International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

p-ISSN: 2163-1948    e-ISSN: 2163-1956

2013;  3(3): 63-69


The Social Workers Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motives to Work Social Work

Skaidre Rackauskiene, Jolanta Kasnauskiene, Akvilė Virbalienė

Social work Department, Health Sciences faculty, Klaipeda State College, Klaipeda, Lithuania LT-92143

Correspondence to: Jolanta Kasnauskiene, Social work Department, Health Sciences faculty, Klaipeda State College, Klaipeda, Lithuania LT-92143.


Copyright © 2012 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved.


Motivation in the work context can be defined as an individual’s degree of willingness to exert and maintain an effort towards organizational goals. Social work sector performance is critically dependent on the motivation of its workers with service quality, efficiency and equity, all directly mediated by workers’ willingness to apply themselves to their tasks. The creation and application of motivating models in the social work sector still do not have a clearly defined structure, so the content of this research includes the following problematic questions: Which motivators predominate in the social work sector? Which components of the work content could we consider as motivators of the social activity? The results of the content analysis as a conclusion of diagnostics made clear the intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that influence social workers’ decision to work in this area and have influence on the quality of their activities and the level of personal satisfaction.

Keywords: Extrinsic Motivation, Intrinsic Motivation, Social Workers, Worker Motivation

Cite this paper: Skaidre Rackauskiene, Jolanta Kasnauskiene, Akvilė Virbalienė, The Social Workers Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motives to Work Social Work, International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 3 No. 3, 2013, pp. 63-69. doi: 10.5923/j.ijpbs.20130303.01.

1. Introduction

Motivation, in the work context, can be defined as an individual’s degree of willingness to exert and maintain to apply themselves to their tasks. While resource availability and worker competencies are essential, they are not sufficient in themselves to ensure the desired worker performance. Worker performance is also dependent on workers’ level of motivation stimulating them to come to work regularly, diligently, to be flexible and to have a willing to carry out the necessary tasks[5]. Motivational processes in the work context operate at the level of an individual, and are composed of two parallel components: the extent to which workers adopt organizational goals (“will do”) and the extent to which workers effectively mobilize their personal resources to achieve joint goals (“can do”). The motivational factors are always in a process of alteration due to the differing workers’ age, sex, character and needs. These changes are also determined by the changes in the social work process in state’s and institutional levels. The creation and application of motivating models in the social work sector is a multidisciplinary phenomenon that yet does not have a clear structure, the discussions on what are the factors that stimulate the work activity and how does this process function are still active.

1.1. Problem

The Problem of the Research. Workers motivation is widely analyzed in the countries with good economic indexes: USA, Japan, France, Great Britain. Schmalt & Sokolowski (2000) made a research on the best methods to evaluate the importance of internal and external motivation on the person’s activity, in the researches of Deci & Ryan (2000)[14] the motivational process is investigated in the context of decision’s making theory. Lithuanian authors had demonstrated the importance of motivation while seeking for high work quality and productiveness. For example, Martinkus, et al. (2005) investigated the methods that are applied to the marketing of production, reveals the influence of the good election in motivational remedies on the workers in an enterprise[19]. The scientifics that deal with marketing in Lithuania such as Butkus (1996, 2003), Šalčius (1998), Zakarevičius (1998), Ginevičius (2005) have done researches on classical and modern motivational theories and their application while trying to explain the needs of workers and their satisfaction in an organization. Žilinskas & Zakarienė (2007) investigated the problems of workers stimulation system, its improvement and spread. However, we could not stress researches where one would investigate the factors that motivate social workers to work, so the content of this research includes the following problematic questions: Which motivators predominate in the social work sector? Which components of works’ content could we consider as motivators of social activity?

1.2. Object

The object of this research is the social workers intrinsic and extrinsic motives to work social work

1.3. Aim

The aim of this research is to reveal the social workers intrinsic and extrinsic motives to work social work.

1.4. Structure

The Structure of This Article. This article consists of an introduction, theoretical argumentation of the research, methodological argumentation of the research, results and conclusions.

