What is Motivation? Definition, Features, Process, Types, and Importance

What is Motivation?

Motivation is the force that leads people to act to achieve their objectives. It is the activators of human behaviors to do something. People are willing to act cause they are motivated toward their goals. The driver of their actions may be money need, success need, position need, and their best potentiality.

Motivation is the art of inspiring and encouraging subordinates or people to do work effectively so that both organizational and individual goals can be achieved.

The phrase motivation is derived from the word ‘motive’. As a noun motive means an objective and as a verb motive means moving into action.

A person’s how much motivated, and can not be observed directly but only from the shown behavior. It is also influenced by a worker’s perception, learning, ability, and personality traits. Management gets work done by working with and through people to achieve organizational goals. Motivation is a crucial tool for the manager or leader to achieve effective work performance from workers.

Employees get motivated when they get what they expected from the management. Their expectations like increased salary, bonuses, incentives, overtime, and other similar benefits.

Motivation is essential for both individuals and the organization, an individual is motivated for his success and an organization motivates its employees for organizational success.

employee motivation through increased salary

In fact, motivation is the psychological and human aspects. Motivation is the process of creating willingness among employees to do work in the best possible way. It is the turn of encouraging employees to give their best effort to attain organizational objectives.

People do something to fulfill their basic and social needs. In other words, workers or employees fulfill their duties efficiently to fulfill their needs, desires, and wishes. Motivation is an instrument through which the management understands why and how workers interact and work following organizational requirements. It energizes the behavior of subordinates and directs them toward the attainment of common goals.

Definitions of Motivation

  • Motivation means a process of stimulating people to action to achieve desired goals – William G. Scott
  • Motivation means a willingness to exert a high level of effort to reach organizational goals, conditioned by the effort’s ability to satisfy some individual need – Decenzo and Robbins
  • Motivation is a general term applying to the entire class of drives, desires, needs, wishes, and similar forces that induce an individual or a group of people to work – Koontz and O’Donnell
  • Motivation can be defined as a willingness to work to expend energy to achieve a goal or reward – Dale S Beach
  • The concept of motivation is mainly psychological. It relates to those forces operating within the individual employee or subordinate which impel him to act or not act in certain ways – Dalton E. McFarland

Thus, motivation consists of inspiring and encouraging subordinates to do work to achieve common goals. A manager must know why and how people act per organizational requirements. He must have the knowledge to do a particular work with a clear vision.

It is the responsibility of the manager to develop such an environment that which workers can perform their work in the best possible way.

Characteristics of Motivation

Motivation is a continuous process. Up to life, people needed to be motivated. It is a psychological phenomenon that affects individual behaviors. As it has sound benefits, the complex it is.

The following are the main features of motivation:

features of motivation

Psychological Process

Motivation is a psychological process. It is a process to achieve the desired result by stimulating and influencing the behavior of subordinates.

A manager must be careful to understand the needs, motives, and desires of every worker in the organization. Subordinates differ in their approach and even two individuals can not be motivated with the same technique.

Related: Comparison Between Maslow and Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation

Management Function

Motivation is also one of the functions of management. It comes within the directing function. And, others include planning, organizing, staffing, and controlling.

Continuous Process

It is a continuous process. A satisfied person of today may not be satisfied tomorrow. When one need is satisfied, another need emerges.

Therefore, motivation is a never-ending process until the completion of the objectives. It is the responsibility of the management to develop new techniques, systems, and methods to fulfill the changing needs of workers.

Complex and Unpredictable

It is complex and unpredictable. Human wants are unlimited and change according to time and situation. A satisfied person in the present may not be satisfied in the future.

In a similar manner, even two persons may not be motivated with similar behavior and facilities. Therefore, a manager must be conscious to motivate subordinates and achieving objectives effectively.

Related: Leadership in Management: Definition, Features, Functions, Qualities, and Styles

Pervasive Function

It is a pervasive function of all levels of management. Every manager from the top level to the lowest level in the management hierarchy is responsible for motivation.

A manager is primarily responsible for motivating his subordinates and secondly other subordinates in the management hierarchy. For this, it is essential to develop the concept of group work and team spirit among all the members of the organization.

Influences the Behavior

One of the important parts of motivation is to influence the behavior of the people. Management has to influence the behavior of the workers and inspire them to concentrate more on their work.

Therefore, a manager has to play the role of a leader to influence the behavior of subordinates to achieve common goals.

