Causes and effects of low employee motivation

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In this day and age, more manager realize it can take many negative consequences if they regardless employee motivation. Because of the highly competitive labour market in present day, cost of labour take the significant part in disbursement of an organization. Kim (2006) claim that the failure or success of a company can be ultimately decided by employee motivation. Motivation is fundamental to behaviour for human been (Cesare & Sadri 2003). The Latin word "movere" is the source of it which means to move (Kretiner 1998 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.53). Reece and Brandt (1990) believe the motivation is the reason why people do things. In specifically, this forces or desire of motivation build on a certain theories. Need theory, Two Factor theory, Expectancy theory and Equity theory were selected from a number of popular motivation theories to explain the causes of employee motivation. The present essay first describe the relevant theories of employee motivation, and then discuss the effects to organizations by low motivation, at the last part of this essay present certain methods to solve those problems.


The research of employee motivation has a long history. Numbers of outstanding theories were established in this period of time. Four most relevant theories were identified to explain the respective causes of motivation in this essay. These four major theories, Need Hierarchy (Maslow, 1954), Herzberg`s Two Factor Theory, Expectancy Theory (Vroom) and Equity theory, represent different approaches to define the causes of employee motivation.

Maslow`s Need Hierarchy Theory:

Need theory can be recognize as internal factor, physiological or psychological issue to affect human behaviour (Ramlall 2004). In Maslow`s defining, the hierarchy of needs means human needs at least have five different levels. They are physiological, security, affiliation, esteem and self-actualization (Maslow 1943). From the basic needs in physiology to the highest need for individual to realize fullest potential, every set has in order (Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003). Maslow (1943) stated that everyone is motivated begin with the desire of lowest need which is physiological needs. If the lower level of needs had been achieved, people would pay more attention in satisfaction to the next level of needs by intellectual desires. Also it can be said by Greenberg & Baron (1997) that unless the employee`s needs been reasonably satisfied, they will not do their best in their position with high efficiency (cited in Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003 p.34).

Two Factor Theory:

Fredrick Herzberg is the founder of this theory. Kim (2006) said this theory is controversial and it has "two unique features". The first one is some satisfaction can be produced by some factors of job. However the job itself is not the origin of satisfaction. The second feature is this theory stresses that on a "single continuum", satisfaction and dissatisfaction are impossibly exist (Kim 2006). Furthermore, this theory interested in satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Extrinsic factor and intrinsic factor are the two sets of factors. The job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are directly linked to those two sets of factors. In general, the environment and context of job can be seen as extrinsic factors for example technical supervision, work conditions, company policy and administration, level of pay and co-worker relations. If extrinsic factors are absent, job dissatisfaction is likely to occur. Opposite that the intrinsic factors include the job itself, such as its complexity, level of importance within the organization as well as recognition and advancement opportunities. This second set of factors, if present, lead to feelings of satisfaction. Herzberg named these intrinsic factors Motivators or Growth Factors because they were associated with high levels of job satisfaction. (Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003)

(Robbins`s 2004 cited in Kim 2006 p.27) (Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003 p.36) (job design by Ramlall 2004 p.56)

Expectancy Theory:

Expectancy theory insists that the behaviours of people motivated by individuals' expectations which combined with various desire of outcomes (Kreiner & Kinicki 1999 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.56). the relationship between the individual`s performance, personal effort and desired outcome which be leaded by successful performance is the foundation and structure of this theory (Kim 2006).

Vroom (1964) developed a theory assumes that among the alternative choices of intricate situation, rational choice is the premise of people`s behaviour, and these courses of action of choices are consistently related with psychological events (Pinder 1984 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.56). Instrumentality, valence and expectancy were considered as the three specific components of beliefs that the motivation of employees decided their behaviours directly and systematically (Greenberg & Baron, 1997 cited in Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003 p.37). Expectancy is the belief that if one puts forth effort, it will result in performance. Instrumentality is the belief that if one performs, there will be a reward. Valence is the perceived value of the reward to the recipient (Greenberg & Baron, 1997, p.159). (Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003 pp.36)

In general, Expectancy theory attempts not to define specific types of needs or rewards but only to establish that they exist and may be different for every individual (Vroom 1964 cited in Kim 2006 p.30).

Equity theory:

Equity theory holds that people are not only concerned with what they gains from their effort, but also attend on amount of others receive. The tension will be created from inappropriate outcome-input ratio compare with others. At the same time , this tension be regarded as the foundation of motivation when individuals realise the different in fairness and equity(Robbins 1993 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.55).