2. Motivators of Social Work Activity

The term motivation was firstly used in the second decade of XXth century. It is derived from a Latin word movere which has the meaning to move. Earlier psychologists used to speak about motives that could raise something to provoke people to perform. So the initial term of motivation used to refer to the totality of factors that determine different activities of users [6][7][14]. The term motivation in its general meaning signifies the psychological person’s state (internal stimulus or need) which influences his “level of engagement” to perform while seeking for some goal. In the marketing theory and practice the motivation term is defined as a causal person’s will (need) to seek for personal or organizational aims [4][9]. Another authors define motivation as a process of stimulation when the worker are directed towards a concrete activity through internal and external factors, motivation is a process that stimulates person’s behaviour, activity and actions which determines the activeness and purposefulness in a particular situation[1][10][14][19].
The psychological, sociological and anthropological researches of human resources in the last centuries’ seventh decade revealed the possibility to divide person’s motivational process to five categories: of needs, intensification, fairness, expectations (hopes) and settlement of aims. The motivational process stipulated the appearance of conditions for purposeful theories and the search of motivating factors[3][4][6]. The motivational factors (in scientific literature we also deal with a term “motivators”) stimulate persons to behave while seeking of realization of their needs. Pinder (2008)[17], Palidauskaitė (2008)[16], Jusienė & Laurinavičius (2007)[11], Vansteenkiste & Deci (2003) [20] single out two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation (the will to be effective and to act; here we attribute the work itself: the work content, freedom of activities, improvement opportunities) and extrinsic motivation (the aspiration to get external pay or a will to avoid a punishment; the attributes are material: salaries, bonuses, other financial stimulus that the institution pay under their own will, the non-financial stimulus as well). Palidauskaitė (2008) [16] in her investigations expands the definition of non-material stimulus: there are social stimulations (the participation in a group, the style of management, cooperation with colleagues, communication, etc.) and institutional stimulations (work culture, schedule, improvement opportunities, warranties to the working place, etc.). Deci & Ryan (2000)[14] investigate the meaning of motivation while deciding to perform and mark out the third type of motivation – amotivation.
It is crucial the understanding that the person’s decision to perform, taking the situation into account, could be motivated by different motivational factors (motivators). The intrinsic motivation is a very important stimulus to act; the decision to perform of the persons with internal motivation is weaker than that of persons who are stimulated by the factors of external motivation and a complex of various controlling remedies [14]. The remedies of stimulation and control used by other persons have a huge impact on the person’s decision to perform [19]. The typology of motivation could be presented according to the following: standard motivation is the formation of the corresponding social worker’s behaviour making use of such social and psychological remedies of pressure as persuasion, suggestion, information, psychological impact; motivational punishment is an aspiration to limit the satisfaction of worker’s needs making use of power and threatening if the requirements are not executed; stimulation is a type of not direct impact on the worker through outer environment making use of motivational remedies so that he could be influenced on the corresponding activities. The first two types of motivation have a direct influence on a person and the third (stimulation) – a non-direct influence, due to the fact that it is based on external factors (e.g. Figure 1).
When we analyse the components of extrinsic motivation, work content is stressed as one of the most important motivators. This work content describes the specific characteristics of a particular job. The content of the particular job is determined by the work object, means of production and results and the relation between these components: it is seen directly in the wholeness of work operations and consistency. The work content could be examined in two levels: firstly, the level of working place and, secondly, the level of society. The first could be understood as the totality of operations that describe the individual work content; the second level is the totality of various types of working activities that describe the public work content[15]. In our research we investigate the work content taking into account the level of working place. Work content could be an important intrinsic motivator but simultaneously we observe the obstacles that arise: persons who like their job want to fulfil their tasks using ordinary instruments and the latter are not always acceptable by the organization [2].
Figure 1. The structure of the motivational model (prepared according to Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, Vol. 55, No. 1, 68-78.)
It is ascertained that the work content is formed through a lot of medical, social, economic, psychological and juridical factors that deal with individual, familiar and collective assistance that influence the social rehabilitation and adaptation in a community, so we can begin the discussion about the diversity of work content[13]. The common aspect of work content is a varying relation between the client and client groups; the variety of points of view when we deal with work content is the differing understanding of the social causes and premises of this problem and its argumentation with corresponding theories, the application of different social work methods and the estimation of changes.

3. Methodology of Research

The qualitative research method is applied to this research.

3.1. Method of Collecting Data

The data was collected through a structured interview. The structure of this interview was not strictly formalized because both the interviewer and the participant of the research decided on its conditions.

3.2. Instrument of the Research

During the qualitative content analysis we introduced the following questions: What is the most important factor that motivates you to work social work? Approve or disapprove with this argument: “To be proud of your work is an important salary”.

