Introduction to Motivation in Organizational Behavior

What you’ll learn to do: Describe how “motivation” operates in organizational behavior

Motivation is one of three key performance elements. In fact, research suggests that performance is a function of ability, motivation and opportunity:

Performance = Function {Ability × Motivation × Opportunity}

Ability refers to a person’s or a team’s ability to perform a task. Opportunity refers to the timing and situation around the task. For instance, if a hospital sets out to be known for successful heart transplants, it must have a team of surgeons that are skilled in performing transplants (ability), and there must be adequate space and equipment to perform transplants, as well as patients who need them (opportunity). Managers have little influence over ability, and they can only somewhat influence opportunity.

Can managers influence employees to be more productive by understanding their sources of motivation, or even creating sources of motivation for their employees? Most researchers agree that the answer to that is yes. Motivation isn’t a stable state of mind, and what motivates an employee right now might not be the same a year later. But researchers don’t necessarily agree on the best way to accomplish that—and perhaps there is not one best approach.

Motivation is one of the most researched topics in organizational behavior, because a manager’s ability to influence employee motivation can directly affect an organization’s bottom line.


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