Intrinsic Motivation in Organizations: a survey among Brazilian professionals

INTRINSIC MOTIVATION IN ORGANIZATIONS: a survey among Brazilian professionals

Roberto Coda


The main objective of this paper is to identify motivational competencies of Brazilian professionals as an indicator of their leadership style and discuss the importance of the findings for developing the entrepreneurial behavior of managers and non-managers in work organizations. This paper deals with the possibility of recognizing and measuring patterns of work behaviors, including the entrepreneurial one, and also offers comparisons with a sample of American managers.  Results are based on research findings referring to 5,400 respondents and  both the methodological research procedure and the questionnaire validation process are discussed. Challenges associated with the development of the entrepreneurial orientation in Brazil are also presented as  well as implications for HRM managers.

KEY WORDS:   Leadership Style; Motivation; Organizational Culture



The main objective of this paper is to identify motivational competencies of Brazilian professionals as an indicator of their leadership style and discuss the importance of the findings for developing the entrepreneurial behavior and intrinsic motivation of managers and non-managers in work organizations.

Modern times brought globalization and along with this process the imperious need for organizations to seek for competitiveness and major operating results. Another key aspect that started to draw attention in these times was the quest for implementing efforts aimed at improving process and activities quality patterns in the work environment, especially in Brazil.

Attaining competitiveness and operating results relies on what primarily can be considered entrepreneurial behavior and adequate motivation levels of the workforce.  When behavioral patterns in the work environment are analyzed, not always it is possible to identify people inherently oriented towards achievement or accomplishment of goals and results – what is often called entrepreneurial pattern of behavior.

Mc DONALD  (2003) presents the notion that nowadays business climate is characterized by low returns, recession and a perceived lack of corporate ethics, making organizations face a crisis of prodigious proportions. In his view, organizations need a new type of leader, one equipped with the vision and personality to make sure the right decisions are taken and the necessary changes take place.

This paper deals with the possibility of recognizing and measuring patterns of behavior, including the entrepreneurial one among Brazilian professionals and also offers comparisons with the same patterns among American managers. Such target is obtained through a research conducted in an ongoing basis about the perceived motivational competencies or orientations in work situations using the conceptual framework developed by Erich Fromm in his  work .

The great majority of studies and research done by several institutions in many different places all over the world seem to conclude that the motivated employee actually produces more.  In Brazil, due to economic adjustments that are still taking place in order to implement government stabilization plans focused on inflation and fiscal debt control, the challenges for the survival and competitiveness of the companies are even bigger. As a result, employment levels fell substantially, making the task of putting into practice the speech that human assets are the most valuable assets in work organizations even harder.

These aspects contributed to increasing significantly stress levels and lack of belief in the organizational vision pursued by the board, making clear the existence of widespread dissatisfaction which generates serious concern with the true possibility of having customers satisfied with the actual level of employees’ motivation and commitment taken into account.

When this situation in Brazilian organizations is compared with the developments achieved by organizational psychology during the last 40 years, it is possible to notice that the extrinsic motivation approach has not yet been adequately managed as a factor associated with fostering employees’ involvement. This assumption can be easily verified by analyzing actual salary and wage levels, showing that they have lost a great deal of purchasing power in the last 5 years.

In this scenario, how is it possible to explain employees’ permanence in organizations under adverse work conditions, searching for other less obvious reasons than those dealing with the difficulty of finding another job or the same job in another organization?  Certainly, these reasons should be linked to the other kind of motivation revealed by research findings in work motivation, characterized by what has been called intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is associated with the nature of the work done, employee’s preferences, pleasure and meaning perceived in work, as well as his/her own personality traits.

AMABILE (1998) draws attention to the key importance of intrinsic motivation. In her creativity research she has found so much evidence in favor of intrinsic motivation that she and her colleagues and students have articulated what they call the Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself instead by external pressures or conditions. VENKATESH (1999) also reports that a key issue for information systems managers has been the difficulty in creating favorable user reactions to new technologies. In this research study he found results that strongly claims for the use of intrinsic motivation, specially during training.

How then to assess and provide a better understanding of intrinsic motivation among Brazilian professionals taking as a basis a research model adapted to the reality and conditions of Brazilian companies?  Are Brazilian professionals motivated towards entrepreneurship? Given these challenges, the present paper proposes a classification and evaluation of motivational competencies or orientations based on renowned studies devoted to this same theme and presents results of an extensive field survey aimed at assessing motivational orientations among Brazilian professionals.

