Individual and Group Motivation in the Workplace



Motivation is used in the workforce not just to attract individuals to that
organization but to keep them there. One definition of motivation "has to
do with a set of independent/dependent variables relationship that explain
the direction, amplitude, and persistence of an individual’s behavior,
holding constant the effects of aptitude, skill, and understanding of the
task, and the constraints operating in the environment" (Campbell &
Pritchard, 1976). Numerous studies have shown that group motivation has a
positive correlation to a better work environment.

Individual and Group Motivation in the Workplace

Mark Twain observed that everyone talks about the weather but nobody does
anything about it. Like the weather, everyone talks about unmotivated
employees, clients, or teammates, but unlike the weather, something can be
done about lack of motivation. Unmotivated people are viewed as
discouraged. Their discouragement may be seen beneath their apathy,
absenteeism, uncooperativeness, rebellion, or other symptoms. Discouraged
teammates need encouragement to become contributing members in the
workplace (Losoncy, 1995). Reward systems are strategic mechanisms that are
used to help achieve the initiator’s goals (Klubnik & Roschelle, 1996).
There are many companies that are beginning to realize the importance of
aligning compensation and reward systems aimed at reinforcing the
employee’s objective.

Clearly, a major motivation for working is money for both team and
individual, but money in and of itself is not important, it acquires
importance as a means of fulfilling needs. The importance of money should
not be overestimated. One survey asked that if you were to get enough money
to live as comfortably as you would like for the rest of your life, then
would you continue to work? Over 63% of those who responded to this survey
did say that they would continue to work. It appears that money is
important if the employee views it as a means to a desired end, but it is
definitely not the sole vehicle for satisfying all of the employee’s needs
(Aldag & Brief, 1979). A second area that might motivate individuals and
teams is social interaction. Work is social. The importance of the social
aspects of work is a function of several factors in addition to the
employee’s need-state (Aldag & Brief, 1995).

Two Types of Motivation

Two states of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic have been identified by
researchers. The employee attributes job behaviors to outcomes that are
derived from sources other than the work itself through extrinsic
motivation. Some examples of extrinsic outcomes include pay increases,
promotion, or fringe benefits. The employee who is motivated extrinsically
tends to feel a lack of control over on-the-job behavior. An example would
include a teacher who states that teaching is a bore, but that he/she
really enjoys the long Christmas vacations and summers off (Aldag & Brief,

On the other hand, intrinsic motivation involves the employee attributing
job behaviors to outcomes which are derived from the job itself. These
intrinsic outcomes are experienced by employees independent of involvement
of others, except in the cases where the work involves processing or
serving other persons, as with the case of counselors. An employee who is
experiencing a state of intrinsic motivation tends to be committed to the
job and self-fulfilled through it (Klubnik & Roschelle, 1996). An example
of an employee experiencing intrinsic motivation would be a teacher who
states, "The money I earn as a teacher is nothing, but I really enjoy
introducing a student to a new idea."

One way to increase an employee’s level of intrinsic motivation is by
changing the work itself (i.e., redesigning the job). Job redesign, for
increasing motivation (and performance), ultimately requires that the job
be restructured to include the opportunity for the employee to experience
an array of positive intrinsic outcomes that depend upon performance.
Simply redesigning the job to incorporate intrinsic outcomes which are not
contingent upon the employee’s performance will probably lead to higher
levels of job satisfaction. However, it does not necessarily mean that it
will lead to higher levels of job performance. In other words, an employee
will be more satisfied after experiencing an intrinsic outcome (Aldag &
Brief, 1979).

An important exception to the contingency argument concerns task
persistence. Several studies have shown that persons who perform
intrinsically motivating tasks engage in those tasks longer than the
employees who are not intrinsically motivated therefore in the cases where
the employee has discretion over the time devoted to a task, and task
persistence leads to greater productivity, then one would expect levels of
intrinsic motivation to be positively associated with job performance
(Klubnik & Roschelle, 1996).

