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A discussion and review of empirical research and findings on the topic of employment motivation and job satisfaction.



Research confirms that in today’s market, regardless of the size, the technological advances, or any other factors, organisations are facing retention challenges. Motivation has proven to be an essential element in the maintenance of a healthy working environment and affects the drive and attachment of the employees to their position within the organisation.
A discussion and review of empirical research and findings on the topic of
employment motivation and job satisfaction
Rebecca Xiberras (Bachelor of Psychology, Hons)
Selected Topics in Organisation Psychology
PSY 3647
Mr. Gottfried Catania & Dr. Katya De Giovanni
University of Malta
Rebecca Xiberras PSY 3647 31595G
Research confirms that in today’s market, irregardless of the size, the technological
advances, or any other factors, organisations are facing retention challenges. Motivation has
proven to be an essential element in the maintenance of a healthy working environment and
affects the drive and attachment of the employees to their position within the organisation.
Motivation represents “those psychological processes that cause the arousal, direction, and
persistence of voluntary action that are goals oriented” (Mitchell, 1982, p.81). Robbins
(1993) defined motivation as “willingness to exert high levels of effort towards
organizational goals, conditioned by the efforts ability to satisfy individual needs”. This paper
aims to give an insight into what affects employee motivation, and how this motivation aids
in the retention of an organisation’s employees.
Attitudes tend to be considered as difficult to change, however though the proper
persuasion and incentive, a shift in perspective can be noted. Attractiveness of the
communicator, the use of fear, and social pressures are all factors that come into play when
trying to persuade someone to change their attitude. Attitudes are factors that significantly
affect the working environment, both from the perspective of the employer and his
interactions with the employee and vice versa, together with the perception of the employee
towards their colleagues and towards their role, tasks and position at hand. Employees that
have a negatively appraise their company, position or work tend to be more prone to
disengagement, and put less time and effort into fulfilling their jobs while doing the least
amount of work as they can, at as low a quality as possible. “This attitude of disengagement,
disconnection and lack of concern for the company's well-being is costly to employers by
way of lost productivity” (Ray, n.d), motivation and hence job satisfaction.@Locke (1976)
defined job satisfaction as “a pleasurable or positive emotional state resulting from the
appraisal of one’s job or experiences”. Job satisfaction is an area that has been researched and
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given quite a lot of importance in organisational psychology, especially since it is believed to
lead to better work performance and it indicates the person’s wellbeing within the
This paper will be taking into consideration the effects of motivation on job
satisfaction while applying four major theories in organisational psychology which include i)
common sense approaches ii) need theories iii) equity theories iv) expectancy theories. For
the purpose of this paper Patricia Bonello; the manager of supervisors and social workers of
supervised accessed visits at ‘Appogg’ was interviewed.
Theories applied to work at ‘Appogg’
The interview had a substantial number of questions concerning the needs of the
employees. Additionally, There questions were also asked about the growth of the manager
herself, to see if she personally practices what she believes in and what she promotes at work.
The manager talked about how there are two major skills she would like to continue
developing and these are strategic skills to manage her staff better and people skills to
continue to learn how to communicate with her staff.
The manager continued to study do get her doctorate in social sciences and
continually attends several conferences and seminars to keep herself up to date with recent
research findings and new theories published and to continue to expand on her knowledge.
She transfers these personal beliefs also on the place of work, where she described how she
spends a substantial amount of time talking to her staff about their needs, what opportunities
might be present for them giving them feedback on any recent case or projects worked upon
and taking in account how she can boost up their self-efficacy at work. In fact she seemed
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inclined to believe in theory Y; in the common sense approaches as she described how people
seek independence, self -development and creativity in their work. They are fundamentally
moral and responsible beings.
The needs theories attempt to pinpoint internal factors that energize behaviours. These
needs can be both physiological and psychological. These can vary in time and space and can
be affected by environmental factors (Ramlall,2004). In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, after
physiological needs he talks about safety, belongingness and growth. The manager at this
organisation recognised the fact that there was a significantly large workload and that there
has been discussion about reducing the amount of workloads for social workers, however she
also said that it was something out of her hands and therefore what she does is hold meetings
so that the social workers talk about how they feel about certain changes. This way the
employees feel valued, because they can express their opinions. This means that she kept up
to date with the thoughts and emotions of her staff. This also gave room for the employees to
feel safe to say how they feel, get a sense of belonging in the organisation not only because
they are heard but also because the organisation has a non-discriminatory policy which is a
core value to the organisation while it also gives them space to come up with ideas and
therefore let them grow individually. The manager also mentioned that there were several
changes that were bottom up; meaning the idea was put forward first to social workers ,
meetings were held, ideas were discussed and then later on the board of directors
implemented the change based on the discussions during these meetings.
Conversely, Herzberg’s (1959) work which categorized motivation into two factors;
motivators and hygienes, argues that intrinsic factors like achievement and recognition
produce job satisfaction. In this organisation the manager talked about how one’s efforts are
recognised by an email from the CEO and with awards for length of service. Maslow (1943)
stated that people, including employees at organizations are motivated by desire to achieve or
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maintain the various conditions upon which these basic satisfactions rest and by certain more
intellectual desires.(Ramlall,2004). Jahoda (1981) says that as a consequence, the loss of
latent benefits of employment is responsible for the decline in well-being observed in the
Organisations have a vested interest in reducing stress in their workforce. Within limits,
performance actually improves with increased stress; ‘eustress’. If the stress continues to
increase, however, performance then falls off rapidly. This is called the Yerkes-Dodson law.