THOMPSON (1999) considers entrepreneurship as a pattern of behavior and a style of management which is concerned with obtaining and managing resources to exploit opportunity. He also discusses other author’s views on this subject, stressing the contribution of Bhide (1994), Stevenson (1997) and Churchill (1997). According to Bhide, entrepreneurs deal with risk in strategy creation with a quick initial screening using a careful, yet limited analysis to evaluate the quality of an idea, but then they stay flexible throughout the process of implementation. Stevenson emphasizes that for entrepreneurs resource exploitation is seen as a manageable challenge and that they are strongly motivated by seeking opportunities. Summarizing important points, Thompson argues that entrepreneurs respond to environmental turbulence and uncertainty , establish a strong strategic position and create uncertainty for others with proactive initiatives. They disturb the existing status quo, spot and size new opportunities ahead of competitors and stay vigilant to potential threats.

Another major contribution for understanding the entrepreneurial behavior is provided by LITTUNEN (2000). For him, in studies of entrepreneurship it is possible to differentiate between two schools of thought. One is based on the trait model and the other on contingency thinking. For the purposes of this paper no distinction was made between the two fields, being the main interest in assessing the actions and behaviors resultants of both traits and situations of management styles, including the entrepreneurial ones. This holistic view is also compatible with MORRISON’s (2000) thought, since he considers that the process of entrepreneurship has its foundations in person and intuition, society and culture, all of these aspects representing a composite of material and immaterial, pragmatism and idealism, being its essence the application of innovation directed at bringing about change of social and economic nature.



CAUDRON (1997) discusses why personality and motivational orientations matter today, although the idea that personal competencies count in the workplace is not new. For example, the Institute for Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California at Berkeley conducted research in the 1940s to determine the ability of personality to predict work performance. She sets the hypothesis that in today’s competitive labor market it is not always what an employee knows but who an employee is that makes this employee a good fit for the job and the organization. In her opinion, personal characteristics or competencies are as important as technical skills and experience, if not more.  She presents the opinion of Alan Davidson, Ph.D., president of Psychological Consultants to Management in San Diego that “people with the correct personality type can almost always learn the skills needed for the job”. For example, that is why Southwest Airlines, the State of California and Rohr Inc. (aerospace) are starting to assess personal competencies such as dependability, commitment, resiliency and motivation, in addition to assessing a candidate’s technical qualifications.

To accept and deal with differences in human behavior is not an easy task, although it is widely known that this represents one of the aspects that generate results, as well as desired productivity levels and positive organizational climate for work development. It is an undeniable fact that each one of us has a pattern of thinking, preferences and own ways of facing the challenges and situations of daily life. Nowadays, at work, our drives and purposes are constantly tested due to the changing nature of tasks, technology and management approaches, producing higher stress levels that can cause inherent differences of style or orientation to be considered as resentment, problems of effective communication and “true” difficulties of understanding one another’s real intentions during the performance of activities.

Instead of applying mere labels to people, the perception and comprehension of employees’ motivational orientations performing in organizations represent a productive answer to liberate the potential of each one and to manage the human factor in organizations more effectively, using for this objective a system validated within Brazilian companies.

In one of his articles GOLEMAN (1999) states that we put people in positions of great responsibility without regard for social an emotional competencies. He also defines “emotional competencies” as the way we manage ourselves and proposes a classification of them in 6 different categories – self awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills and group-working skills. For the objective of this paper all of them are of major interest, since they can be considered as traits of the orientations used as framework in the survey. For Goleman, self-awareness is based on an accurate self-assessment, on knowing your  internal states, preferences, resources, intuitions, strengths and limitations. Motivation is connected with the way we achieve goals, based on our favored drives.



Since Maslow’s major contribution, it is known that what motivates people are their needs, mainly those that are not sufficiently satisfied at a given moment. Although those needs may be common to all human beings, the ways people organize themselves to meet them are specific or peculiar to each individual. However, it is possible to recognize relatively stable tendencies in behavior, composing what is called “motivational orientation”. It is, by definition, a pattern of behavior that appears frequently in someone’s attitudes.

Trying to recognize these patterns in order to predict expected behavior has been drawing man’s attention for quite a long time. Hypocrites, the founder of Medicine, used to “classify” people in order to discover more effective ways of healing them, but without a doubt, it was only after Freud’s contribution, unveiling the nature and structure of human personality, that one can observe the development of different and varied typologies of motivational behavior such as Jung’s and Fromm’s. Although the different types considered by them present different denominations, the behaviors described and the corresponding orientations are very similar.

