Retribution & Reward Theory

Related to motivation are attribution theory, and the degree to which an employee sees his or her actions as passive or aggressive in terms of shaping his or her position within a company. Perry (2008) notes, for example, that some employees "believe that the course of their career, such as the question of whether or not they are promoted, is essentially based on luck and other factors that are out of their control" (Perry, 2008, p. 179), while other employees believe that they have total control and that it is up to them to achieve what they want to achieve. Therefore, different employees use different methods to attribute success or failure to their own actions. For example, one employee who consistently fails might believe that this is unfair but that it's not something that they can resolve but it's just 'how things are', whereas another employee might believe that this is a sign that they need to improve their performance and work harder and with more focus. Drucker (2007) suggests that attribution theory is "key to determining how an employee looks at his or her own situation" (Drucker, 2007, p. 225) and it is clear that, for example, an employee who believes that he or she can control his or her own performance is likely to have a higher level of motivation than an employee who believes that this is largely out of their hands. If employees are not aware of a causal link between their actions and the rewards and benefits that they receive, it will be difficult to motivate them to believe that they can improve their own position by working harder for the company.

Reward programs can cover non-material rewards such as promotion, which can be a major way of demonstrating that an intrinsically motivated employee is making progress and is likely to get closer to achieving his or her goal. In some cases, this can involve genuine promotion, with an increased salary, increased power and increased responsibilities, but in other cases this can involve what Perry calls "a fake promotion... (which) might provide a new title and some other signs of advancement, but really doesn't move the individual further up within the company"