Theoretical Models of Motivation In The Workplace

Theoretical Models

The benefits of a motivated staff should prove an impetus to managers to use motivation as a driving force to obtain a high degree of functioning by employees. According to Musselwhite (2011) “managers who are effective at motivating their direct reports reap the reward of employees who can handle a variety of assignments, work more autonomously, report higher levels of job satisfaction, and contribute more to the success of the department, the organization, and in return, to the success of their manager” (p.

46). This in turn may motivate the manager to work harder and look at ways to improve and increase departmental functioning in the future. In health care managers have diverse staff to motivate. Employees may be of varied ages, experience, educational levels, and job descriptions.

Staff ranges from minimally educated secretarial staff to professionals such as licensed professional nurses, physicians, and physician extenders (Borkowski, 2005). The manager who takes the time to get to know the employees he or she is responsible for will know the individual positive or negative attributes of each employee.

This will assist in determining how best to motivate everyone for the good of the department. Many motivational theories exist but only equity and goal-setting theories will be discussed here.

Equity Theory

Theory Description

Equity theory basis relies on the comparison of inputs to outcomes. In the work setting an employee’s education, skill set, and anything else he or she brings to the job position provides the input. The salary, promotion, bonus or anything else attributed to the inputs provides the employee’s outcomes.

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Equity exists when the ration of inputs to outcomes of one employee equates to those of another employee (Borkowski, 2005).

Equity Theory in the Workplace

In the work setting equity theory exists as the comparison of inputs to outcomes of employees. According to Sweeney (1990) “Inequity can result from getting fewer outcomes or more outcomes than relevant others” (p. 329). Equity gives employees the sense of fairness in the workplace. A perceived inequity may result in decreased productivity and a sense of dissatisfaction in the workplace. An equitable workplace shows increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, and less staff turnover. Equity theory in the workplace shows greatly in matters of wages (Sweeney, 1990).

Goal-Setting Theory

Theory Description

Goal-setting theory developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Gary Latham and Edwin Locke promotes the notion that if a manager provides an employee with specific, challenging goals the worker tended to outperform a worker assigned a vague, non-specific goal such as “do the best you can.” This theory relies on the manager’s awareness of the skill level and abilities of all employees (Borkowski, 2005). Goal-Setting Theory in the Workplace

The concept of the goal-setting theory necessitates planning in advance by management after a thorough thought process of the goal needing to be met and the resources, including employees, available to assist in the goal achievement. The three steps required by the goal-setting theory, goal setting, goal commitment, and support elements, need careful consideration by the manager (Borkowski, 2005).

Goals need the characteristics of specificity and measurability. As employees perform the different levels of self-confidence, the goals set by management must show attainability by the employee in accordance with the ability to attain the specific goal. Employees unable to attain a goal may develop a feeling of frustration leading to distrust of management (Borkowski, 2005).

Commitment to the goal requires acceptance of the objective by the employee. The employee needs to identify his or her ability to achieve the goal and realize the benefit in attaining the objective. Providing support elements necessitates management ensuring the availability of adequate resources such as equipment, staff, and assistance to the employee. Goal-setting shows the most success with adequate and frequent employee feedback by management (Locke & Latham, 1990).


When managers work to create a culture of motivation the resulting workplace tends to be more productive, workers tend to feel more valued, and the organization and the staff benefit. Motivation theories provide management with guidelines to follow in an attempt to have staff reach full potential and have the department operate at its most productive. Employees need frequent feedback from management no matter which theory so they may receive direction and feel valued by the organization. Motivation theories, of which equity theory and goal-setting theory are just two, assist management in realizing and using the full potential of staff.


  1. Borkowski, N. (2005). Organizational behavior in health care. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
  2. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current Directions In Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 15(5), 265-268.
  3. Musselwhite, C. (2011). Creating a culture of motivation. T+D, 65(9), 46-49.
  4. Sweeney, P. D. (1990). Distributive justice and pay satisfaction: A field test of an equity theory prediction. Journal of Business & Psychology, 4(3), 329-341.

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Theoretical Models of Motivation In The Workplace. (2016, Mar 20). Retrieved from

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