FROMM (1978) presented a 4-item typology, originally described as personality traits used as basis for assessing motivational competencies in this paper.

Although the different types considered by these authors present different denominations, the behaviors described and the corresponding orientations are very similar. However, due to cultural traits, it was necessary to adapt this kind of typology to aspects that could be easily understood by professionals performing in Brazilian companies. As opposed to other approaches, this work represents an attempt at identifying the manifestations of the basic motivational orientations at work, instead of interpreting them only on the basis of self-perceptions of personality traits. Hence, the questionnaire created as a basis for conducting this research focuses on self-perceptions of behaviors and favored actions at work, treating the innate traits of personality underlying the whole process as secondary matters.

Despite the numerous uses of the concept of motivational orientations are numerous, going from employee allocation to jobs or areas to cultural management, it is worthwhile clarifying here some specific points in which it is possible to apply this notion:

  • to conduct or to participate in work meetings in a more effective way, allowing different views to be considered and different needs served;
  • to match employee’s potential with job requirements, through better and broader understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses;
  • to negotiate different problem solving approaches, admitting  that each orientation represents a particular and ethical way of dealing with each situation, increasing the possibility of solving potential conflicts faster and more efficiently;
  • to set more realistic and thoroughly accepted, objectives, including diversity of views, needs and ideas;
  • to reduce stress levels with the understanding that what motivates and energizes one person can, at the same time, disturb the actions of another; and
  • to meet time restrictions in a more appropriate way, noticing that different motivational orientations deal differently with the time variable.

CAPPELI (1995) also presents an important result that offers additional perspectives on the use of motivational orientations in the workplace. Reviewing studies dealing with the relationship between personality and performance he found that the personality type as a predictor of job performance is a stronger factor than previously thought. Conscientiousness, which can be understood as a will to achieve, was the aspect of personality most consistently related to job performance, productivity and promotion, fact that is not true for other traits such as compliance, social conformity and perseverance.

BARUCH and LESSEN (1995) argue that it is commonly accepted that people should know themselves and understand others in order to establish a good work environment and also discuss the findings of Cabarro and Kotter, pointing out that knowing your fellow worker better will increase personal and organizational effectiveness. So, proper use and comprehension of behavioral approaches and management styles can facilitate better self awareness and group understanding.

The main characteristics of the motivational orientations used as a basis for this research, known as “M.A.R.E.  Motivational Orientations Diagnostic”, are presented next.



As previously mentioned, the different styles of motivational behavior in this research had as a basis  the model developed by Erich Fromm in his work “Analysis of the Man”. Fromm defines 4 basic orientations, each one creating a specific type of motivational style. The classification proposed by Fromm was adapted to features closer to the understanding of Brazilian professionals generating the comparison that can be visualized in the following table:











The Mediating orientation originated the Negotiation M.A.R.E. style, with the basic concern to seek for understanding and balance between conflicting views in the work situation. These are professionals skilled in identifying people’s needs, very good in selling new ideas and willing to perform group activities. They are naturally gregarious, sociable and warm. In teams such a person is a natural animator, linking people together within and without, frequently performing a balancing role. As learners their orientation is experimental. They like to harmonize, integrating diverse concepts, people and situations.

A summary with the Negotiation Style main behaviors is presented below.


ü Stresses adaptation and agreement with others;

ü Knows how to deal with different interests in the performing environment;

ü Good social behavior knowledge;

ü Sensitive to the needs and respectful of others’ points of view.

The Analytical orientation originated the Specialization M.A.R.E. style, with the basic concern to seek for the continuity of actions and processes, as well as the accomplishment of tasks within quality standards and procedures. These are professionals guided by logic and rationality, having in general excellent long-range vision. They fit comfortably into functionally based organizations where rules and order prevail. Impersonal, objective and honest in their dealings, they prefer certainty and well-laid plans. They are a force for law and order in organizations where they belong to and progress through the managerial hierarchy along conventional promotion lines. In teams they are natural organizers, being able of carrying out required tasks with a considerable degree of persistence and precision.

A summary with the Specialization Style main behaviors is presented below.


ü Shows caution in his/her actions;

ü Focuses on details (meticulous);

ü Organized, disciplined, logical;

ü Values information and feed-back.

The Receptive orientation originated the Cooperation M.A.R.E. style, with the basic concern to seek for understanding about people’ opinions and beliefs in the organization, trying to collaborate with others and helping them to find solutions for the problems. These are professionals skilled in identifying people talents, demonstrating great interest in the development of his/her own skills and competencies, as well as those of others. They are able to recognize and harness the forces of diversity, showing mainly a developmental approach in nature, i. e., enabling things instead of fixing them. They focus interdependence and in teams they are natural facilitators.

