MOTIVATION AND PERFORMANCE
Motivation comes into play whenever work is being done. In some cases, the work itself
may be somewhat unattractive. At other times, it may simply be the same work that is being
done day to day. Whatever the circumstances, employers must tap into ways to interest
their employees in coming into work every day. I-O psychologists assist employers in
designing work that employees will want to do and perhaps even enjoy doing. Motivation
theory has built upon theories from many different disciplines within psychology.
This module covers how different psychological theories (i.e., reinforcement theory and
goal-setting theory) are applied to motivate employees. The lecture revolves around two
cases described below. In addition, lecture overheads with some theoretical background and
discussion questions are also provided.
Motivation Case #1
A group of students in a psychology class created a procedure to motivate the class as
a whole to study hard and to strive to achieve good grades. With the permission of the
teacher, they invented an incentive system, which led to constructive competition among
the students in order to attain the highest grades (i.e., higher productivity). It also
created an atmosphere of collegiality, fun, and a broader level of participation in
Students collected 50 cents from each student (and a dollar from the teacher) and
declared the sum total as a reward to be divided between the two students with the highest
scores in each test given in class. In return, the highest scorers had to acknowledge the
support system in the class by bringing in goodies for the rest of the class.
This procedure was repeated for the second test. The class as a whole did much better
than on the first exam and most students achieved grades ranging from B- to A. Because all
the tests were multiple choice, the scoring system was objective and there was no
subjectivity on the part of the teacher in assigning grades. The sense of accomplishment
for most students led the class to continue with this strategy for the rest of the
Motivation Case #2
A car dealership has instituted an incentive program for its salespeople based on the
achievement of various levels of goals. The method was:
1) Earn five stickers for selling five cars in a month
Earn ten stickers for selling seven cars in a month
Earn twenty stickers for selling ten cars in a month
2) Exchange the five stickers for one extra day of paid vacation
Exchange the ten stickers for two extra days of paid vacation
Exchange the twenty stickers for either a bonus of 500 dollars or four
days of extra paid vacation.
I-O psychologists also help employers design compensation systems and incentive plans
that will help to motivate employees. Perhaps direct the discussion among the students by
also asking them if theyve had a job where they worked on commission or for bonuses.
That will help to make the goal-setting concept more concrete for the students.
Motivation and Performance References
Lawler, E.E. (1994). Motivation in work organizations. San Francisco:
Locke, E.A. (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Organizational
Behavior and Human Performance, 3, 157-189.
Locke, E.A. (1990). A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Lowenberg, G. & Conrad, A.K. (1998). Current perspectives in
industrial/organizational psychology (Chapter 10, Motivation: Theories and
Applications). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Luthans, F., & Kreitner, R. (1985). Organizational behavior modification (2nd
ed.). New York: Scott, Foresman.
Suggested Films and Videotapes
Lincoln Electric (CBS 60 Minutes, 1992).
Although it may be a little dated, this segment deals with the motivational value of
Motivation. (Insight Media #PM154).
Explains why people think, behave and make the choices they make. Factors that motivate
are explored including curiosity, the need for achievement, and intrinsic and extrinsic
rewards. Reinforcement theory and Maslows hierarchy of needs are discussed.
Business, Behaviorism, and the Bottom Line.
This film illustrates the use of reinforcement principles, motivation concepts, and
employees performance levels at work by Emery Air Freight management.