3.3. Method of Analyzing Data

The data is analysed through qualitative content analysis following these steps: firstly, the investigator reads a text few times and tries to understand its meaning; he does not base his understanding on his preliminary knowledge; then the text is divided into separate parts where the crucial aspects and contexts are seen; the divided text is presented as a separate subcategory; one category is formed for few subcategories[21].
As every research method, the interview had its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of the interview: the informant could choose suitable time and place; one could observe the reactions and mimics of the informant because the interview was recorded to a recorder; the recording of an interview is an exact writing down of the information. The disadvantages of this kind of interview: some of the informants were disturbed by the recorder.

3.4. Frames of the Research

During the research the social workers who participated in the program of prequalifying in Klaipėda State College were interviewed.

3.5. Extent and Selection in the Research

12 respondents were interviewed. The respondents were selected according to Kardelis (2002) [12] : we formed a special group in which the researcher included persons who seemed to be the most typical according to the researched characteristics. Interviewers’ selection for interview is conducted in the way that every new case should provide some additional or new information and only that allows to generate new conceptual categories. In studiess of grounded theory that is called ttheoretical selection (Glaser, 1978) [8]. Theoretical selection covers the number of participants’ selection, which is based on newest data of research and should ensure: adequate representation of important subjects; interviewers selection to ensure that participants of research match informational requirements of research. Such selection often matches qualitative goals of research because there is a need to comprehensively describe analysing phenomena and do not present only proportional percentage, which expresses the distribution of categories Žydžiūnaitė (2005) [21]. That means that researcher in qualitative research is more concerned to describe all theoretical aspects instead of representing the interweavers in this research (Polit, Hungler, 1995) [18]. Participants of this research were 3 social workers from Klaipėda, 3 social workers from Telšiai, 3 social workers from Venta and 3 social workers from Šilutė.
Demographic characteristics of research respondents: a) sex: women; b) age average: 35 years; c) education: higher education, more than 5 years of social work experience.

3.6. Ethics of the Research

During the research these principles of ethics were followed:
The principle of goodwill and the right not to be hurt. The questions to the informants in the research were formulated and presented in a way that the invulnerability of a person would be retained.
The usefulness of the research. The informants agreed to participate in the research because the researchers explained its usefulness and the opportunities to solve the problem.
The principle of fairness is a right to receive a fair and honest treatment. The researchers had discussed all the conditions with the informants of their participation in the research. The researchers had the possibility to ask questions about the research and get appropriate information.
The right to privacy. The informants were assured that anonymity and confidentially of the given information will be ensured. The informants were assured that this information and various data will be used to accomplish the aims of this research.

