Work Motivation Theory

Your Professional Activity… What is it Motivated by?

Enthusiasm, an emotion of joy and glee, can be fed or can dwindle like a straw fire, proportionally to the motivation to act in general. To be motivated to work, the action of doing this work must produce emotions. Fear, envy, amazement and gratitude are four main emotions which act on our work motivation.

Motivation by Fear

When one is under threat of being beaten up or killed, one is motivated to work because this fear is felt. This situation is akin to slavery. Unfortunately, slavery has not disappeared: many workers across the globe still work under the rule of fear. However, fear can also demotivate when the fear itself is created by the work conditions or the other people that one meets in the course of a day at work. For example, if one asks a worker to operate on a construction site where safety measures are grossly insufficient, this worker can lose all desire to go to work. Similarly, an office worker who feels fear caused by the presence of a coworker or boss can become averse to return to work.

Motivation by Eagerness

When one receives promises of rewards which send glimmers of hope that some desires will be met or, when one wants to reach a certain rank within a category of persons doing the same activity, one is motivated to move upward driven by eagerness. For example in sales jobs, the hope for a bonus, a travel or any other rewards and/or the hope to be recognized for being the best motivates sales representatives to work harder. Eagerness generates a mercenary spirit under which all that matters is the expected reward or ranking. However, eagerness can also demotivate to work, if an employee considers their treatment to be insufficient compared to colleagues.

Motivation by Amazement

When one is under a spell of wonder for one’s craft, for one’s boss or for one’s colleagues, one can feel being a part of a quality endeavor, of excellence or beauty, and one can be motivated to contribute to accomplish it. This amazement can engender an artisan spirit. On the other hand, if one does not have admiration for one’s work, for one’s boss or colleagues because they are no longer highly motivated themselves, one can lose all motivation from not being on track to contribute to something perceived to be of value.

Motivation by Gratitude

When one experiences gratefulness towards one’s boss, or towards the people one works with, colleagues and clients, or if one feels one can give oneself through one’s occupation, by helping others and participating in a socially useful activity which increases the common good, one can be motivated to accomplish it. This gratefulness creates a spirit of volunteering. On the other hand, when one does not feel gratitude towards one’s boss or colleagues because they are not benevolent or they are not perceived to be purposeful, one can feel like one is not or no longer participating in a socially useful endeavor for the common good, and henceforth lose all motivation.


One thus notes that emotions, whether beneficial or not, have a role in getting us to act, because they are closely linked to “extraordinary” phenomena, literally, in the sens that they take us out of our ordinary considerations. For the 4 main emotions which act on our work motivation, these phenomena are:

  1. Danger: fear
  2. Obstacles: eagerness
  3. Perfection: amazement
  4. Gift: gratitude

Furthermore, not only do these 4 emotions act on our motivation, but they also lead to 4 different soul spirits at work:

  1. Fear generates the slave spirit
  2. Eagerness, that of the mercenary
  3. Amazement, that of the artisan
  4. Gratitude, that of the volunteer

Humans thus work for 4 different motives: to escape some danger, to overcome some obstacles, to accomplish something of perfection, or to make a gift to others. In other words, they work to stay alive, to make money, to create something of beauty, or to serve others. They work as slaves, mercenaries, artisans or volonteers.

Social tagging:

14 Responses to Work Motivation Theory

  1. RoDarrick says:

    Hello, you are right on spot with this article and I must say, I found it very worthy to read on. It is true that as humans, we get motivated by varieties of things to which are grouped into these four categories. Our motivation should not be from fear and envy because that would breed us to work as a slave continually. I only work  majorly for the amusement that comes with it and as such, I enjoy the creativity it avails me. Art is life and being amazed at or by the job is simply an ecstatic feeling. Thanks

    • Lyne says:

      Hello Ro(Darrick)!

      Very happy to observe that you are among the group of people being amazed by their work!

      Let’s welcome more and more people to join us!!

      If we build it, they will come!!!

  2. Karen Metz says:

    Do you believe that this work motivation theory will work with children as well?   I homeschool my kids and there are times I need to use motivators.  I have probably used all of these and there are times when each one works.  But, there are my favorite motivators, like gratitude, that I try to use more often than the others.  

    Great article on the different ways of motivations!

    • Lyne says:

      Oh yes, Karen… this motivation theory works with children as well; its four categories are based on four emotions that all human beings, from the youngest to the oldest, can experience at any moment of a lifetime.

  3. Tony says:

    Hi, interesting theory on motivation at work. I have been demotivated and found that I didn’t want to go to work because of the way a colleague was acting towards me. 

    It is amazing how little comments or actions can make you feel on edge in the workplace. On the other hand, when someone is being supportive and kind you feel much happier in your job. 

    I was motivated to work by fear at one point, fear of not being able to pay the rent and bills. 


    • Lyne says:


      I appreciate the fact that you have shared one of your own previous experience and especially one that had you struggled with financial obligations back then; it brings hope to the people experiencing the same fearful emotion in their present.

      Thank you for your humility!

  4. Sondra M says:

    This is a very thought provoking article about various types of motivation.   I understand your thinking on motivation by envy when it comes to sales people.   Yet, having been in sales for years, I wonder if there is another category of motivation.  What do you think of motivation driven by a competitive desire?  

    After all, some people are so competitive that they will work harder to achieve a higher rank.   Others, in a spirit of competition want to be the top sales person.    Others want to win the prizes.   The motivation isn’t so much because they envy the other person’s results.  The person is driven by a motivation to win.  To be the best.   

    That is why sports games are so popular.  That is why athletes spend so much time practicing their game.  They are driven by the desire to win.     

    What do you think?  

    • Lyne says:

      Hello Sondra,

      I had written this article in French first for its publication on our French website last week and when translating it into English, we made a mistake concerning the word “envie” (a French word that we had used for its “desirefulness”meaning) thinking that its English translation would be as simple as “envy”… Sorry about that!

      Thank you so much for your excellent comment… it gave us the opportunity to change this emotion of “envy” for which we found out (thanks to you Sondra) that the meaning was not the one we were looking for. So now you will be able to see that the right word is now the emotion of “eagerness” instead… LOL

  5. Nazmun Nahar says:

    Great article about the work motivation theory. Without motivation, it will be hard to get success in any field. As an online marketer, sometimes we feel down which demotivate our work fluency. And at this point, if we can’t motivate ourselves then the chance is very high to fall down professionally, even personally. Fear is the main obstacle to achieving anything. In this article, you explain everything about work motivation-very well. I think this post will definitely help us to keep motivated.

    • Lyne says:

      (Nahar) Nazmun,

      Happy that you felt that you could keep your motivation alive just by reading over my article… It is a warmful comment of yours! Keep on moving, reading motivational topics and moving again… and so on!

  6. SeunJeremiah says:

    Thanks for this informative article i think now I’ll be  able to compare and contrast the theories of motivation and how they are used in other to inspire my employees to develop the drive to achieve. The importance of motivation in organizations and job satisfaction is vital for the achievement of organizational goals and objectives and this happens to be very helpful to me and my employees as well. it turns out whatever ever situation we find ourselves it should serve as a means of motivation. Thanks 

  7. Abayomi says:

    Excellent article,motivation is a key factor of being productive and the working environment also could serves as a motivating factor which might increase the employees productivity,all the points stated in this post are accurate and perfect,this is a wonderful research topic that helps the management to take note of factors affecting workers efficiency,thank you for sharing this write-up.

Leave a Reply