Managing and reducing stress at the work place is usually done through stress management
training, stress counselling, or a combination of the two. DeFrank and Cooper (1987)
developed stress interventions which focus on the individual, the organisation, the individual-
organisational interface. They weren’t the only ones that talked about stress at work, Murphy
(1988) also tackled about interventions at the work place and he emphasized on three levels:
Primary which is about reducing the source of stress, Secondary which involves stress
management training and Tertiary is about health promotion and workplace counselling.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) have been developed as organisational methods of
dealing with stress in the workplace.
According to Herzberg (1959) Hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job
security, produce job dissatisfaction. The manager expressed how in her opinion the working
conditions are good and therefore might be a reason for a higher job satisfaction. However
she also expressed that the pay might not match the amount of work put in, both by
supervisors and especially by social workers and therefore seemed to disagree with
Herzberg’s theory and seemed more inclined with Skinner’s theory (1953) which simply
states that if managers positively reinforce employee behaviours that lead to positive
outcomes then those outcomes will be repeated, therefore the manager seemed to believe that
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if employees are not given enough pay this might reduce job satisfaction and lack of
behaviours that lead to positive outcomes.
As previously mentioned the pay is not one that is wished for. Adams' theory states that
employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when
the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs
(Adams, 1965). When employees perceive an imbalance in their outcome-input ratio relative
to others, tension is created. Since most of the time people strive for equity and fairness, these
tensions can in itself create a basis for motivation. (Robbins,1993). The equity theory is based
on three assumptions. First, that people have their own beliefs about what is a fair and an
equitable return for their input at work. Second, that people tend to compare what they
perceive to be the exchange they have with their employers. Thirdly, when employees
perceive that treatment is not fair and equal, relative to the exchange they perceive others to
be making, this will instil more motivation for them to take appropriate actions.
In Vroom’s theory it assumed that the “choices made by a person among alternative
courses of action are awfully related to psychological events occurring contemporaneously
with the behaviour” (Vroom,1964,p. 15). Vroom’s expectancy theory does not provide
specific suggestions on what motivates organization members. Instead, Vroom’s theory
provides a process of cognitive variables that reflects individual differences in work
motivation. In this theory there are three major components that are seen to prompt
behaviour, these are referred to as Valence, Instrumentality and Expectancy. Valence is the
individual value one places on the reward of an outcome; this is many times based on needs,
goals and values. The manager talked about how the organisation has an informal recognition
style, which involves sending an email, tank you notes and positive feedback. This is done
because the organisation involves around 200 social workers all having around the same
amount of workload and therefore the agency doesn’t believe in official or formal recognition
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because of competition; they don’t have formal prizes for acknowledgment. This can be
controversial, since in Vroom’s theory Instrumentality is an individual’s estimate of the
probability that a given level of achieved task performance will lead to various work
outcomes. And therefore some employees might give view the lack of awards as something
negative and therefore there will be negative outcomes. On the other hand the recognition
from the CEO might lead to positive outcomes. Expectancy is a person’s estimate of the
probability that job-related effort will result in a given level of performance, and therefore
being recognised for a personal effort will help motivate employees.
One theory that has been empirically validated in the whole of organizational
psychology is Locke’s Goal setting theory. It claims that most people are mainly motivated
by goals. Locke argues that organizations should motivate the specifying goals. These goals
should be difficult since that leads to better performance, however not impossible since that
decreases the motivation. “As goals become too difficult, performance suffers because
organization members reject the goals as unreasonable and unattainable. A major factor in
attainability of a goal is self-efficacy” (Bandura, 1997). The goals should be specific and
feedback is crucial. These factors all effect the worker’s commitment to the particular goals.
Locke and Latham provide a well-developed goal-setting theory of motivation. The theory
emphasizes the important relationship between goals and performance. Research supports
predictions that the most effective performance seems to result when goals are specific and
challenging, when they are used to evaluate performance and linked to feedback on results,
and create commitment and acceptance.” Asking employees to work harder is not going to
lead to better performance because that is not a focused target. Research shows that specific
goals help with organizational goals like absenteeism and tardiness (Locke & Latham, 2002).
Feedback helps employees achieve performance goals, it helps in two ways. It helps workers
conclude how they are performing at their work place.Performance feedback tends to
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encourage better performance. Second, feedback also helps people determine the nature of
the adjustments to their performance that are required to improve”
From the interview I concluded that there might be frustration when not all ideas are
taken into consideration and if this happens repeatedly this could lower the motivational
levels of the employees which in turn affect the level of job satisfaction. Furthermore, in the
interview, it was discussed that sometimes one might encounter people who are not so open
to change, or the change that is going to be implemented might go against their beliefs. It was
established that the manager needs to be present, empathic and acknowledge the reasons
behind any resistance, however they also have to facilitate the process of change to the
employees. Overall a number of factors have to be taken into consideration when it comes to
the functional running of an organisation such as Appogg and this interview helped in my
understanding of the perspective of someone in a managerial position and how the issue of
motivation and job satisfaction is tackled from their point of view.
By nature, human beings are goal-oriented. Goals and goal-related processes
motivate, organise, and direct behaviour at all ages (Chapman & Skinner, 1985; Heckhausen,
1999). Across the lifespan, goals provide the individual with standards and ideal outcomes to
consider in evaluating personal functioning in a variety of different domains (Carver &
Scheier, 1990). Goals are clearly relevant at all ages, with a demonstrated impact on
cognition across the lifespan. Research has shown that motivation is central to the functioning
of an organisation, and having the appropriate goals set for the employees, together with
ensuring a healthy working environment, aid the assurance of job satisfaction. There are a lot
of factors that have to be considered when it comes to the employee relationship to the
employer, the position and the organisation; including motivation and job satisfaction. These
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factors influence the dynamics of the working environment and hence are important to be
noted. Organisational psychology aims to facilitate and bring forth the importance of these
underlying factors and this assignment has helped me to shed some light on these factors in a
real life situation at Appogg.
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