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Motivation has traditionally been explored using need-based theories and process theories, often making a clear distinction between its intrinsic and extrinsic aspects. Need based theories such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzberg’s two factor, ERG (existence, relatedness, and growth) and McClelland’s acquired needs explore motivation as function of fulfillment of needs.

Process based theories looking atequity, expectancy and reinforcement consider motivation as a rational process that is explained through cognitive thought processes driving individual behaviors and actions. We can, therefore, understand motivation as an attribute that encourages us to either do or refrain from doing something (Gredler, Broussard & Garrison, 2004).

Significance Of Motivation

According to Borysenko(2019), disengaged employees could have higher absenteeism (37%), lower productivity (18%) and lower profitability (15%). The 2013 report on the state of US workplace estimated the loss in productivity of unhappy workers to be between $450 and $550 billion (Clifford, 2015).Hence, it is critically significant for managers to understand what drives workplace motivation and create a work environment that taps on workers’ motivation to achieve productive outcomes.

Scholarly Evidence

Pinder (1998) explains workplace motivation as a combination of internal and external forces that initiate and influence workplace behavior. It recognizes that work-related behaviors are predicted by both, environmental factors, and inherent drives in the person (Devadass, 2011; Pinder, 1998). While management researchers have often examined individual and team-level studies of motivational process in isolation, only a handful have explored the cross-level relationship between the two. Chen et al. (2009) found that team-leveland individual-level motivation are connected such that the former (team-level) has a cross influence on the latter (individual-level) to affect individual performance. In other words, individual performance is predicted by both, individual and team-level motivation. Positive team-level influences, such as those directed at developing and empowering individuals, have positively influenced individual-level motivation, whereas negative team-level influences increase worker disengagement and withdrawal behaviors (Chen & Gogus, 2008; Zaccaro, Ely, & Nelson, 2008; Jehn, 1995, 1997; Jehn & Mannix, 2001; LePine, Podsakoff, & LePine, 2005; Podsakoff, LePine & LePine, 2007).
Chen et al. (2011) found that team-level stimuli such as empowering leadership and relationship conflicts affected individual-level motivational states, which in turn influenced team members’ behaviors. Leadership styles that are transformational can positively stimulate individual and team-level motivation, increase job satisfaction, and enhance teamwork (Musinguzi et al.,2018).
Having teams with strong orientation of learning goals results in greater shared understanding of each other, which translates into higher individual and team performance (Janardhanan et al., 2019). Encouraging pro-social motivation behaviors that transcend individual boundaries have also shown to positively affect team effectiveness especially when tasks require high levels of coordination among team members (Hu & Liden, 2015). Motivation has been examined cross-culturally in a study conducted by Verner et al. (2014). The research examined the factors that motivated software engineering teams, and the relationship between team motivation and project outcomes across four countries: Australia, US, Chile, and Vietnam.
The findings demonstrated that high team motivation increased the likelihood of project success, except in the case of Vietnamese projects where no statistically significant relationship was reported. Despite having several common motivational factors across all four countries, findings also revealed certain country specific differences in factors predicting motivation. This reflects the importance of context specific issues when considering motivation (Verner et al., 2014).

Concluding Thoughts

Motivation is not a phenomenon that should be studied in isolation butrequires a rather holistic approach considering cross level examination within different contexts. As evident from the scholarly literature, it can act as an antecedent to both,individual level outcomes (job satisfaction, worker engagement and individual productivity) and team level outcomes (team performance and team effectiveness).






About The Author

Muhammad Aunib Zaidi is an analyst in the Exports Development and Investment Strategy team with the Department of Jobs, Regions and Precincts (DJPR). He has previously worked as a financial auditor in Ernst and Young and as a researcher/sessional academic at the Australian National University (ANU), University of New South Wales (UNSW Nura Gili), Accounting Resource Centre (ARC), and as a teaching assistant in the Melbourne Business School (the University of Melbourne) for the executive MBA program.








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  •  Clifford, C. (2015). Unhappy Workers Cost the U.S. Up to $550 Billion a Year (Infographic), Retrieved from
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  • Musinguzi, C., Namale, L., Rutebemberwa, E., Dahal, A., Nahirya-Ntege, P. & Kekitiinwa, A. (2018). The relationship between leadership style and health worker motivation, job satisfaction and teamwork in Uganda, Journal of Healthcare Leadership, 10, 21-32.
  • Pinder, C. C. (1998). Work motivation in organizational behavior. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
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Disclaimer: The content of this article is for information only and is not offered as an advice. Readers are encouraged to consult a suitably qualified professional adviser to obtain advice tailored to their specific requirement.
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