The leader must recognize that the manner in which the organization rewards
team members can have differing effects on the team’s and individual’s
subsequent performances. Organizations should provide team leaders ways to
recommend or dispense some type of reward to members of successful teams,
whether it is monetary, public recognition, commendation, praise,
celebration, or preferential treatment. Researchers report that "team
performance may hinge on desirable consequences to individual members
contingent on the whole team’s performance…". Team leaders may need to
point out how each team member may benefit in different ways if the team
succeeds (Bass & Avolio, p.34, 1994).

The team leader will sometimes have direct control over rewards that are
available to team members. Although the intent of rewards to team members
is typically to recognize superior performance and maintain or increase
motivation, the team leader should recognize that the methods used to
allocate rewards can have different effects on individual and team
performance. In fact, "allocations of rewards… can often affect status,
conflict, and leadership in groups" (Bass & Avolio, p. 34, 1994). There is
convincing evidence that reward allocations based on an equity rule
(rewards are proportional to effort and output) promote increased
performance, while an equality rule (i.e., where all the members receive
the same reward) benefits group relations. Thus rewards, commendations, and
recognition can be used to reinforce different team outcomes (Bass &
Avolio, 1994).

Individual versus Group Rewards

Studies have found that as people were rewarded for their individual
performance, the team's performance ability worsened. On the other hand,
the more people were rewarded for their performance on a team, then the
team's overall performance increased. Hence, the business unit’s
performance was better, and the teams and their business units made more
process improvements. It was found that rewards for individual performance
are detrimental to team performance, hence the term "work team." Rewards
for team performance lead not only to better team performance but also to
better individual performance. A lot of the impact that plays a role on the
team is due more to how the performance is defined rather than the reward
itself. In order to reward team performance, team performance should be
defined along with ways for measuring, reviewing, and evaluating the
performance. The positive impact of team reward practices on performance is
due largely to the fact that team reward practices in and of themselves
achieve only a small improvement in performance. The main impact comes from
defining and reviewing. On the other hand, basing rewards on team
performance helps to achieve equality in the performance management of
teams, because it gives people a strong signal about what is valued in the

As stated earlier, rewards for individual performance have a disruptive
effect on team performance. Pay equity and satisfaction with work in
general are a couple of qualities in which rewards impact individuals.
Individuals in the workforce gained more satisfaction as they received pay
for their individual contributions, but still the performance of their
teams was adversely affected! This poses a dilemma for team performance
management. If individually based reward practices, while not conducive to
team's performance, are important for employee satisfaction, employees’
sense of fairness must be related to the logic of the traditional merit-pay
system (Morhman, Cohen, & Morhman, 1995).

Studies show that team rewards like individual rewards are related to
employees’ sense of being fairly paid and lead to general satisfaction. An
example of a team studied, was a high-performing team of chemists. This
team had become so aware of their interdependencies and connections with
one another (as a team) that they could not separate out their individual
contributions to the team’s performance. When it was time for management to
initiate the ranking of individuals for pay purposes, the members of this
team refused to be ranked differently than all their teammates. They
demanded that management rank them all at the same level within the larger
group of employees being ranked. In essence, they demanded that, even
within the individual merit-pay system, they be rewarded as a team, which
was the only way that seemed fair to them.

The challenge for organizations that are transitioning to teams is to merge
the traditional ideas of what constitutes "fair" rewards with the emerging
ideas of fairness in general. In the beginning, employees are reluctant to
give up their traditional feelings of individual contribution and sense of
fair treatment. Employees might find it wrong that they should be rewarded
for what the group accomplishes. This is especially true when the team is
held back because of weak individual performances from others or if the
team succeeds because of their extra effort or extraordinary skills. At the
same time, members may identify the reward systems directed to an
individual as a barrier to team effectiveness. As the transition to team
progresses, people will gradually come to see traditional individual
merit-pay systems, especially those that rely on ranking, as divisive.
There will be increasing demand for pay systems that acknowledge the
contribution of the individual without putting teammates against one
another, and there will be increasing demand that teams should be rewarded
for what they have achieved as teams. Managers need to help this shift in
logic to take place (Mohrman et al, 1995).

