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Public Policy and Administration


Dr. Frances Goldman


The work performance of employees remains a vital factor both in an organization's viability as well as in the prosperity of its employees. Merit pay can influence employee performance and is one of the most frequently used monetary reward incentives for motivating employees to achieve a higher level of performance. The problem is the limited knowledge on how state employees in a southern state perceive merit pay and how those perceptions may influence employee work performance. Using a conceptual framework built from elements of various motivational theories including Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Herzberg's 2 factor theory, the purpose of this case study was to understand how fifteen employees at a state department in the southern part of the United States perceived how merit pay influenced their work performance. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews and transcribed, coded, and subjected to a thematic analysis procedure using NVivo10. A key theme emerging from this study suggesting that participants were not motivated to perform based on merit pay; rather, performance was viewed to be the result of personal determination. This determination sets the stage for state agency leadership to initiate action toward enhancing and implementing a formal recognition program to motivate and engage employees. Findings of the study revealed that the 15 workers were motivated by their current individual personal need level, as Maslow delineated in his hierarchy of needs theory. The positive social change implications stemming from this study include recommendations to policymakers and state department leaders to consider nonmonetary rewards for employee recognition as a motivational tool in order to improve or maintain work performance.