A summary with the Cooperation Style main behaviors is presented below.


ü Centered in interaction with people;

ü Values trust in people;

ü Idealistic, optimistic and self-confident;

ü Frank and open-minded;

ü Values participative management.


Finally, the Entrepreneuring orientation originated  the Achievement M.A.R.E. style with the concern to seek  primarily for results and objectives, as well as organization goals. These are professionals that prefer changes and constant challenges, demonstrating great capacity to act and obtain what is expected from them. They are able of creating things out of seemingly nothing. They are propelled forward by an inner compulsion projected onto others by a powerful and expressive imagination. They exploit new markets, recognizing and grasping new business opportunities  and generally enjoy the rough and tough side of business life. They respond immediately to a challenge, specially if it involves some personal and financial risk. As team members they are inclined to take a lead, frequently initiating processes. They show ability to act fast and in teams they are proverbial doers.

A summary with the main behaviors of the Achievement style is presented below.


ü Likes to control the environment;

ü Strong-minded, obstinate;

ü Possesses firm convictions;

ü Perceives the whole without paying attention to details.



The study has been conducted for a period of two years and has as basic feature the survey approach.  It can be classified as an exploratory study and at this moment no field hypothesis were made, being the main interest in measuring the orientations and probably identifying possible hypothesis to be tested in a near future.

The first step towards the accomplishment of the present study deals with the process adopted for questionnaire construction and validation. After the adaptation of the orientations proposed by Fromm to Brazilian organizations’ reality, critical events were defined that could assess common aspects of work situations experienced by the majority of professionals performing in different organizations. Twenty-six different types of situations were created and each respondent was asked to state his/her preferences using a 4- point forced choice scale. Half of the situations referred to normal performance conditions and half to pressure conditions.

For these situations or events (questions), 4 alternatives were generated, each one reflecting the behavioral strategy of each orientation and the associated motivational style. The respondent should make his/her choice through the attribution of grades ranging from 4 to 1, corresponding the higher value to the most preferred one and so on, until arriving at the least preferred alternative, giving it grade 1.

The preliminary version of the questionnaire was administered to 540 subjects and the answers compared with the statistical techniques of factor and discriminant analysis. With this procedure it was possible not only to detect the events most significant for assessing each motivational style, but also to identify the  alternatives more sensitive for the evaluation of each one of the orientations. The result of this step was the identification of 16 events or questions  under normal (8) and under pressure conditions (8), as well as the 64 alternatives more suitable for assessing each motivational orientation.

Measures of reliability were reported good for he sample of 540 managers with overall Alpha  coefficient of .81.  Internal consistency is also good with specific Alpha coefficients shown below.












In terms of validity one of the advantages of this survey is its theoretical underpinning. As previously mentioned, another important source comparison for the M.A.R.E. orientations can be found in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire (MBTI) as demonstrated below.
















Additionally, the original findings in the sample of 540 managers were approximately the same for the 1703 managers one. Hence validity seems adequate. No correlations were made between M.A.R.E.  Orientations and MBTI’s because such procedure was not within the survey objectives.

In this way, the maximum possible value for a style under normal or pressure conditions is 32, and the minimum is 8 points, being the theoretical average equal to the median of 20 points.  In order to illustrate the questionnaire content the 8 events obtained for style assessment under normal conditions are presented below.

  • I prefer to perform my job in situations where I can:
  • The best way of solving conflicts or problems at work is:
  • When I need to involve other people in the work to be done I:
  • The most valuable managers for an organization are those that:
  • I prefer to work with colleagues that:
  • I believe that people motivation at work is favored when:
  • Those that work with me identify me as somebody who:
  • When I attend work meetings  I seek to:



Research data were collected in company managerial training programs during a period of 2 years and refer to 1703 professionals, both managers and technicians.  This represents the first stage of the present survey. After this period the same research procedure was undertaken continually and nowadays the data bank includes about 5400 respondents with no significant change in results.

After extensive theoretical explanations about the two kinds of work motivation, trainees were invited to participate in the research as a way of gathering information on Brazilian professional motivation styles as an indicator of intrinsic motivation.