Focusing on individual performance can take away from team performance in
another way. It can redirect people too much to their own set of
performance goals and responsibilities without considering their
contribution to the overall team’s performance. On the other hand, people
want to be recognized for what they bring to the organization as
individuals. Therefore, organizations are increasingly changing the basis
for merit ratings from recent past performance to the level of skills,
knowledge, and competencies that the individual has achieved. This has the
effect of transforming pay-for-performance merit-pay systems into
pay-for–skills merit-pay systems. In a system such as this, pay increases
are given for development of skills and may be based on whether and to what
degree developmental goals have been reached. Organizations can move even
further to team logic by distributing pay for performance at the team or
larger unit. Usually team rewards do not remain the team’s as a whole. The
rewards are distributed to the members. Sometimes this distribution is
automatic. Perhaps everyone gets a bonus that is an equal percentage of
their base pay or an equal cut of the bonus pool. Sometimes the team might
determine the distribution by jointly identifying members that are
especially deserving of a larger or smaller cut. Team input and agreement
is important in determining whatever distribution practice is used. Often
team-based bonuses are available in addition to, rather than instead of
individual rewards (Morhman et al 1995).

Rewarding Performance

Reward systems within a team-based organization should fit the logic of
that organization. In order for people to feel equitably rewarded,
individuals could (and generally should) be rewarded for the performance of
all the performing units to which they belong and contribute. This leans
toward a multilevel reward system based on team performance, business-unit
performance, and organizational performance and may imply recognition of
multiple-team membership. Many mangers that focus on lateral organization
and teamwork often continue to believe that good performance is primarily a
function of "superstars" and reflects the skills of a manager rather than
all the units combined (Morhman et al, 1995). The reward system in a
team-based organization should reflect the fact that advancement in such an
organization is more likely to involve lateral development than traditional

Implementing Reward Practices

Finally, organizations can implement reward practices at the business-unit
level that are conducive to performance management in team-based settings:
gainsharing and profit sharing. These redirect employees to the larger
performing unit by making it in everyone’s interest to improve the
performance of the group as a whole. They are reward systems that
thoroughly embed the logic of sharing in the group’s performance that
allows everyone to share in the economic value or outcome of that
performance. The research shows that well-designed practices of this type
lead to a high degree of perceived fairness which leads to bonuses that can
be given along with team bonuses and individual rewards (Morhman et al.,

Reward systems for managers in traditional organizations were often used to
support corporate direction. For example, rewards for department managers
were often based on the extent to which the goals that were negotiated
within their department were achieved. To further test this practice, in
regards to reward, was the old managerial role and the assumption that the
performance of a department was based on how well the manager managed the
unit and negotiated unit goals.

Team-based organizations have entire teams and business units that
negotiate goals, direct their own performance, and manage aspects of their
performance (Meyer & Allen, 1997). If reward systems are to be used to set
direction in team–based settings, then all of the participants in the
performing unit should be rewarded for their performance. A reward system
consistent with set goals rewards a team member for how well the team, the
business unit, and the larger organization did. Rewards for individual
performance may not be logically consistent with some team-based
organizations, since teams are the core performing units and it is
difficult to separate out each individual’s impact. (Morman et al., 1995

In considering individual differences, there are some very general
characteristics of work that most people will find rewarding and that will
enhance their affective commitment to the organization. Lind and Tyler
(1988) argued that commitment to social groups can only be sustained if the
person believes that in the end, desired outcomes will be distributed
fairly. It also has been argued that the development and maintenance of
intrinsic motivation for an activity depends in part, on the
competence-enhancing experiences associated with the activity (Meyer &
Allen, 1997).

Leaders who are encouraging accomplish eight goals through means of

Communication –when the leader creates an atmosphere of mutual
understanding and respect for everyone’s roles and responsibilities.

Team building – the leader builds teammates by being a positive influence
and recognizing individual and group potential. Discouraging leaders
believe that the way to build people up is by tearing them down, but
studies have proven otherwise.

Giving meaning and purpose – this leader can combat burnout and lifts
teammates by giving meaning to what they do (teams as well as the

Winning team feeling – the leader increases productivity by conveying
positive expectations.

Confronting with class – this encouraging leader has the skills to
constructively steer the discouraged teammates back onto the productive

Find a way – this leader is a realist and an optimist who encourages the
team to face realistic challenges head on and then mobilize their unlimited
artistic, creative minds to find a way to meet them.

