What’s Your Motivation?

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.”

The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper

The word motivation always makes me think of the book, “The Little Engine That Could.” The phrase, “I think I can, I think I can” eventually moving to, “I know I can” is inspirational at any age. Motivation is a big buzzword today, especially in the business world. The simplest definition of motivation is basically a wanting; an internal process. It is the desire one feels for a change. Motivation has many faces; it is different for everyone. Yet, motivation is crucial for effective learning and high-quality performance. Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory have been the very basics of management and widely practiced to get the results that are wanted from employees. Management and many others have used the aforementioned motivation techniques to mold behavior and get the desired results. There are numerous factors that make differences in the level of motivation, among them, psychological, social, socioeconomic, and cultural. (Choudhary et al., 2013; Gulati et al., 2017; Souders, 2021)

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily. -Zig Ziglar

Motivation is a huge undertaking to try to understand because it varies from person to person. Considering cultural factors in understanding motivation is very important since cultural idiosyncrasies often result in common attitudes, values, and behaviors which influence employees’ motivation towards performing their work as well as affect the outcomes of their efforts. It refers to each person’s experiences which are affected by their social group and background. One study surveyed over 2,000 participants across many different organizations and companies and found that why we work determines how well we work. They also found that companies that are most known for their cultures, i.e., Southwest and Trader Joe’s, maximize the good motives of why people work. When we are motivated, we work hard and are willing to take action to get to the end result of a goal. (Gulati et al., 2017; McGregor & Doshi, 2020; Souders, 2021)

Culture does, in fact, influence motivational practices. The way culture affects motivation depends on whether the culture of the organization is task-oriented or person-oriented or a mix of both. Person-oriented cultures emphasize developing individuals and their work, helping people to have fun, enjoy their work, and help them feel satisfaction from a job well done. The task-oriented culture promotes the use of traditional motivation tools such as monetary rewards and recognition, which can enhance the confidence and productivity of the employees. Culture refers to a deeply rooted value or a shared norm that can guide individuals in their actions and serve as a standard to evaluate one’s own and other’s behavior. (Gulati et al., 2017; Helou & Viitala, 2007)

It is challenging, to say the least, to motivate people in a global network of operations because the face to face communication and social interaction is less frequent in some cases. In an absence of proper motivation, people may sense the possibility of the lack of career growth. To offset this issue, motivational strategies are the key to boost employee engagement in global operations. The best motivational strategies vary depending on the cultural background of the workforce. Leaders must be aware of the culture of their employees and offer motivational rewards that would work for the group or individual. Another way to motive employees that you have on a global scale is to make sure they have easy access to all appropriate learning materials that are needed to be successful in their work. Just like in a face to face meeting, if you would normally pass out an agenda for your meeting or a document, make sure your employees still have access to these types of papers. It may seem simple and silly, but the little things you do to make team members feel included make a big difference. Also, build relationships with your team. Set up a social networking system and social groups for your employees which will allow them to share common interests and help develop social relationships among people from different countries. Individuals must be offered opportunities for growth of their career skills which can help them stay motivated and engaged. Motivation helps to take your employees from, “I think I can” to “I know I can.” (Gulati et al., 2017; Mascarenhas, 2020)


Choudhary, S. K., Choudhary, A., & Joshi, S. (2013). Social and Cultural Factors influence Motivation – Employees in a small town of Uttarakhand, India. IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 14(6), 06–14. https://doi.org/10.9790/487x-1460614

Gulati, R., Mayo, A., & Nohria, N. (2017). MindTap – Cengage Learning. Cengage.Com. https://ng.cengage.com/static/nb/ui/evo/index.html?deploymentId=557615113112872025758405199&eISBN=9781305643673&nbId=2485825&snapshotId=2485825&dockAppUid=16&

Helou, S., & Viitala, T. (2007). How Culture and Motivation Interacts. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:140469/FULLTEXT01.pdfSupervisor

Mascarenhas, M. (2020, May 21). The Key to Fostering Motivation in the Global Workplace. Aperian Global. https://www.aperianglobal.com/fostering-motivation-in-global-workplace/

McGregor, L., & Doshi, N. (2020, April 2). How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/11/how-company-culture-shapes-employee-motivation

Souders, B. M. (2021, September 12). What is Motivation? A Psychologist Explains. PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-motivation/

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