What is the Relationship between Motivation and Performance?

relationship between motivation and performance

A person’s motivation is simply their desire to achieve a specific goal.

Their motivation will determine how much effort they put forth in order to take on a task, see it through to completion and the quality of work that is performed.

Motivation is the cause for taking action. For all of us, there must be a perceived reason for doing anything in order for us to want to do it.

What Motivates us to Perform

Motivating factors can be anything: fear, achievement, recognition, material gain or any other type of personal satisfaction.

For every individual, the factors that determine the presence and magnitude of motivation will be different. The greater the motivation, the greater the desire to act or perform.

Therefore the relationship between motivation and performance is quite obvious and almost goes without saying.

If the motivation is high for whatever reason, the performance will typically follow suit.

We can clearly see evidence of this in both personal and professional scenarios through the decisions we make every day. Every action and decision is influenced to a degree by some type and some level of motivation.

Relationship between Motivation and Performance in a Professional Setting

Most often, when a question arises about the link between motivation and performance, it is in conjunction with a professional scenario.

Companies and management study this link in order to optimize employee performance and in turn the performance of the company or team as a whole.

Managers and other leaders have the responsibility to maintain or optimize motivation among subordinates or employees in order to facilitate stronger performance.

Read Also: 3 Vital Self Motivation Skills

There are many ways to go about providing this motivation and some are more positive than others. Some of these methods are also more effective in different environments.

Different People, Difference Performance Levels

In a professional setting, there are employees that share similar responsibilities or tasks but do not perform at the same level of competence or productivity.

While it is true that there are other factors such as intelligence, skill, competence or even strength, often the disparity stems from motivational factors.

Likewise, there are large groups of employees that perform well collectively under some circumstances and perform the same operations less effectively under other circumstances.

This is an example that would likely represent a motivational issue. Often this is referred to as morale. This is accurate but essentially, morale boils down to motivation as well.

Regardless of the different types of people and performance strengths, there will always be a strong relationship between motivation and performance for many reasons.

Balancing Motivation and Performance

Motivation and performance must be balanced in order to achieve sustained, consistent results.

A worker may know exactly how to do a job well and may have all of the necessary resources needed to do a good job but for some reason he or she does not. This represents a motivational problem.

It may be the fault of the employee or it may be the fault of management depending on the source of motivation or lack thereof.

For instance, if the employee is lazy or frequently hungover, the fault would certainly be his. On the other hand, it could be a number of issues that are the fault of the manager or even the company itself.

For instance, if the employee’s job is made more difficult by incompetent management, lazy coworkers or lack of clear direction, it may be easy to understand why the motivation to do well is reduced.

If the balance between workload and compensation is significantly skewed or does not match the initial agreement (terms of employment,) then there would be an obvious reason for the worker to lack motivation or willingness to comply.

No one is interested in being taken advantage of, especially if they have other options to consider.

Another example exists when a worker can see clearly that the higher level of performance is not actually in his or her best interest.

This occurs in companies that fail to recognize or reward performance or do not make efforts to advance people who may deserve it.

In time, if an employee becomes aware of this, he or she will realize the unlikelihood of his or her needs ever being adequately met and motivation to perform well will likely wane quickly.

In some cases, this is unavoidable. Companies often lack the infrastructure, resources or policy needed to ensure that the employer / employee balance is maintained or honored appropriately.

This, ironically represents another motivation issue; the motivation of the company itself to remain fair and realistic about the relationship with the individual.

In this case, the company’s lack motivation and in turn its performance in the area of respecting the relationships with employees may be sub-par.

This is one of the many reasons for attrition or turnover. On the surface, the negative impacts of this are less imediate and less obvious to the inexperienced manager.

Those with a greater scope or more experience may be more aware of the long-term negative effects that this can have on a company’s productivity.

When employees become aware that they are unlikely to be treated fairly or will not benefit from the relationship, they are likely to move on.

After all, they have their own pursuits in life, families to support and a host of other motivations that will always supersede the goals of the specific company in their individual lives.

People do not come to our companies simply to volunteer their time to help us make more money for our stockholders. They are here to work in exchange for getting certain needs met.

If those needs are not met, there is no reason for them to care about us, support our goals or even stay with us. If employees are not valued by companies, they are unlikely to provide any value to that company in turn.

It sounds like common sense but it remains an issue that is commonly overlooked and de-prioritized.

Controlling Performance with Motivation

In other cases, the balance between motivation and performance can be controlled or remedied.

In these cases it is up to the manager to determine what the real reason is for the low motivation and either fix the problem or prepare to hire and train someone else.

Many companies recognize the need to maintain this balance and have implemented systems of recognition or reward for good performance.

The reason being the cost for replacing skilled or knowledgeable employees is higher than simply honoring the agreement or providing fair reward where it is deserved.

Also, lack of positive moral and motivation seems to be infectious.

Once the idea gets out that a company does not treat its employees fairly, workers start polishing up their resumes and exploring other options.

They become much more sensitive to the matter and will actually seek reasons to leave.

If a solution exists that is in the best interest of both the employee and the company, it is the managers job to find it and implement it.

The first step is usually to engage some communication efforts.

Find out what is causing the lack of motivation. Then decide if there are any options available within the boundaries of company policy that will correct the issue.

Only then can you move forward and solve the problem in the most effective manner. Unfortunately, many managers lack the ability or the motivation to do this.

Too often, due to incompetence, lack of interest, emotional response of the manager, or even the fact that the managers themselves may be mismanaged, the blame will be placed on the lower level employee and the solution sought may be termination or other disciplinary action which in many cases is not actually in the best interest of the company after all.

This is merely an example of poor management but unfortunately, it happens. After all, managers are people too and as people, we are flawed.

Other Factors may affect Motivation or Performance

Of course these scenarios rely on situations in which many other factors are assumed to be working correctly. In truth, there could be many other reasons for low motivation.

Perhaps the employee has a drug problem. Perhaps the necessary resources are not as readily available as they should be but the pressure to perform remains.

This creates undue stress on the employee which can easily sap his or her motivation.

In other cases, it may be nothing more than a communication issue. Many people need to understand the reasons behind their efforts in order to truly get behind it and support it with maximum effort.

Read Also: 6 Super Tips for Improving your Communication Skills

People are complex. They are not robots and generally have no desire to become robots.

Keeping people in the loop rather than blindly issuing orders is a common and effective tactic to maintain more optimal motivation levels.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the issue, clearly, there is a direct correlation between an individual’s motivation and his or her performance.

The more informed we stay about our motivation and the motivation of others, the better chance we have of maintaining stronger performance levels in any organization.

You can learn more about motivating others in the workplace in numerous leadership and management courses and doing so will undoubtedly improve your usefulness as a manager or entrepreneur in many ways.

Judith Boyer

Author: Judith Boyer

Judith graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Social Sciences, worked in private practice as a Rehabilitation Counselor and has worked in the corporate sector.

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