Enhanced morale through involvement – the leader knows how to tap the
creative minds of the team members, which increases the morale through
everyone’s involvement.

Turn individuals into a winning team – the encouraging leader emphasizes
cooperation over competition and values everyone’s contribution to the
team’s outcomes (Losoncy, 1995).

An encouraging leader can provide conditions that will fulfill the team’s
social needs as they relate to the team’s productivity, cohesiveness,
identity, and affiliation. The encouraging leader is sensitive to
fulfilling each teammates social needs and recognizes that these needs are
an important part of a total encouragement strategy.


A lot has changed within the job environment over the past years. Society
is changing drastically and the way in which jobs are done is changing and
motivating techniques are changing. Formerly, people were motivated by
material gains, while they still are today, people want meaning and purpose
in their lives so the motivating or team leader should give the team a
positive purpose (Losoncy, 1995). A team leader or manager should encourage
them verbally by letting them know that what they do is important and is
contributing to others within the company.

Many people give up when the team faces problems. They might conclude that
there just aren’t any solutions, and they stop looking because of lack of
motivation. These team members can be motivated by communicating an
unbending belief that problems have solutions and that the members of the
team are the kind of people who can find the solutions. The people they
associate with affect their feelings in their aspects of life including on
the job. Being surrounded in a positive and uplifting environment,
influences ones personal and professional life and will rub off on the
team. Individuals are affected by their environment, but the environment is
also affected by its individuals (Aldag et al, 1979).

Motivate teams and individuals by using "talking-it-up" language. This
language is used by speaking in positive, lifting, upbeat language.
Sometimes the team’s energy can be better spent on one challenge than
another. Determine with the team the most effective way to spend energies.
If the team feels that one challenge would take an inappropriate amount of
time, accept the situation as it is by sweet surrendering. Then quickly
mobilize their energies to attack the next challenge (Losoncy, 1995).
Individuals can also be motivated by helping them develop a more rational
view of self, others, and life. They should seek a plan and ask "what do I

There may be people within the workplace that are apathetic, uninvolved,
rebellious, or closed-minded. Show the apathetic person that he/she has
something to contribute. Encourage them to share their input. Turn
close-mindedness into openness by building pride in the person’s growth.
Theoretically, every person has ideas for how to improve his/her
effectiveness, so spending a few minutes with each person and creating a
safe atmosphere will help the person to think improvement (Losoncy, 1995).

A sensitive leader is tuned into the morale and perceptions of the
membership, so a formal or informal analysis on how the team feels about
the way its ideas are handled might be a motivating factor. Accepting
criticism allows the individual to grow and learn by looking at possible
improvements in their workplace. An individual who takes a chance and
shares an idea indicates that a successful perfection-ectomy was performed.
Another motivating factor for employees would be for a teammate or manager
to acknowledge their appreciation for an idea that the individual has come
up with, and to offer thanks for that idea. Some apathetic or uncooperative
people have at some time or another shared their idea with a leader who
took credit for it and consequently built distrust and turned them off. So
one way to motivate these individuals might include crediting them on a
regular basis or after a ‘job well done.’

Many people are inclined to think "me" rather that "team" in their actions,
and it is the responsibility of the leader to develop a plan to change this
mental set to "we." Therefore, something that can be done is to initiate an
active team power campaign. Teams should be talked up at staff meetings,
and fill the environment with reminders for everyone to think "team" and to
work together. Team power can be built by encouraging cooperation and
discouraging competition among your people. If there are times when one
person is played against another, then the leader needs to be sensitive to
finding ways to encourage cooperation among their people. While many
leaders make the mistake of believing the way to motivate people is by
highlighting competition, the motivating leader knows that highlighting
cooperation is a more effective approach to developing all of the people,
so cooperative behavior should be pointed out. By creating a team theme as
opposed to an individual theme, the leader brings in more of the resources
of the organization (Losoncy, 1995).

