Motivation in organizational behavior


Organizational behavior (OB) is a social science discipline, which relates to culture anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology. (Robbins, 2003) This means that it uses the scientific method to establish the theory and to validate the theories. This discipline mainly focuses on the behavior of individuals and groups in the organization. With the development of the global economy, the definition and understanding of OB has experienced the great changes. In addition, the OB theory has developed many branch theories such as corporate OB, educational OB and so on. Nowadays, enterprises apply the OB frequently and put a strong emphasis on its organizational management. Therefore, people normally look OB as the same one with corporate OB. In corporate OB, the company focuses mainly on the employee motivation, in that it could encourage the employee to work better for them, thus the company could benefit from the good performance and achieve the human productivity. This essay will mainly discuss the importance of motivation in the organizational behaviour, and use the empirical studies to reflect how important it is.

2.Literature Review:

According to DuBrin (2007), OB is the study of human behavior in the work place, the interaction between people and the organization. The areas in which OB focuses are individuals, groups and teams, leaderships, motivations, culture, perceptions, power, interests, and conflicts. These are not merely areas of theoretical interests. They reinforce the practical organizational activities.

Historically, Maslow (1943) presented the “Hierarchy of Needs”, which states that we must satisfy each need in turn. Only when the lower order are satisfied then people will consider the higher order. This theory is still valid and popular today, because it could compel managers to examine motivation from the employee perspective and to consider the employee’s perspective. However, this theory has some limitations such as it more focused on social environment rather than work place.

Clayton Alderfer (1969) revised Maslow “Hierarchy of Needs” called EGR Theory. (Figure 2) He reduced the number of level to the three. The breakthrough of the ERG Theory is it demonstrated more than one need may motivate at the same time, the order of needs differed for different people.

Luthans (1998) pointed out that motivation is the process that arouses, energizes, directs, and sustain behaviour and performance. Minner et al (1995) stated that in a system sense, motivation consists of these interacting and independent elements: needs, drives, and incentives. Reddy (2004) put forward that organizational behavior can be illustrated by the equation: Attitude * Situation=Motivation. Martin and Fellenz (2010) stated that motivation as the set of internal forces that initiates, directs and sustains deliberate behaviour. Their definition reflected the core elements of behavioural initiation, direction, and maintenance typically included in definition of work motivation. The degree of motivation could be influenced by direction, which indicates the type of activity chosen; by effort which reflects the amount of energy expended in relation to a particular activity; by persistence which refers to the duration of the behaviour in question, especially in light of difficulties or obstacles. Moorhead (2010) defined that motivation is the set of forces that leads people to behave in particular ways. Martin and Fellenz (2010) states that a central element of human resource management is the application of practices aimed at motivating employee to engage in the desired behaviours to contribute to organization success. Thus motivation in the OB is a very important part, because it results from an individual’s react to a specific situation, and the attitude of the employee are affected by that situation. Martin and Fellenz (2010) argued that high levels of motivation and performance achieved do not always guarantee success for the organization or the individual employee, as the High Performance example demonstrated. Therefore, it is valuable to analyze how motivation worked in OB. The following part will critically review the motivation in the OB and use the detail example.

3.Empirical Study

When the manger has the discussion with his team members, he required to know the individual motivation; holding an effective meeting needs an appreciation of group dynamics; dealing with colleagues, suppliers, and customers from different countries asking for a sensitivity to culture difference; helping other departments to solve the problems involving a negotiation and conflict resolution skills; and so on. As such, the motivation as the start point plays a vital role in OB. Tella (2007) suggested that the key to understanding the process of motivation lies in the meaning of, and relationship among needs, drives, and incentives.

In HR practice, incentive is a popular tool that company adopt to motivate its employee. Many companies provide the sales incentive to motivate the sales people create more revenue for the company. Money as a direct incentive often has a quick effect on the motivation. Sales force normally work harder under this incentive because they perceive that the company will recognize their efforts and pay back them via sales incentive. Company could benefit from this motivation because the employee has a strong motivation to work harder or achieve high productivity that could bring huge revenue for the company, especially sales force. Sales force as the strong base in the company to create the direct revenue for the company. In addition to the sales incentive, companies also provide the variable bonus or long term service bonus for the supporting stuff to motivate them working harder. For the supporting staff they may not generate the direct revenue for the company, but their job is ensuring the daily operation. Therefore, the variable bonus or allowance also could become a chief motivator to push them generating high productivity or better performance. Once the supporting staff work well and create a good establishment supporting environment, they may cooperate with sales force better to achieve outstanding performance. Novartis is a leading pharma company, it provides the supporting stuff with the house allowance, long term service bonus, and variable bonus on yearly basis. Stuff within the organization excited by the news so they work very hard in the coming year to earn the considerable bonus. This becomes a motivation for the company to encourage its stuff to make more effort for the company. To some extent, competitive incentive schemes now become an attractive method to recruit and retain the employee. In the organization, not only the scheme motivates the employee, but also it retains its own employee by the long term incentive scheme. It is like two birds in hand effect as well as win-win situation. Employee as a valuable property for the company, their productivity is the key contribution to the success of the company. A good motivation could ensure the productivity, retain the employee, and recruit the high quality staff. Motivation attract the new staff to enter in the company, and push the current staff to work hard because the employee are convinced that their effort will be recognized by the company and get the compensation or pay back from the company.