Concentrated on Whole Individual

Individuals are motivated to fulfill their unlimited needs. A person can not be partly motivated as he is a self-contained and inseparable unit.

For example, whenever individual wishes to wear a pair of shoes, only the feet are not motivated but the whole body of the individual is motivated to get the shoes. Thus, motivation is concentrated on individuals and their attitudes to improve their working efficiency.

Positive or Negative Motivation

Last but not least, motivation can be negative and positive. A positive one promises incentives and rewards to workers. Incentives involve financial and non-financial benefits. A negative one is based on punishment for poor performance like minimizing wages, demotion, job termination, etc. On the basis of requirements, a manager can use both positive and negative motivation for better performance.

Positive Vs. Negative Motivation

Motivation could be classified into positive and negative motivation. Both motivations have important at the necessary time and situation. Negative motivation means encouraging others to do by punishment and positive is by some incentives.

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Positive motivation

It is additionally referred to as the ‘carrot’ approach. It means supplying some rewards to influence employees in the desired manner to realize common objectives. Such rewards could be in terms of cash or non-monetary or both.

Monetary incentives are those, which are given in terms of cash. These also involve benefits and incentives, which may be marked in terms of cash. Monetary benefits involve increments in salary, cash rewards, bonus payments, the share of profit, pensions, etc.

Non-monetary incentives are those, which are offered aside from money to the workers. Such incentives are also referred to as social needs. Non-monetary considerations involve promotion, assignment of authority, sharing in deciding, assignment of creative works, providing a far better-working climate, providing records of merits, etc.

The impact of positive motivation is that it strikes integrity among the workers. It promotes a sense of belongingness and a feeling of relations among co-workers. It helps to develop the working energy of the workers and gain planned objectives.

Negative motivation

Negative motivation is additionally referred to as the ‘stick’ approach. It means to carry out some punishment to employees to produce desired behavior for the achievement of common goals. Negative incentives also can be monetary or non-monetary.

The monetary punishments involve fines, penalties, reduction of remuneration, bonus, allowances, and reduction of other financial incentives. Non-monetary punishment involves demotion, the threat of dismissal, transfer to remote areas, minimization of responsibilities, etc.

It often returns to defensive behavior of workers like the creation of unions, poor quality work, high employee turnover, etc. It may lead to the breakdown of the management. However, negative motivation cannot always be avoided, because according to time and situation, it can best act as a tool for motivation.

Process of Motivation

Motivation is a process that starts with needs and ends with the achievement of incentives that fulfill the need. Especially, in the process of motivation, there are three elements, needs, drives, and incentives.

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Needs are created when there are feelings of deprivation in the people. The need is the origin of the motivation process. Humans have endless needs as the satisfaction of 1st need creates a wish for an additional need. For the attainment of endless needs people do performance, this is often the main concern of each manager of the organization.


Physiological and psychological drives are action-oriented. Drives or motives are found to form it easy to satisfy needs. They’re the main step of the motivational process. For instance, when people have the necessity for food that’s converted into a hunger drive. For the accomplishment of hunger, people are concerned about any quiet performance. Once they do any activity, it gives a return and helps them forget food to beat hunger.


The incentive is that the end is part of a motivational cycle. It helps to meet needs and diminish drive. When people get incentives it helps to revive physical and psychological balance. For instance, when people have a requirement for food they involve in any quiet activity that gives them a return in terms of incentives. Once they get incentives in terms of remuneration they acquire food.

Needs, drives, and incentives are interrelated to each other. As mentioned, people have endless needs. To fulfill such needs they may involve in some activities on the basis of their expertise and knowledge to beat the needs.

Importance of Motivation

Motivation may serve various purposes in the workplace, some purposes are:

  1. Drives Profitable Operation: Motivation boosts employee productivity and engagement, leading to increased profitability for the organization.
  2. Overcomes Resistance to Change: Motivation helps employees embrace and adapt to change, facilitating smooth transitions and fostering growth.
  3. Maximizes Human Resources: Motivated employees utilize their skills and expertise to the fullest, resulting in enhanced productivity and efficiency.
  4. Enhances Employee Satisfaction: Motivation brings a sense of fulfillment and job satisfaction, leading to increased loyalty and a positive work environment.
  5. Reduces Disputes and Strikes: Motivated employees engage in constructive communication, reducing conflicts and labor unrest.
  6. Ensures Workforce Stability: Motivated employees are less likely to leave, providing continuity, smoother operations, and cohesive work culture.

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