To build team power, it helps to understand the social structure of your
people. One of the most effective tools a leader can use to achieve this is
a sociogram. It helps identify the leader, the rejected, the isolates,
mutual friends, and mutual enemies. This is an effective way to develop
strategies to help everyone be an involved, contributing member of the
team. Self-esteem is important, as is team-esteem so the leader of the team
must build pride through rallying around the team’s resources,
achievements, and uniqueness. Finally, most successful teams are not
composed of individuals, but instead have people who work together, so
"team" should be a regular part of the vocabulary.

A motivating team leader should be a positive influence on the lives of the
members of a team. When there is disharmony or distrust on a team, then
there should be a plan to resolve differences and promote greater
understanding. When there are people who are down and out, then a strategy
should be developed to lift them up and bring them in, so they can shine.


Team-esteeming is building the total "esteem of the team" by uniting them
through their uniqueness, achievements, common potential and goals and
shared vision. It is important for team members to have positive
team-esteem so that the working environment is enjoyable and productive.
Team-esteem is built by an asset-focusing leader who rallies around the
resources, achievements, and uniqueness’ of the membership. The following
are items which fall under the different areas of team:

Rallying Around Resources of the Team:

* build team-esteem by frequently pointing out all of the vast resources
of the total membership
* build team-esteem by enthusiastically sharing how each person’s
resources fit into the total team’s resources
* build team-esteem by demonstrating your positive expectations of your
people based on their vast resources

Rallying Around the Achievements of the Team:

* lift team esteem by never failing to celebrate achievements
* build team-esteem by showing how far the team has come in its
achievements (before and after)
* elevate team-esteem by dreaming about and imagining future
achievements with the team

Rallying Around the Uniqueness of the Team:

* show how this team is special and unique by identifying qualities that
this team has that other do not
* identify claims-to-fame that highlight the special skills and talents
of this unique team
* build team esteeming by creating nicknames or motivators that reflect
a uniqueness (Losoncy, 1995).

Rewards are the motivational attributes directly under the control of the
organization. Generally, behavior is directed toward goals, which are
tangible things that individuals perceive as satisfying the needs that are
stirring them up and energizing them.

Certainly belonging, or social, needs are reflected in many of the goals
people strive to fulfill in organizations `12to foster harmonious
interpersonal relations. Goals that mesh with the higher needs, needs for
esteem and for self-actualization, provide today’s organization with its
greatest motivational leverage.

The final link in the motivation system is the satisfaction an individual
receives from his job. Satisfaction is partially determined by the
employee’s levels of performance. The employee does a good job and rewarded
for it. The employee derives satisfaction from these performance-contingent
rewards (Aldag & Brief, 1979). Satisfaction derives from the rewards given
for effective performance and is the basis of employee morale. The level of
morale is clearly reflected in the degree of employee commitment both to
the job and to the organization. When effective performance was not
rewarded or when the rewards did not tie into the goals of employees, no
consistent relationship was found between performance and satisfaction.

An employee’s expectation that effective performance will be rewarded
constitutes another important filter in the link. Unless an individual is
sure that his performance will lead to rewards that tie in with his/her
personal goals, he/she will not choose to direct his/her efforts toward
quality performance.

In conclusion rewards may be thought of as the attributes of the tangible
world that an organization makes available to employees. When the rewards
an organization provides are identical with the goals employees seek, then
there is a perfectly functioning motivation system. When the reward system
is used properly, it motivates the workplace to do three things. First, the
initiative behaviors are assumed and accepted. Secondly, the initiative
behaviors contribute to the company’s achievements and share in its
prosperity. Finally, the behaviors focus on increased knowledge, obtains
the newly required skills, and improves performance. (Klubnik & Roschelle,


Aldag, R. J. & Brief, A. P. (1979). Task design and employee motivation.
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through transformational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Klubnik, J. P. & Roschelle, M. (1996). Battling the barriers to success.
Chicago: Irwin Professional Publishing.

Losoncy, L. E. (1995). The Motivating Team Leader. Delray Beach, FL: Saint
Lucie Press.

Meyer, J. P. & Allen, N. J. (1997). Commitment in the Workplace: Theory,
research, and application. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Mohrman, S. A., Cohen, S. G. & Mohrman Jr., A. M. (1995). Designing
team-based organizations: A workbook for organizational self-design. San
Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

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