The following table shows the main statistical measures obtained from the available sample, considering  the  4  motivational orientations both in normal and pressure conditions.


























































Std  Dev










Data reveal that scores distribution for the different motivational orientations M.A.R.E. may be considered under the normal hypothesis assumption both in normal and pressure conditions (median @ mean @ mode) . The median equality test (ANOVA) indicates that it is possible to conclude for the existence of  differences between them at a level of significance less than 0.5% both in normal and pressure conditions. ANOVA tables obtained are shown below.




Results indicate that the Mediating orientation is the most present one among Brazilian professionals, revealing broader aspects deeply rooted in Brazilian culture, since people in this country are very well known for their adaptation, quest for balance, negotiation and convincing skills, characterizing what has been called the Brazilian basic pattern of  behavior.

When the orientations rank is fully analyzed as shown in the two following tables it is possible to observe that it does not change both in normal and pressure conditions, revealing the same overall pattern of personal motivational strategy.








It is interesting to notice in pressure conditions, however, the increased percentage of professionals in the Receptive orientation category, as well as the significant reduction in the percentage of professionals in the Analytical one. In this way, in pressure conditions, Brazilian professionals tend to pay more attention to team demands, try to listen carefully and take into account people suggestions, as well as forget about rational arguments and long range planning.

Krumwiede et alli (1988) present in their work results about the composition of motivational orientations among top managers in the Unites States, using the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) as evaluation tool in a field research conducted by Kroeger and Thuesen. It was found that “approximately two thirds of all top managers have the personality type ISTJ or ESTJ”. These types can be paralleled with the M.A.R.E.  Specialization style (Analytical Orientation) the less frequent orientation among Brazilian managers.

Another source for comparisons is a second work by Kroeger and Thuesen in which results for a large sample (5,300) of managers can be found. The table below shows the MBTI type distribution for upper level American managers and its correspondence with the Brazilian situation by the M.A.R.E.  approach.

Looking for more insights, data were divided into managers and technicians and also between private and state owned enterprises, as shown in the next table.

In these cases, it is possible to notice that the percentage of managers having the Mediating or the Entrepreneuring orientations as the first ones is significantly higher when compared to those of technicians who also have these same first orientations in both kinds of conditions. The differences in percentages between state and private firms are more moderate when the two kinds of situations and the 4 motivational orientations are considered.

These results are consistent with the findings of ELENKOV’s cross cultural comparative study between Russia and the United States in terms of leadership styles. Elenkov noted that the leadership style of U.S. managers reflects the textbook norm, i. e.,”fact-based rather than intuitive management and fast decisions based on clear responsibilities rather than the use of informal influence and personal contacts.” It is possible to notice that the Russian manager profile is more closer to the Brazilian style than the American one, since the motivational approach favored stresses primarily employee relations polices and negotiation (Mediating and Receptive Orientations).

In Brazil the challenges of implementing results–oriented management philosophies are even bigger since the entrepreneurial orientation is not a major trait among managers and as pointed out in several studies this orientation, among the characteristics that have been investigated is the only that shows a clear relationship to entrepreneurial activity.

SIMONSEN (1999) in her article showed the necessity of transforming the managerial role. In her point of view, instead of taskmasters and evaluators, managers today are most effective as coaches, motivators and employee developers. For her HR professionals must engage managers in valuing this new role as well as helping them to develop these new skills.

McConnell (1998) in his study found that ultimately the managers who are most successful are those who are able to make the organization’s goals their own and to be genuinely driven to attain those goals. Clearly the M.A.R.E.  management style favored here is the Achievement one. This represents an important developmental effort for Brazilian managers, since they are not frequently oriented towards this style. In this way HR professionals could help them to create opportunities for using this behavioral strategy while redirecting their hiring policies and criteria aiming those to identify potential candidates with the Achievement style as the dominant orientation.

Clancy (1999) noticed a significant fall of employee loyalty among American firms. After the recent economic difficulties experienced in Brazil and also due to the ongoing process of privatization and widespread efforts towards downsizing the same feeling seems to prevail among Brazilian workers. Commitment recover is also one of the major challenges to be faced by HR professionals nowadays within companies in Brazil.

Concluding this paper it is important to remember that intrinsic motivation represents one of  the major tasks for people management in organizations nowadays. As  Spencer and Spencer (1993) put in their work on skills and competences, motives or motivational orientations represent the deepest and more complex type of competences, meaning inner forces that impel each employee to best apply his / her talent at work.  Efforts aiming at identifying motivational orientations should so serve to the task of respecting individual differences at work and not as a tool to try to deliberately change people.  Motivational preferences can be viewed at the basis of a human resources management approach truly oriented to skills and competences, drawing attention to the permanent need of training and developing them.  May human resources departments meet all these challenges.



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