4. The Results of the Research

With the first question of this research (What is the most important factor that motivates you to work social work?) we aimed to find out what types of motivation determine the social workers’ decision to work in this area, if there is a particular type of motivation that predominates. Having analysed the question data, the categories and subcategories were excluded:
Category: extrinsic motivation, subcategories: communication, influence of the others.
Category: intrinsic motivation, subcategories: self expression, assistance to others, experience, experiences, achievements, personal satisfaction, nature, improvement, values (e.g. Table 1).
Table 1. Types of motivation that influence the decision of social workers to work in this area
Having analysed the motivational factors that stimulate to work the social work, we can stress on the intrinsic and extrinsic components of motivation and we see that they both stimulate the work. We could not claim that one of these types of motivation is predominated. These thoughts are generally expressed in the researches of Ryan & Deci (2000)[14] where they prove that internal motivation of one person should be strengthen with the components of external motivation. The subcategories of the intrinsic motivation category that were revealed during our investigation are self expression (“... I always get new knowledge when I work this job, so the social work is like a permanent self education and training...” (5) and improvement (“this work is a permanent growth of qualification, but not through special classes, you get this experience during your work process, when you communicate and help the others” (1)) could mean that the social workers evaluate their work not only as a process of assistance to others (although we also deal with the subcategory of assistance to others) but also as a job that gives an opportunity to improve and get experience which can correspond to their personal interests. The satisfaction of the need of self education and self improvement in the professional activity preconditions the creation of a harmonious working model with high professional competence.
There are no clear signs of material stimulations in the extrinsic motivation. The predominating stimulus of extrinsic motivation stressed by the social workers are the influence of other persons (“...the group collective is great, that is why I want to be in my institution, we motivate each other, praise and blame each other’s work” (2), “... of course, the praises of my colleagues and chiefs...” (9)) and the communication process (“...communication with others...” (10), “...the most joyful moments are when you talk with your client during long months and sometimes more, you see the result, the improvement, even if it is just a millimeter, this millimeter is worth…”(1)). These motivators are ascribed to the non-material stimulus of the extrinsic motivation. The components of extrinsic motivation intensify the internal motivation of social workers.
With the second question on the theme (“Approve or disapprove with this argument: “To be proud of your work is an important salary”) we wanted to find out if the social workers consider their working process as an important motivational factor. With the need to make the information more clear, some additional question was asked: could you mention the activities that give you the highest/lowest satisfaction in your work. This question will not be analysed separately; it is integrated to the analysis of the main question. Having done the analysis of the interview, the following the interview, the following categories and subcategories are excluded:
Category: personal satisfaction with your work, subcategory: love of the work, pride of your work, the happiness while working.
Category: activities that produce the highest satisfaction,
subcategory: the contact (interaction) with client, organizational activities, the achieved result, communication.
Category: activities that produce the lowest satisfaction, subcategory: work with documents (e.g. Table 2).
The arguments that some people work good because they feel the duty to do it[4]. We could even claim that it is a consequence of the socialization process when a child hears from his childhood that everyone has this duty to do everything as good as he can. This intrinsic motivator is related directly to a personal satisfaction that arises from this feeling of your work done; therefore it is not easy for the organizations to use it for motivation. They could only make use of its existence. In our research we see that the personal satisfaction is essential in the social work process. The social workers love their job (“...I think that if you do not love the social work, you do not like, you will never achieve good results” (5), “The most important thing is to understand that you can work good just in the case that you work for the idea, so the one who can work is always a person who loves this job” (1)) and are proud of it (“…I think that it is very important, because if you are proud and understand that your job is good and meaningful, it motivates you. I am proud to be a social worker.”(1)). The intrinsic personal satisfaction with your professional activity permits the conclusion that the social work content itself can become a motivational component. Our research results partly prove it as well. The social workers excluded the most motivational processes in their social work. The most important are the contact with their client (“...the highest satisfaction is when you can interact with your client friendly, when the personal contact is reached (…) when you can identify his problems and your client begins to understand that the problems are to be solved…” (1)“… the first contact with a person, it is very interesting” (6)) and the communication process itself (“...the communication with other specialists and clients…”(5), “...the communication with clients (...) I like it when I have time to visit and communicate with elder people, when I talk to them, they say something nice to me and that is very pleasant…” (4)). The social workers mentioned their participation in organizational processes of their enterprise as important motivators (“...for example, we are participating in some events, we organize something, it is interesting to participate, to help and I am happy that my assistance could be helpful for this activity…” (1), “I feel important when they let me participate in the organization of working process, ask my opinion, advice.” (4)). The research also reveals that some components of social work process reduce the motivation of social workers. The social workers mentioned all the job with documents as a component that reduces their motivation (“...but we have too many work with “papers”, there could be less descriptive work…” (4),“...the amount of documents is growing and I don’t think that our work becomes more efficient, it is just that we can give less time to our clients” (5)). It is important to pay attention to the fact that the social work process consists of direct and non-direct practical activities. One of the non-practical activities is the formation of client’s case. This process is an exceptional part of a social process. Donovan (2005)[4] claim that every negative motivator could be converted to a positive one if the components of extrinsic motivation are used appropriately, for example, the public recognition/appreciation and systemic leadership (when the head of enterprise consults with his workers about the work process).
Table 2. The motivational components of the social work content

5. Conclusions

Both the intrinsic and the extrinsic factors of motivation are predominated in the social work practices. The factors of internal motivation are related to the will of effectiveness and the activity itself. Other factors could be the need of self-expression, improvement of your knowledge and skills, the will to help other people and to improve the life quality of the client. The most important factors of extrinsic motivation are the non-material stimulations that are related to the influence of the others on the work and to the processes of communication and cooperation.
The social work content is partly a motivational component. The very important component is the personal satisfaction with one’s professional activity that is generally the cause to exclude few other positive motivational components of work content such as the contact with the client and cooperation, the participation in organizational processes. The direct practice is a more motivating activity in a process of social work than the non-direct practices. It is to be mentioned that we also see the negative motivators in the non-direct practices of social work such as the documentation, but there are no indications of motivators neither as evaluation of the activity nor the cooperation with external partners.


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