Motivation – Definition, Components, Characteristics and Theories.

The motivation is the reason for the actions, desires and needs of people, you can also say that it is the address of one towards the behavior, or what makes a person to repeat a behavior. A motive is the impulse a person has to act in a certain way, or develop a penchant for a specific behavior.

According to Maehr and Meyer, “Motivation is a popular culture word like few other psychological concepts.” Motivation is an internal process that makes a person move towards a goal, such as intelligence, it cannot be directly observed.

Components of motivation

Anyone who has ever had a goal (like wanting to lose 20 pounds or run a marathon) will probably immediately realize that simply having the desire to achieve something is not enough. Reaching such a goal requires the ability to persist through obstacles and stamina to keep going despite difficulties.

Motivation has three main components, which are:

  • Activation involves the decision to initiate a behavior, such as enrolling in a psychology class.
  • Persistence is the continuous effort towards a goal even though obstacles may exist. An example of persistence would be taking more psychology courses to earn a degree, although it requires a significant investment of time, energy, and resources.
  • The intensity can be seen in the concentration and vigor that pursues the achievement of a goal. For example, one student may pass without much effort, while another will study regularly, engage in discussions, and take advantage of research opportunities outside of class, the former student lacking intensity, while the latter pursuing his educational goals with greater intensity.

Objectives and characteristics of motivation

The goal is to create conditions in which people are willing to work with zeal, initiative, interest and enthusiasm, it also creates conditions in which people work with a sense of responsibility, loyalty, discipline and with pride and confidence so that the objectives of an organization are effectively achieved.

Motivation is a captivating concept, it is a fascinating but complex phenomenon. The main features are as follows:

  • Motivation is goal-oriented.
  • Motivation is an ongoing process.
  • Motivation can be positive or negative.
  • Motivation can be considered in its entirety, not in piece-rate food.
  • Motivation can be monetary or non-monetary.
  • Motivation is a psychological phenomenon that turns skills into performance.

Motivation theories

From the very beginning, when human organizations were established, various thinkers have tried to find the answer to what motivates people to work. The different approaches applied by them have given rise to a series of theories about motivation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

It is probably safe to say that the best-known theory of motivation is Maslow’s hierarchy theory of necessity. Maslow’s theory is based on human needs, drawing mainly on his clinical experience, he classified all human needs in a hierarchical way from the lower to the higher order.

In essence, he believed that once a certain level of need is satisfied, it no longer serves to motivate man. So the next highest level of need has to kick in to motivate. Maslow identified five levels in his hierarchy of needs.

Physiological needs

These needs are basic to human life and therefore include food, clothing, shelter, air, water and necessities of life, they are related to the survival and maintenance of human life. They exert a tremendous influence on human behavior, they must be met first, at least partially, before higher level needs arise, once physiological needs are satisfied, they no longer motivate man.

Security needs

After physiological needs are met, the next felt needs are called safety and security needs. These needs find expression in wishes such as financial security and protection against physical hazards. Meeting these needs requires more money and therefore the individual is asked to work more. Like physiological needs, these become inactive once they are satisfied.

Social needs

Man is a social being, therefore he is interested in social interaction, companionship, belonging, etc. It is this socialization and belonging that people prefer to work in groups and especially older people.

Esteem needs

These needs refer to self-esteem and self-respect, they include such needs that indicate self-confidence, achievement, competence, knowledge and independence. Fulfilling esteem needs leads to self-confidence, strength, and the ability to be useful in the organization, however, the inability to meet these needs results in feeling inferior, weak, and powerless.

Self-actualization needs

This level represents the culmination of all the lower, intermediate and higher needs of human beings. In other words, the final step under the hierarchy of needs model is the need for self-actualization, this refers to fulfillment.

The term self-actualization was coined by Kurt Goldstein and means actualizing what one is potentially good at, in effect, self-actualization is the motivation of the person to transform the perception of the self into reality.

According to Maslow, human needs follow a definite sequence of dominance, the second need does not arise until the first is reasonably satisfied, and the third need does not arise until the first two needs have been reasonably satisfied and continue. Read more about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

These are now dealt with one by one:

Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory of Motivation

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg expanded on Maslow’s work and proposed a new theory of motivation popularly known as Herzberg’s Theory of Motivational Hygiene (Two Factors), conducted a widely publicized motivational study on 200 accountants and engineers employed by companies in western Pennsylvania and its environs.

He asked these people to describe two major incidents at their jobs:

(1) When did you feel particularly good about your job?

(2) When did you feel exceptionally bad about your job? He used the critical incident method to obtain data.

The responses when analyzed were found to be quite interesting and quite consistent. The responses that respondents gave when they felt good about their jobs were significantly different from the responses given when they felt bad, with reported good feelings generally associated with job satisfaction, while bad feelings with job dissatisfaction. Herzberg rated the motivators as job satisfiers, and said the job doesn’t satisfy hygiene or maintenance factors.

According to Herzberg, the opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, the underlying reason he says, is that removing unsatisfactory characteristics from a job does not necessarily make the job satisfying. He believes in the existence of a dual continuum, the opposite of “satisfaction” is “non-satisfaction” and the opposite of “dissatisfaction” is “non-dissatisfaction.”

According to Herzberg, today’s motivators are tomorrow’s hygiene because the latter stop influencing people’s behavior when they get them. Consequently, one’s own hygiene can be the motivator of another.

