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Define Motivation

Kleinginna & Kleinginna (1981) define motivation as “an internal state or condition that activates behaviour and gives it direction.”

According to Webster’s dictionary, to motivate is “to move to action, or that which causes a person to act.”

Motivation is one of the most dynamic and challenging functions of management as it is concerned with getting people to do work. This leads well into one of my personal favourite definitions and it is a simple one put forward by Chopra (2002) – “Motivation is getting the correct things done through people willingly.” While this is a simple definition it is in fact quite accurate and it clearly communicates the challenges of motivation.

Motivation deals with the why’s of behaviour and is therefore very complex. Why do people work on one task and not another? Why do people vary the amount of energy on a task? Why do some people persist until a task is completed whereas others don’t complete.

define motivation

(Photo Credit: Tom Hynds)

Motivation is influenced by so many factors that are not always work related for example our upbringing, culture, experiences, mood, etc. In fact it is said that we actually know little about it. This is highlighted by the famous quote from the famous management guru Peter Drucker… “We know nothing about motivation. All we can do is write books about it.”

Mitrović, Nikolić, Milisavljević quote the following definition of motivation… “To motivate someone means that person ‘A’ does something for person ‘B’, expecting the latter to do something that person ‘A’ wants to be done.”

Another way to define motivation is in terms of the choices that people make amongst competing alternatives and the amount of effort that they invest along with how persistent they are towards completing the task. A highly motivated person will invest a high amount of effort towards the completion of a particular task. Whereas an unmotivated person will put off and delay the completion of tasks and may even abandon it completely.

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Chopra, S (2002). Motivation in management, ISBN 81-7890-260-3

Kleinginna, P., & Kleinginna A. (1981). A categorized list of motivation definitions, with suggestions for a consensual definition. Motivation and Emotion, 5, 263-291.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Inc. ISBN: 0—87779—606— 8, 1995

Mitrović, Nikolić, Milisavljević (2011) Motivation as a key factor of a prosperous company

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