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Associates and Motivation1

Derek Farnsworth, Jennifer L. Clark, Allen Wysocki, Karl Kepner, and Michelle Glasser 2

Figure 1. 
Figure 1. 
Credit: chaofann/iStock/


In this article we discuss associates and motivation. What is motivation? Motivation comes from the word "motive," which comes from the Latin word "to move." Motivation is anything that moves people to try to perform. Regardless of the reason—fear, money, recognition, peer pressure, self-esteem—if people are trying, they are motivated. It should be recognized, however, that wanting is not synonymous with trying and is therefore not motivation. Think of motivation this way—Motivation = Motive + Action. This implies that associates not only need to have a reason to act a certain way, they must be "moved" into some form of action.

Supervision and Motivation

It is generally recognized that management cannot motivate; motivation must come from within. What then is management's role regarding motivation? It is the manager's responsibility to develop and maintain a positive motivational climate. A positive motivational climate involves a work environment where everyone will be motivated to consistently perform at his or her highest level of productivity. As a manager or supervisor, evaluate the extent to which you believe you have created a positive motivational climate with your associates and work unit. How would your associates evaluate the organization's motivational climate? Studies have shown that approximately 75% of associates say they can be significantly more productive in their work. Therefore, they are obviously not motivated to perform at their highest level of productivity.

Associates and Motivation

Everyone is motivated, but some associates are more motivated than others. This motivation, however, is not always positive. Three types of associate motivational levels can be identified: negative, maintenance, and positive. Each type of motivation has an expected associate performance and productivity level that corresponds to efforts at work.

Table 2. 

Table 1 lists 24 potential motivational factors in the workplace. Read the twenty-four factors and indicate whether you believe each to be a strong motivator or de-motivator for associates to do their best work. To qualify as a strong motivator, one must be able to answer yes to this question: If I can provide my associates with more of this factor, will they be motivated to work at higher levels of productivity?

From the works and writings of Frederick Herzberg who developed the original theory of workplace motivation, de-motivators are identified as policies, money, status, security, and supervision, while motivators are identified as achievement, recognition, increased responsibility, growth, and learning.

Herzberg's (1991) motivational model illustrates that the primary role of de-motivators is to adjust the level of dissatisfaction. That is, even under the best circumstances, de-motivators can only decrease the level of dissatisfaction; they cannot increase an associate's level of satisfaction. In fact, if the factors in Table 1 are perceived as inadequate, associates will look for ways to make up for these inadequacies (get even with management).

Motivators, on the other hand, can be used to adjust the level of associate satisfaction. That is, effective use of motivators will increase an associate's satisfaction from a level characterized by indifference to a high level of satisfaction.

Given the distinction between de-motivators and motivators, an evaluation of the twenty-four potential motivational factors in Table 1 would indicate that items 4, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, and 24 are motivational factors, and items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, 19, and 23 are de-motivational factors. The motivational factors should provide managers with a greater opportunity to create a strong motivational work environment. It would seem appropriate that each manager should identify two or three items from this list to personally use more effectively in the future.

As you study the general categories of de-motivators and motivators, please note that providing a motivating work environment requires little in terms of capital outlay (motivators are essentially non-monetary in nature). The bottom line is that creating a motivating environment requires the manager to appeal to the associate's sense of self-improvement and self-worth as a human being. It should also be noted that strong motivators tend to be controlled by the immediate supervisor rather than by top management.

In a related work (a survey of over 1500 employees), Graham (1982) identified the most important motivating techniques used by managers. The top five techniques were:

  1. The manager personally congratulates associates who do a good job.

  2. The manager writes personal notes about good performance.

  3. The organization uses performance as the basis for promotion.

  4. The manager publicly recognizes employees for good performance.

  5. The manager holds morale-building meetings to celebrate success.

Graham (1982) also interviewed associates to find out how often managers utilized the top five motivating techniques as part of their management activities. He discovered that less than 50% of the managers in the study utilized item one (personal congratulations for associates who did a good job) and that less than 25% of these same managers incorporated items two through five of the top motivational techniques into their management styles. Take a moment to evaluate the effectiveness with which your management team utilizes these top five motivational techniques. Would your associates agree that your management team effectively utilizes these non-monetary feedback rewards?


By using the information provided in this article, you can determine how your organization stacks utilizes effective positive motivational techniques. The managerial challenge is to create a work climate with opportunities that will stimulate each associate to achieve and maintain his/her highest level of workplace productivity and to provide opportunities for maintaining the highest level of productivity.


Graham, G.H. 1982. Understanding Human Relations: The Individual, Organization, and Management. New York: SRA Publishing.

Herzberg, Frederick. Herzberg on Motivation. New York: Penton Publishing.


Table 1. 

Strong motivator is defined as "more of the factor provided, the greater the productivity observed."


1. This document is HR004, one of a series of the Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2001. Revised July 2016 and July 2019. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Derek Farnsworth, assistant professor; and Jennifer L. Clark, senior lecturer, Department of Food and Resource Economics Department; Allen Wysocki, associate dean and professor; Karl Kepner, former emeritus professor; and Michelle Glasser, former graduate research assistant; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #HR004

Date: 10/7/2020

    Fact Sheet


    • Derek Farnsworth
    • Jennifer Clark