However, Herzberg’s model is tagged with the following criticism as well:

1. In general, people tend to take credit when things are going well, blaming the failure on the external environment.

2. The theory basically explains job satisfaction, not motivation.

3. Even job satisfaction is not generally measured. It is not unlikely that a person dislikes a part of their work, they still believe that the work is acceptable.

4. This theory neglects the situational variable to motivate an individual.

Due to its ubiquitous nature, salary commonly appears as a motivator as well as hygiene. Read more about Herzberg’s hygiene theory of motivation

McClelland’s theory of necessity

Another well-known theory of needs-based motivation, as opposed to the satisfaction-dissatisfaction hierarchy of needs, is the theory developed by McClelland and his associates, he developed his theory based on the long list developed by Henry Murray of overt motives and needs. used in his early personality studies . McClelland’s theory of needs is closely related to learning theory , because he believed that needs are learned or acquired by the types of events that people experience in their environment and culture.

He found that people who acquire a particular need behave differently than those who do not have. His theory focuses on the three needs of Murray; achievement, power and affiliation.

They are defined as follows:

Need for achievement

This is the drive to excel, achieve relative to a set of standards, and strive to be successful, in other words, the need for achievement is behavior directed toward competition with a standard of excellence. McClelland found that people with a high need for achievement perform better than those with a moderate or low need for achievement, and pointed to regional / national differences in achievement motivation.

Need for power

The need for power has to do with making an impact on others, the desire to influence others, the urge to change people, and the desire to make a difference in life. People with a great need for power are people who like to be in control of people and events, this results in maximum satisfaction for the man.

Affiliation need

It is defined as the desire to establish and maintain friendly and cordial relationships with other people. The need for affiliation, in many ways, is similar to Maslow’s social needs. Read more about McClelland’s motivation-hygiene theory.

McGregor’s theory of participation

Douglas McGregor formulated two different views of the human being based on worker participation, the first basically negative, labeled Theory X, and the other positive, labeled Theory Y.

Theory X is based on the following assumptions:

1. People are by nature indolent, that is, they like to work as little as possible.

2. People lack ambition, do not like responsibility and prefer to be led by others.

3. People are inherently self-centered and indifferent to organizational needs and goals.

4. People are generally gullible and not very sharp and bright.

And on the other hand, Theory Y assumes that:

1. People are not by nature passive or resistant to the goals of the organization.

2. They want to take responsibility.

3. They want their organization to be successful.

4. People are capable of directing their own behavior.

5. They have a need for achievement.

What McGregor tried to dramatize through his X – Y theory is to delineate the extremes to draw the fence within which organizational man must generally behave. The fact is that no organizational man would really belong to theory X or theory Y, in reality, he / she shares the traits of both, what actually happens is that man changes from one set or properties to another with changes in your mood and motives for changing the environment. Read more about McGregor’s participation theory.

The Argyris theory

Argyris has developed his theory of motivation based on the proposition of how management practices affect individual behavior and growth. In his opinion, the seven changes that take place in an individual personality make it mature, in other words, it is how the individual’s personality develops

Argyris believes that immaturity exists in individuals, mainly due to organizational and management practices, such as task specialization, chain of command, unity of direction, and length of management. To make people mature, he proposes a gradual change from the existing pyramidal organizational structure to the humanist system; from the existing management system to a more flexible and participatory management.

He states that such a situation will satisfy not only their physiological and safety needs, but will also motivate them to prepare to make greater use of their physiological and safety needs, but will also motivate them to prepare to make greater use of their potential in the achievement of the organization’s objectives. Read more about the Argyris theory.

Vroom’s expectation theory

One of the most widely accepted explanations of motivation is that offered by Victor Vroom in his Theory of Expectation “It is a theory of motivation based on the cognitive process. The theory is based on the basic notions that people will be motivated to exert a high level of effort when they believe that there are relationships between the effort they put in, the performance they achieve, and the results / rewards they receive.

Therefore, the key constructs in the expectation theory of motivation are:


According to Vroom, it means the value or strength that one puts into a particular result or reward.


Relate efforts to performance.


It is the belief that performance is directly related to rewards.

Therefore, Vroom’s motivation can also be expressed in the form of an equation as follows: Motivation = Valencia x Expectation x Instrumentality. Being the model of a multiplicative nature, the three variables must have high positive values ​​to imply a choice of motivated performance, if any of the variables approaches the zero level, the possibility that the performance is so motivated also touches the zero level.

Porter and Lawler expectation theory

It is an improvement on Vroom’s expectation theory , they postulate that motivation is not equal to satisfaction or performance. The model suggested by them finds some of the simplistic traditional assumptions made about the positive relationship between satisfaction and performance, they proposed a multi-variable model to explain the complex relationship that exists between satisfaction and performance.

What is the main point in the Porter and Lawler model? It is that effort or motivation does not lead directly to performance, it is intact, mediated by skills and traits and by role perceptions. Ultimately, performance leads to satisfaction.

There are three main elements in this model:


It refers to the amount of energy that an employee exerts on a certain task, the amount of effort that an employee will put into a task is determined by two factors:

(i) Value of the reward.

(ii) Perception of the effort-reward probability.


The effort of one leads to their performance, both may be the same or not, however, the amount of performance is determined by the amount of work and the capacity and perception of the role of the employee, therefore, if an employee possesses less capable and / or has a wrong perception of the role, their performance may be poor despite having made great efforts.


Performance leads to satisfaction, the level of satisfaction depends on the amount of rewards one achieves, if the amount of real rewards meets or exceeds the fair rewards received, the employee will feel satisfied.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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