Integrating contemporary theories of motivation


The fact that a number of these theories have been supported only complicates the matter. How simple it would have been if, after presenting half-a-dozen theories, only one was found valid. Theories presented by various researchers are not all in competition with one another. Because one is valid doesn’t automatically make the others invalid. In fact, many of the theories presented are complementary. The challenges is now to tie these theories together to help you understand their inter-relationships. We begin by explicitly recognizing that opportunities can aid or hinder individual effort. The individual effort box also has another arrow leading into it. This arrow flows out of the person’s goals. Consistent with goal-setting theory, this goals-effort loop is meant to remind us that goals direct behavior.

Expectancy theory predicts that an employee will exert a high level of effort if he or she perceives that there is a strong relationship between effort and performance, performance and rewards, and rewards and satisfaction of personal goals. Each of these relationships, in turn, is influenced by certain factors. For effort to lead to good performance, the individual must have the requisite ability to perform, and the performance appraisal system that measures the individual’s performance must be perceived as being fair and objective. The performance-reward relationship will be strong if the individual perceives that it is performance (rather than seniority, personal favorites, or other criteria) that is rewarded If cognitive evaluation theory were fully valid in the actual workplace, we would predict here that basing rewards on performance should decrease the individual’s intrinsic motivation.

The final link in expectancy theory is the rewards-goals relationship. ERG theory would come into play at this point. Motivation would be high to the degree that the rewards an individual received for his or her performance satisfied the dominant needs consistent with his or her individual goals.

The high achiever is not motivated by the organization’s assessment of his or her performance or organizational rewards, therefore the jump from effort to personal goals for those with a high nAch. Remember, high achievers are internally driven as long as the jobs they are doing provide them with personal responsibility, feedback, and moderates risks. They are not concerned with the effort-performance, performance-rewards, or rewards-goals linkages. Similarly, for employees with a strong need for meaningful and fulfilling work, jobs that score high on the JCM’s five job-design dimensions are likely to increase internal motivation. More importantly, given social information influences, it’s irrelevant whether jobs actually score high on these dimensions. The key is that employees perceive them as high.

Reinforcement theory enters our model by recognizing that the organization’s rewards reinforce the individual’s performance. If management has designed a reward system that is seen by employees as “paying off� for good performance, the rewards will reinforce and encourage continued good performance. Rewards also pay the key part in equity theory. Individuals will compare the rewards (outcomes) they receive from the inputs they make with the outcome-input ratio of relevant others (O/IA:O/IB), and inequities may influence the effort expended.