Theories of motivation


How can we all become demotivated at certain times in our lives?

How can we regain motivation?

How can a manager influence his team’s level of motivation?

What is demotivation?

“I don’t feel motivated to do this job”

De-motivation at work or de-motivation at school are regular issues that managers, teachers or parents have to deal with, as well as people who are experiencing de-motivation themselves.

Demotivation is a lack of desire, a lack of drive to do something. It translates into a rather low level of energy, which can lead a person to do something less quickly, or not at all. De-motivation can lead to a form of immobility, or even depression when de-motivation is experienced as something suffered.

It can also lead to a form of rebellion, with the person making new choices because they feel that their demotivation is affecting them and they don’t want to go through this any longer.

What emotions generate demotivation?

If demotivation is experienced as a form of resignation, it can generate feelings of sadness and frustration. It can lead to depression.

If demotivation generates a form of alert in the individual, he or she can react to regain motivation. This alert will mobilise them and they will be able to react. If their reaction is conscious, they can take the time to reflect and take action to make new choices, or to rediscover meaning in what they are doing. Sometimes, less consciously, they will procrastinate or adopt a rebellious or escapist stance, in a rather remote-controlled way.

Why does demotivation not always generate an appropriate reaction?

Maslow’s pyramid tells us quite a lot about the absence of reaction when a person is demotivated. Psychology gives us other insights.

According to Maslow, we have needs, which are listed in a pyramid in 5 categories:

  • Physiological needs ;
  • Security needs
  • Needs to belong ;
  • Self-esteem needs;
  • Self-fulfilment.

When a person is demotivated at work or in their studies, they may not react and suffer the situation, because their need for security is greater than their need for self-realisation. They will choose to stand still because the situation is reassuring, even if it is unpleasant.

Psychologically, this choice has a lot to do with the education imparted by the parents and the level of self-confidence. If I have self-confidence and I find myself in a demotivating situation, I can get myself motivated again, or find a new, more motivating path.

If I have a low level of self-confidence, or if I was taught as a child to be patient and to develop a certain resilience, I may be satisfied with a low level of motivation without taking action: “that’s the way it is”. “Be satisfied with what you have”. The psychological injunction is there and reduces the individual’s ability to mobilise. Their personal ambition and confidence in what they deserve or are capable of doing is limited.

Generation shock in the face of demotivation

The children of the new generations have been brought up in the West, and more particularly in France, in a consumer society: I need something, I get it. I don’t want to do something, I do something else. Access to needs is sometimes as easy as a remote control.

In the world of work, the younger generations, faced with a tight labour market, are in a position to pursue their path with the same demand for “everything, right away”. If this job no longer meets my needs, if I feel demotivated, then I look elsewhere. I leave the company.

So motivation has become a major issue in companies, because demotivated employees, particularly the younger generation, are synonymous with turnover.

Motivation and demotivation according to Hertzberg – subtle and essential

According to the psychologist Frederick Herzberg, the factors that lead to dissatisfaction and demotivation are different from those that lead to job satisfaction.

According to Hertzberg, what demotivates is linked to hygiene factors:

  • Organisational policies
  • Supervision
  • Working conditions
  • Salary
  • Relations with colleagues / subordinates
  • Professional status
  • Job security

However, if my manager in a salary context, or my teacher in a school context, only acts on the areas of demotivation in the hope of motivating me, that won’t be enough. I will also have to work on my stimuli, i.e. what energises me and motivates me fundamentally.

Motivation is the result of 2 approaches:

  • On the one hand, reducing the sources of dissatisfaction and demotivation,
  • On the other, increasing the sources of satisfaction.

The 7 keys to motivation

He proposes 7 keys to developing motivation:

  • Giving meaning to work
  • Inform employees of changes and decisions affecting the organisation
  • Provide feedback on work
  • Increasing autonomy
  • Develop a sense of responsibility and competence.
  • Encouraging initiative
  • Gradually assigning new tasks

Motivation, demotivation and objectives

According to Locke and Latham, demotivation can result from a lack of objectives.

According to Vroom, if an objective is unattainable or tasteless, it is more demotivating than motivating.

In NLP, we talk about SMART objectives as a way of adjusting motivation.

Locke and Latham’s theory of goal setting

Locke and Latham developed a theory of goal setting (1990) according to which the will to act in a certain direction results from the existence of a goal to be achieved.

According to them, goals regulate behaviour: they drive action and direct energy towards specific actions. By acting on a person’s goals, we can influence their behaviour. According to this theory, achieving a goal should be a challenge: the clearer, more precise and more difficult the goal, the better the performance.

Vroom’s theory of expectations – V * I * E

Vroom’s theory (1964) emphasises three concepts in explaining motivated behaviour at work:

V * I * E = degree of motivation

  • V = Valence
    The concept of valence:
    corresponds to the value placed on the result
  • I = Instrument
    The concept of instrumentality
    : corresponds to the probability that a certain level of performance will lead to a particular result
  • E = Expectation
    The concept of expectation
    : corresponds to the probability that a certain level of performance can be achieved if the individual makes sufficient effort

This means that people will be motivated to put effort into activities that are likely to give them the most satisfaction and that they believe they will be able to achieve successfully.

This theory is based on cognitive representations, i.e. the perception processes mobilised by the individual.

Vroom’s thesis was complemented by the work of Porter and Lawler (1968), who introduced individual variables such as self-esteem and feelings of personal efficacy into the explanation of the relationship between effort and performance.

They also added to the model an individual’s ability to retroact, i.e. to learn from past experience: an employee could, for example, reduce his efforts if he realised that his performance did not necessarily lead to better results.

SMART objectives and motivation

The theorists of Neuro-Linguistic Programming do not rely on the notion of difficulty and are more inclined towards the notion of realism, which enables success to be achieved, as is the case with Vroom. In NLP, the objective must be “SMART”, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Adapted, Realistic and Temporal.

Vroom also bases his theory on the principle of expectation. If the level of difficulty is felt to be “too difficult”, then it will no longer be a motivating factor, quite the opposite. And if it were too easy to achieve, it would lose its role as a compass, a driving force towards a goal. The level of difficulty is therefore an essential factor in capturing an individual’s motivation, and varies from one person to another.

Personality and motivation and de-motivation

The ZOOM-ER personality test enables us to see what motivates and demotivates a person, and gives us the keys to acting as a manager on this person in order to maintain a high level of motivation.

A person who likes change needs diversity and changes of pace, whereas a person who does not like change needs points of reference and stability.

So we are not equal. The suggestions I make as a manager to an employee can be a source of motivation for one person, and a source of demotivation for another.

So you need to know your team in order to know how to motivate them.

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