Motivation is a basic psychological process. Few would deny that it is the most important focus in the micro approach to organizational behaviour. In fact, a data based comprehensive analysis concluded that America’s competitiveness problems appear to be largely motivational in nature. Many people equate the causes of behaviour with motivation; however, the causes of organizational behaviour are much broader and more complex that can be explained by motivation alone.
Along with many other psychological constructs, motivation is presented here as a very important process in understanding behaviour. Motivation interacts with and acts in conjunction with other mediating processes and the environment. It must also be remembered that, like the other cognitive processes, motivation cannot be seen. All that can be seen is behaviour. Motivation is a hypothetical construct that is used to help explain behaviour; it should be equated with behaviour. In fact, while recognizing the central role of motivation, many of today’s organizational behaviour theorists think it is important for the field to reemphasize behaviour.
The more applied aspects of motivation are covered on job design and goal setting.
Finally, the cross cultural aspects of motivation are given attention. Specifically, addressed are variances between motives across cultures and applications theories in international settings.
Today, virtually all people practitioners and scholars have their own definitions of motivation. Usually one or more of the following words are included: desires, wants, wishes, aims, goals, needs, drives, motives and incentives. Motivation is a process that starts with a physiological or psychological deficiency or need that activates behaviour or a drive that is aimed at a goal or incentive. Thus, the key to understanding the process of motivation lies in the meaning of, and relationships among, needs, drives, and incentives.
Needs set up drive aimed at incentives; this is what the basic process of motivation is all about. In a systems sense, motivation consists of these three interacting and interdependent elements:
Needs: Needs are created whenever there is a physiological or psychological imbalance. For example, a need exists when cells in the body are deprived of food and water or when the personality is deprived of other people who serve as friends or companions. Although psychological needs may be based on a deficiency, sometimes they are not. For example, an individual with a strong need to get ahead may have a history of consistent success.
Drives: With a few exceptions, drives or motives (the two terms are often used interchangeably) are set up to alleviate needs. A physiological drive can be simply defined as a deficiency with direction. Physiological and psychological drives are action oriented and provide an energizing thrust towards reaching an incentive. They are at the very heart of the motivational process. The examples of the needs for food and water are translated in to the hunger and thirst drives, and the end for friends becomes a drive for affiliation.
Incentives: At the end of the motivation cycle is the incentive, defined as anything that will alleviate a need and reduce a drive. Thus, attaining an incentive will tend to restore physiological or psychological balance and will reduce or cut off the drive. Eating food, drinking water, and obtaining friends will tend to restore the balance and reduce the corresponding drives. Food, water and friends are the incentives in these examples.
These basic dimensions of the motivation process serve as a point of departure for the content and process theories of work motivation. After discussion of primary, general, and secondary motives, those work motivation theories that are more directly related to the study and application of organizational behaviour and human resource management are examined.
Psychologists do not totally agree on how to classify the various human motives, but they would acknowledge that some motives are unlearned and physiologically based. Such motives are variously called physiological, biological, unlearned or primary. The last term is used here because it is more comprehensive than the others. However, the use of the term primary does not imply that these motives always take precedence over general and secondary motives. Although the precedence of primary motives is implied in some motivation theories, there are many situations in which general and secondary motives predominate over primary motives. Common examples are celibacy among priests and fasting for a religious, social, or political cause. In both cases, learned secondary motives are stronger than unlearned primary motives.
Two criteria must be met in order for a motive to be included in the primary classification: It must be unlearned, and it must be physiologically based. Thus defined the most commonly recognized primary motives include hunger thirst, sleep, avoidance of pain, sex and material concern.