However, money is not the only one motivator. There are other incentives which can serve as motivators. Gelfand et al (2007) suggested that besides the money incentives, there are other self incentives such as self-efficiacy, need for achievement, and intrinsic needs for competence. Elliot and Dweck (2005) defined self-efficiacy is the belief about personal capability to perform specific tasks at a designated level of proficiency. For example, some companies would like to issue the competition for the star employee. This competition encouraged the employee to achieve the self efficiacy, such as how much job the employee can finish or how well the employee could perform. Once the employee holds the belief to achieve the self-efficiacy, he may perform or work very hard to increase his productivity and ensure the working quality. Moreover, many new fresh graduates out of the university always want to find a job which could give them a feeling of great achievement. They may not choose the big company, what they care is how the company could provide them the feeling of achievement. They do not care about the salary, thus the company could use this self motives to create a relative free environment or harmonious environment, which in turn satisfy these graduates’ need of achievement. If the job could give people a good feeling and great achievement, it could better motivate the people to work hard for the company. The company does not have to use the money as the bonus, it could issue some announcement to praise that employee or invite that employee to give a speech in front of the company to encourage others. As such, the company also could benefit from the self motivation from the employee.

The need for competence as another personal incentive still plays an important part in OB. It is inevitable that people will face the challenge in its position. This obstacle will set the fire to encourage the employee to prove themselves is capable of that work. For example, when the employee applies for some job, he needs to show his competence to that specific position. Once he is recruited by the company, he has to prove he is capable of that position. This drives the employee to perform well or exceeding expectation to show his competence. As for the company always use the appraisal to evaluate the employee performance to see whether the employee suitable for that job or not. As such, the employee will always perform well to prove he is right person for the right position when he does the performance appraisal. In doing so, performance review or performance appraisal become a tool to evaluate and motivate the employee behave at a normal level or above level. Moreover, normally the performance appraisal is related to the bonus. Therefore, actually working motivation is combined with personal motivation to some extent. The company could set the strategy to motivate the employee, no matter the sales force or supporting staff, to work hard. On the one hand, the employee could benefit from the motivation by the bonus or self satisfaction or job satisfaction. On the other hand, the company could benefit from the employee well performance and generate human productivity.


In this essay, we review the brief definition of OB and picked up one key area in which OB has contributed to our understanding. OB experienced the stage transferred from the original scientific management to the management science. Motivation is the key driver that pushes people within the organization work harder. This essay reviews the importance of motivation in OB, reflected by the working motivation and personal motivation. The money incentive usually used as a direct incentive to motivate the employee, but it is not the only one. If the company could well apply the personal motivation in OB, it also will contribute a lot in OB. However, with the development of the global economy, the research of OB has affected by the management of enterprise merging, strategic management, and international corporate management. On the organization basis, OB needs more studies regarding the decision making mode and power structure under the different background. Moreover, there is still a gap between OB and the system of human resource. OB should put more emphasis on the creativity, employee quality and how they related to the human resource management. As the employee work for the company, the trend of OB will be more focus on working life quality such as employee health care, organizational culture, organizational commitment, and pressure management.


Alderfer, C. (1969). An Empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Needs. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Vol. 4, pp. 142 – 175.

DuBrin, A.J. (2007). The Nature and Scope of Organization Behavior. Fundamentals of Organizational Behavior. 4th ed. Mason: Thomson South-Western, pp. 15

Elliot, A.J & Dweck, C.S. (2005). Handbook of Competence And Motivation. New York: the Guilford Press. pp. 513

Luthans, F. (1998). Organisational Behaviour. 8th ed. Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill.

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Miner, J.B., et al. (1995). How deficiency in management contributes to the United States’ competiveness problem and what can be done about it?. Human Resource Management. Fall, pp. 363

Moorhead,G.I. (2010). Organizational Behavior: Managing people and organizations. Mason: Cengage Learnning. pp.83

Reddy, R.J. (2004). Organizational Behaviour. New Delhi: S.B. Nangia A P H. pp. 4

Tella, A. et al. (2007). Work motivation, job satisfaction and organisational commitment of Library personnel in academic and research Libraries in Oyo State, Nigeria. Library Philosophy and Practice. pp.1-17

Martin,J. & Fellenz, M. (2010). Organizational Behaviour & Management. 4th ed. Hampshire: South-Western Cengage Learning. pp. 151-186

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