Process Theory of Motivation
There are two important types of motivation theory: content and process. Content models of motivation focus on what people need in their lives (i.e. what motivates them). Process theories look at the psychological and behavioral processes that affect an individual’s motivation.
Process theories of motivation try to explain why behaviors are initiated. These theories focus on the mechanism by which we choose a target, and the effort that we exert to “hit” the target. There are four major process theories:
- Goal Setting
- operant conditioning,
Expectancy theory posits that we will exert much effort to perform at high levels so that we can obtain valued outcomes. It is the motivation theory that many organizational behavior researchers find most intriguing, in no small part because it is currently also the most comprehensive theory. Expectancy theory has much to offer the student of management and organizational behavior.
- have different needs and so value outcomes differently;
- make conscious choices about their actions;
- choose the action most likely to achieve an outcome they value.
There are three components in the theory:
First, the person’s expectation (or subjective probability) that effort will result in some level of performance. This will be affected by how clear they are about their role and the training and support available.
Second, the person’s expectation that performance will be instrumental in leading to an outcome. How confident is the person that achieving the target will produce the reward? This depends on how clear the appraisal and reward systems are, and their experience of them.
The third component is the valence or value (V) that the individual attaches to a particular outcome. This term is the power of the outcome to motivate that individual – how keen the person is to get a good result. So the value of V varies between individuals, reflecting their unique pattern of motivational needs (as suggested by the content theories). Someone who values money and achievement would place a high valence on an outcome that was a promotion to a distant head office.
Equity theory is associated with J. Stacey Adams who published (Adams, 1963) the idea that fairness in comparison with others influences motivation. People like to be treated fairly and compare what they put into a job with the rewards they receive. They express this as a ratio of their input to their reward. They also compare their ratio with the input-to-reward ratio of others whom they consider their equals. They expect management to reward others in the same way, so expect the ratios to be roughly equal.
Person A compares the ratio of her input to her reward to that of B. If the ratios are similar she will be satisfied with the treatment received. If she believes the ratio is lower than that of other people she will feel inequitably treated and be dissatisfied.
The theory predicts that if people feel unfairly treated they will experience tension and dissatisfaction. They will try to reduce this by one or more of these means:
- Reducing their inputs, by putting in less effort or withholding good ideas;
- Attempting to increase their outcomes, by pressing for increased pay or other benefits;
- Attempting to decrease others’ outcomes by withholding information and help;
- Changing their comparison, by basing it on someone where inequity is less pronounced;
- Increasing their evaluation of the other person’s output so the ratios are in balance.
Goal-setting theory argues that motivation is influenced by goal difficulty, goal specificity and knowledge of results.
The best-known advocates of goal-setting theory are Locke and Latham (Locke, 1968; Locke and Latham, 1990, 2002), and the theory has four main propositions:
- Challenging goals lead to higher levels of performance than easy goals. Difficult goals are sometimes called ‘stretch’ goals because they encourage effort, to stretch ourselves. Beyond a point this effect fades – if people see a goal as being impossible, their motivation declines.
- Specific goals lead to higher levels of performance than vague goals. We find it easier to adjust behaviour when we know exactly what the objective is, and what others expect us to do.
- Participation in goal setting can improve commitment to those goals since people have a sense of ownership and are motivated to achieve them. If management explains and justifies the goals, without inviting participation, that can also increase motivation.
- Knowledge of results of past performance – receiving feedback – is necessary to motivation. It is motivational in itself and contains information that may help people attain their goals. Seijts and Latham (2012) advocate that managers should set learning goals as well as task goals, to help staff develop.
An attraction of goal-setting theory is the directness of the practical implications, including:
- Goal difficulty: set goals that are hard enough to stretch employees, but not impossible.
- Goal specificity: set goals in clear, precise, and if possible, quantifiable terms.
- Participation: allow employees to take part in setting goals, to increase ownership and commitment
- Acceptance: if goals are set by management, ensure they explain and justify them.
- Feedback: provide information on performance to encourage employees to adjust.
- Management an Introduction – David Boddy (Publication – Pearson, 7th Edition)
- Human Resource Management – Dev Raj Adhikari
- Business Studies – XII (Asmita Publication)