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What Is the Connection between Motivation and Job Performance?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 16, 2024
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Motivation and job performance are inextricably connected because every worker has to have some degree of motivation just to go to work in the first place. Many people believe that the most highly motivated employees are the employees who will reach the highest level of job performance. Consequently, many large firms train supervisors and managers to motivate their employees or develop methods that will enable them to understand the factors that motivate individual employees.

To some extent, most employees are motivated by money because people generally work in order to earn money to cover their day-to-day living expenses. Many people work harder if they are given financial rewards, such as commission checks and bonuses for reaching performance levels beyond the basic level that their bosses demand. Some individuals are motivated by the opportunity to gain promotions or move into more prestigious roles, while other employees are motivated by a fear of failure. In some instances, people are motivated to work hard if they believe that failure to do so will result in them losing their jobs. All of these factors are regularly cited by people who see a correlation between motivation and job performance.

Most companies expect department managers to motivate employees, and managers sometimes set about trying to achieve this by offering financial incentives to employees as well as promotions or additional paid-time off. Many firms use approaches that are based upon research by psychologists, such as Abraham Maslow who developed the Hierarchy of Needs in the 1950s. Using Maslow's list of motivators, managers attempt to match the personalities or needs of their clients with the needs identified by psychologists, and motivate employees by linking their needs with their job performance. Someone with low self-esteem may be motivated by the chance to earn recognition, while someone experiencing financial problems may be motivated by the need to earn the money needed to have a sense of security.

Modern psychologists and behavioral analysts have argued that a leader cannot motivate an unmotivated employee, and that motivation must begin with the employee. Using this rationale, some employees perform poorly at work because they lack motivation. No matter what is tried, bosses cannot raise their level of performance by attempting to use rewards or punitive action as motivators.

Many managers keep track of the actions of employees and the results that those actions generate. Managers look for a correlation between the amount of effort an employee puts forth through actions such as making sales calls, and that employee's sales results as compared with other seemingly less motivated employees. Other variables that an employee cannot control, such as the behavior of clients, can also impact an employees' performance. While motivation and job performance are linked, even highly motivated employees can experience performance issues at work.

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Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Mar 02, 2014

@ddljohn-- I think that motivation is the desire to do something or accomplish something. In terms of job performance, it's the desire to do one's job well. I think that everyone who does their job must be motivated by something, or this wouldn't be possible.

I think that the biggest motivation affecting job performance is money. At the end of the day, we all need to make money. Not many people will do something that they love if they are not compensated for it. Competitive remuneration is very important for employee job performance and motivation.

By ddljohn — On Mar 01, 2014

The connection between job performance and motivation is a very interesting topic but I think that we need to define motivation. What does motivation mean? Do we consider everyone who does their job effectively, motivated?

By ZipLine — On Mar 01, 2014

I think that for an employee to have excellent job performance, he needs to be self-motivate, as well as motivated by his employer. I don't agree with the opinion that it's not possible to motivate someone who is unmotivated. I think that every employee is motivated by different things and the employer can definitely play a significant role in it.

For example, I do motivate myself because I'm afraid of failure. But after a while, I do need extra motivation from my employer. As an employee, I'm most motivated by praise. If my employer only criticizes my shortcomings and never praises my good work, I lose my motivation. I need regular criticism and feedback from my managers, both positive and negative.

So in regards to improving motivation in the workplace, I think that employers have their work cut out for them. It's wrong to think that employees make no difference in someone's motivation levels and consequently their job performance in my opinion.

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