. Adams (1963), for example, introduced equity theory to explain how employees respond both cognitively and behaviourally to perceived unfairness in the workplace (see also Mowday & Colwell, 2003, and Weick, Bougon, & Maruyama, 1976). Adams argued that both conditions of underpayment and overpayment can influence subsequent behavior. Recent work on procedural and distributive justice further develops this area using the fundamental concept of equity and its consequences (Cropanzano & Rupp, 2003; Folger, 1986; Greenberg, 1993; Sweeney & McFarlin, 1993).

(Ramlall 2004 pp.55)


In this day and age, the negative effects of low employee motivation become more serious and unneglectable. Meanwhile to the managers of organizations, it is also a challenge. The success or failure of an organization has been and would be decided by employee motivation in work performance (Kim 2006).

Fitz-enz (1997) hold that the company or organization lose considerable amount of money in every ten leaver, it almost one million dollars (cited in Ramlall 2004 p.52). The total cost of an employee leaver is combined with direct and indirect cost. Those employees who leave the company also can get one-two years pay and benefits in legal (Ramlall 2004).

With the leaving of the turnovers, the knowledge which they hole is also departure. This professional knowledge which is used to create new customers, meet needs and solve the problems is now considered as one of the most important assets of an organization (Toracco 2000 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.53). Bassi (1997) stated that knowledge management is a compositive process to intensify employee performance (cited in Ramlall 2004 p.53). If the speed of losing knowledge over the speed of the founding of a new knowledge system, it would make negative effects and give a big shock in the company business (Robinson & Stern 1997 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.53).

Human capital and knowledge management (Ramlall 2004 pp53) People possess skills, experience and knowledge so i.e. imp (Snell and Dean 1992). Investment can accrue (Mueller 1982) and employee return (it cost a lot)


In today`s efficient society, the successful of an organization depend on if the company can earn employees` commitment and how to enhance their motivation (Dessler 1999). For the purpose of this essay, aim different theory to find independent solutions to handle with.

For Need Theory: When the manager handles this situation, the aim should be targeted on five levels of Masolw`s model, try to realize what level they are. Whether the individual need be fulfil enough (Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003). Robbins (2004) present concrete methods of Employee Involvement means increase participation and commit to the organization. Another method from him is pay on skills (cited in Kim 2006 pp25). Anyhow, base on different need in this model, create proper climate responsibly to inspire employees` fullest potential (Steers & Porter 1983 cited in Ramlall 2004 p.54).

For Two Factor Theory: According to this theory, a worker's satisfaction with hygiene factors will result in average performance and serve to prevent dissatisfaction but this will not by itself create a positive attitude or motivation to work. In order to motivate employees, the company must enrich the content of the work that it asks employees to do. To explain, job enrichment is when management places greater levels of responsibility on the employees and when the opportunity to develop new skills is present (Cesare, J.D & Sadri, G. 2003). In order to make employee feel fresh Robbins (2005) have the similar claim for this situation is Job Redesign and Scheduling (cited in Kim 2006 pp25). Dessler (1999) present some different thinking for clarify mission and ideology, make the mission brilliant, build tradition, make orientation and training valuable and hire valuable person.

For Expectancy Theory: Porter and Lawler (1968) hold that if employees believe they will receive favourable benefit and income after make a better achievement, they would show more effort. Meanwhile, the higher abilities employee has higher performances in certain given level (cited in Ramlall 2004 p.56). Based on individual performance Robbins (2005) present two methods to motivate employee are variable pay and flexible benefits(cited in Kim 2006 pp25). Dessler (1999) developed and extended the kinds of expectancy. He think Support employee development and these benefits also can be seen as income like commit to actualizing, first year job challenge, enrich and empower, promote from within, developmental activities, provide security without guarantee. Herrera (2002) hold that the employees should be rewarded individually for their work and efforts.

For Equity theory: Pinder (1984) stated that when people feel themselves be treated in an inequitable way, they would believe the job receiving not be distributed in a fair way. The organization has a big challenge to build a fair and equitable reward system to guarantee employees` benefits which mention about personal value to the company (cited in Ramlall 2004 p.55). Dessler (1999) also insist guarantee justice with comprehensive grievance procedure, Two-way communication to solve those issues.


This paper aimed to use four particular theories Need theory, Two Factor theory, Expectancy theory and Equity theory to examine the key word "motivation" for central idea of this essay. Attempt to use different theories, phenomenon and examples to illustrate the impact of low employee motivation and present reasonable solutions aim to different situation. Because of the obvious influence of employee behaviour was affected by motivation. It is clear to say that the success of organization depends on employee motivation. Employee motivation is a complex subject, so to many management experts, scholars, researchers and psychologists, it is life`s work for discover the origin of employee motivation (Herrera 2002). Further research is needed to provide new thinking for manager to successfully manage individuals in the economic globalization today.