Motivation and Employee Engagement

I will investigate two articles on the topic of motivation. The first article is titled “what should we do about motivation theory?” written by Locke and Latham (2004). The second article that I look at is entitled “Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation” and is also done by two authors namely Jean and Roland (2003). I chose the two articles because both tackle the issue of motivation from the same view point, that is, motivation is both intrinsic and extrinsic even thought the authors of the two articles take totally different approaches to the subject.

Aims and Objectives

The main aim of Jean and Roland (2003) is to illustrate the parallel relationship that exists between the intrinsic and the extrinsic motivation. They seek to dispel some misconceptions that have come up as result of two main views on the motivation theory and present qualitative analyses of two authored articles. On the other hand, the main aim of Locke and Latham (2004) is to offer some practical tips on how to develop future motivation theories in an all inclusive manner. The entire article is an answer to the question under study, that is, what we can do about the motivation theory.

Research and Hypotheses

Locke and Latham (2004) have a very strong thesis statement which they satisfactorily address in their writing. In fact, the entire article is a response to the question, “what should we do about motivation theory?” The two give six answers to the question and substantiate the six suggestions with reliable sources through out the article. Jean and Roland (2003) also have a strong thesis statement but compared to Locke and Latham’s article, the thesis statement didn’t come out so clearly through out the paper. However, the research they did was very extensive and the data they presented for analysis is what makes their inferences more authentic than the inferences arrived at by Locke and Latham.

Jean and Roland’s article starts by asking some questions which are then answered in the article. The questions raised are questions that everybody would easily identify with since very simple examples are used. For example, they raise the question on which was a better motivator for a child to help him/her to improve his/her performance at school. Should the child be given a reward upon attaining a predetermined target or should the child be given an incentive to read for the exam? The other question raised is whether giving of aid helps or destroys the self esteem o individuals.

Comparison and Analysis

Locke and Latham (2004) observe that motivation should be looked at from two perspectives; Internal and external. They say that internal factors usually impel a given action while the external factors usually determine the inducements to the given actions. Locke and Latham identify three distinct aspects of an action that can be affected by motivation namely choice (direction), persistence (duration) and effort (Intensity). They observe that motivation plays a pivotal role in the acquisition and subsequent utilization of skills by people.

Jean and Roland (2003) use the same dichotomy in their article entitled “Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.” Jean and Roland investigate on the different points of view on motivation between the average economist and the average psychologist. Economists generally believe that individuals will respond positively to given incentives whereas psychologists and sociologists warn that the punishments and /or rewards may actually have a negative impact as they will undermine the intrinsic motivation within the individuals.

Locke and Latham’s article however has a better flow since it has six main sections each section being an answer to the question, “what should we do about motivation theory?” The thesis statement is therefore reflected through out the article. There is also less jargon used by Locke and Latham as opposed to Jean and Roland which overly improves on the readability and comprehensibility of the message. Locke and Latham (2004) use the loose sentence style of writing through out their article maybe in a bid to emphasize on the main idea, that is, motivation. Jean and Roland’s article uses the periodic sentence structure. They center the main idea in the sentences and put the subordinate clauses either before or after the

Literature Review

There are many expert emphases on the subject of employee motivation. As Locke and Latham (2004) point out, other experts continued to build upon Roethlisberger & Dickson foundation stone and refined the concept of motivation further until by 1957, psychologists now viewed the concept of motivation as benefiting both the organization and t he individual. Models were developed to establish congruence between an employees needs and the organizational objectives. The organizational behavior model was also developed around this time which emphasized on the guaranteed results of motivation and good working environments.

Similarly, Jean and Roland (2003) are careful to provide substantial support for their assertions. For instance, when they begin by asserting that economists generally believe that incentives usually promote productivity, they go ahead and substantiate their claim by referring to Krepsa and Wallis (1997) and Lazear (2000) who both subscribe to the economist mindset that contingent rewards go a long way in reinforcing the performance of individuals within a company or an organization.

Locke and Latham (2004) also refer to the psychological perspective of motivation. Although, no reference is made to the economist perspective in their article they point to the fact that the concept of motivation is a concept that has been under study by the psychologists as far back as the 1930s. The very first psychologists to study the concept were Roethlisberger & Dickson in the year 1939. The two pioneered the study of the effect of supervision, working conditions and incentives on productivity of employees.

Research Philosophy and Design

Locke and Latham (2004) suggest some very important theories. These theories have been developed though the years to address the concept of motivation. They refer to all this theories to try to substantiate the six solutions they have for their thesis, “what should about motivation theory” The six solutions they have arrived at are geared at providing a wider and more valid approach to the motivation theory:

  1. The first suggestion they make is the integration of a subset of theories to come up with a mega-motivation theory that is all encompassing.
  2. The second suggestion they offer is the creation of a science of work that has no boundaries so as to widen the scope of motivational theory.
  3. The two suggest that there ought to be a study to establish any seam between general motivation and motivation that was unique to certain situations.
  4. It is also suggested that there ought to be a study and analyses of both unconscious as well as the conscious motivation.
  5. Another suggestion made by Locke and Latham is that introspection should be explicitly used in the building of theories and lastly, they suggest that the role of volition should be underscored with respect to the formation of theories relating to human action.

Jean and Roland (2003) hold the view that the incentives are not necessarily productive a fact. It can also be deduced that they qualify very well by making reference to a variety of facts. They make the bold statement that explicit incentives in fact yield less compliance than an incomplete labor contract would.  This school of thought stems from the research findings of their study in which they discovered that workers felt manipulated, alienated, dehumanized and used when incentives were used to encourage them to work harder.

Knowledge acquired and its impact

By reading the two articles, it is clear that management should be careful before they employ the economic view of motivation since the extrinsic motivators are at best weak motivators whose impact is short lived. Even though the positive impact of the extrinsic motivators may be felt and appreciated in the initial stages, it can only be expected that the same motivators will prove retrogressive when they eventually get trimmed off. There is also the danger of lack of focus where management will concentrate on giving rewards and incentives and employees will be focusing on getting the rewards and the incentives at the expense of the main objective of the organization


All the six recommendations that are given by Locke and Latham (2004) are pegged on one important factor; that there is need for the study of the concept of motivation within the work environments from entirely new perspectives. Locke and Latham’s suggestions should not be looked at as the final six pillars but as they say, other unexploited topics like the concept of time in motivation ought to be studied on more. It is important to note that there is actually no limit to research work and more ideas need to be generated.

Jean and Roland (2003) believe that motivation and employee involvement should be looked at from a broader perspective and the extrinsic motivators should be used with discretion so as not to undermine the intrinsic motivators. While it is true that extrinsic motivators can be retrogressive, it does not entirely mean that they should be trashed.  There is need for a closer examination of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to know how best to implement one form of motivation without necessarily injuring the other.

Jean and Roland’s article is very instrumental in arming the reader with fresh knowledge as the paper looks at two views of motivation (The view of the economists and the view of the psychologists and the sociologists), juxtaposes them and tries to establish a seamless relationship even though it is elusive. Locke and Latham’s article also helps in the acquisition of new knowledge as they suggest some very practical steps that one should undertake during the development of a motivation and employee involvement theory. The two not only suggest six guidelines but they challenger other researchers to come up with more ideas that are more relevant to the different unique situations of today.

Order now

Related essays