The motivation for a behavior may also be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism or morality. Motivation refers to the initiation, direction, intensity and persistence of human behavior.

At lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as Physiological needs, money is a motivator, however it tends to have a motivating effect on staff that lasts only for a short period (in accordance with Herzberg's two-factor model of motivation). At higher levels of the hierarchy, praise, respect, recognition, empowerment and a sense of belonging are far more powerful motivators than money, as both Abraham Maslow's theory of motivation and Douglas McGregor's Theory X and theory Y (pertaining to the theory of leadership) demonstrate.

Maslow has money at the lowest level of the hierarchy and shows other needs are better motivators to staff. McGregor places money in his Theory X category and feels it is a poor motivator. Praise and recognition are placed in the Theory Y category and are considered stronger motivators than money.

• Motivated employees always look for better ways to do a job.
• Motivated employees are more quality oriented.
• Motivated workers are more productive.

The average workplace is about midway between the extremes of high threat and high opportunity. Motivation by threat is a dead-end strategy, and naturally staff are more attracted to the opportunity side of the motivation curve than the threat side.
The assumptions of Maslow and Herzberg were challenged by a classic study at Vauxhall Motors' UK manufacturing plant. This introduced the concept of orientation to work and distinguished three main orientations: instrumental (where work is a means to an end), bureaucratic (where work is a source of status, security and immediate reward) and solidaristic (which prioritises group loyalty).

Other theories which expanded and extended those of Maslow and Herzberg included Kurt Lewin's Force Field Theory, Edwin Locke's Goal Theory and Victor Vroom's Expectancy theory. These tend to stress cultural differences and the fact that individuals tend to be motivated by different factors at different times.
According to the system of scientific management developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, a worker's motivation is solely determined by pay, and therefore management need not consider psychological or social aspects of work. In essence scientific management bases human motivation wholly on extrinsic rewards and discards the idea of intrinsic rewards.

In contrast, David McClelland believed that workers could not be motivated by the mere need for money-- in fact, extrinsic motivation (e.g., money) could extinguish intrinsic motivation such as achievement motivation, though money could be used as an indicator of success for various motives, e.g., keeping score. In keeping with this view, his consulting firm, McBer & Company, had as its first motto "To make everyone productive, happy, and free." For McClelland, satisfaction lay in aligning a person's life with their fundamental motivations.

Elton Mayo found out that the social contacts a worker has at the workplace are very important and that boredom and repetitiveness of tasks lead to reduced motivation. Mayo believed that workers could be motivated by acknowledging their social needs and making them feel important. As a result, employees were given freedom to make decisions on the job and greater attention was paid to informal work groups. Mayo named the model the Hawthorne effect. His model has been judged as placing undue reliance on social contacts at work situations for motivating employees.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Employee Motivation. The Official Guide to Employee Motivation is Doris Helge. Dr. Helge is an executive coach, award-winning speaker, and corporate trainer. She is author of "Joy on the Job," "Transforming Pain Into Power," and other books. Some have been published in many languages. She was honored with a writing award from the National Association of Women Writers. Dr. Helge has received excellent evaluations regarding corporate training and consulting at companies as large as Microsoft. She has provided keynotes to associations as large as the AOHC conference in Boston, Massachusetts, attended by 3,700 occupational health personnel. In addition to serving in a variety of corporate roles, Dr. Helge previously directed two national human service organizations. She has also been on faculty at The University of Texas, Murray State University, and Western Washington University.

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