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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Individual Motives and Organizational Goals

The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.

Individual Motives and Organizational Goals

One of the most famous passages in the New Testament is Matthew 6:25-33 (NKJV), in which Jesus repeatedly preached “Do not worry” and instead instructed His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Essentially, Jesus told those following Him to abandon their concerns for their personal motives (food and clothing) and instead focus on the organizational goals of His kingdom. Organizations of all varieties regularly make similar requests of their members. Scott and Davis addressed this relationship between individual motives and organizational goals. Their discussion applies to the case study of Amy at On-Ramps and how her personal motives relate to the organization’s goals.



Amy Werner is a search associate at On-Ramps and her supervisor, Sarah Grayson, describes her as a vital member of her team. This suggests that Amy has accrued power by occupying a boundary role. Amy is also a student, pursuing a graduate degree in social work. As part of her studies, Amy is completing an internship. In addition to these three roles – employee, student, and intern – her employer is floating the possibility of a new role combining aspects of each of these roles.

Sarah, in addition to being Amy’s manager, is a founding partner of On-Ramps. As an owner and manager, she wields considerable power within the organization and is not subject to the problem of divergent owner-manager interests. Sarah exhibits characteristics of a leader who sets mastery-approach goals with her subordinates. Sijbom et al. described leaders with mastery-approach goals as “typically prioritiz[ing] personal effort, learning, and experimentation, stressing that trying hard and individual improvement are valued… [and] …offering time off to participate in developmental activities and advising employees to implement newly learned skills on the job.” This is good for the organization because Sijbom et al. found that mastery-approach goals are less likely to lead to employee burnout.

The final role in this case study is that of the organization. On-Ramps is a small, young, urban search firm. The firm seems to support employee goal achievement, at least in Amy’s case.


The primary focus of this case study is how Amy and On-Ramps will move forward following her graduation. This decision centers around the relationship between individual motives and organizational goals. This relationship involves determining sources of power and the modes used to express them, the stakeholders’ agreement about the preferred outcome and the means of attaining it, structural factors, and internal and external environmental influences related to this decision. For instance, if Amy is as remarkable as Sarah described her, the organization hosting her internship may also want to hire her.


Sources of Power

Scott and Davis, in their discussion of how stakeholders acquire power, explained that “ownership is an important basis of power in most economic systems” and that individuals who “are relatively central to the workflow, do not have readily available substitutes, and successfully cope with important sources of uncertainty are more likely to garner power.” Thus, Sarah accrues power from her part ownership and Amy accrues power because of her importance to the firm.

Modes of Capital

Scott and Davis stated that “the power of… …those occupying boundary roles rests on their social capital” and explained that it “facilitate[s] coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.” Andrews and Mostafa explained the concept of social capital from the psychological and organizational perspectives: “From a psychological perspective, employees with trusting and supportive interpersonal relationships are likely to… …[increase] their willingness to become engaged in both their work and organization. From an organizational perspective, positive co-worker relationships are collectively owned ‘assets’ that can facilitate much-needed knowledge transfer. Such assets can be conceptualized as Organizational Social Capital, consisting of structural (connections among actors), relational (trust between actors) and cognitive (shared goals and values among actors) dimensions.”

Herrera further discussed social capital in the context of a firm: “Firm social capital is defined as the advantages and resources provided by the relationships between individuals and/or organizations, and it can be classified into two broad categories: bridging and bonding social capital. Bonding social capital stems from strong and frequent relations between homogeneous groups within the firm that facilitate trust, cohesion, and commitment to collective goals. Bonding social capital has an inward focus that reinforces exclusive identities and group homogeneity.”

Decision-Making Strategies

Thompson and Tuden’s typology is another theoretical consideration related to this case. They suggested decision-making strategies based on whether organizational participants agree or disagree on means and ends. In this case, the stakeholders, Amy and Sarah, are undecided on the ends, but agree that Amy would like to use her advanced education in social work. Thompson and Tuden recommended compromising as the preferred strategy for such situations.

Informal Structure

Scott and Davis noted that “exchange processes that involve asymmetries give rise to a differentiated power structure” in informal groups. Such an outcome seems unlikely in this case because each participant has something important to the other. Amy needs the job that Sarah provides, and Sarah needs the knowledge and performance that Amy provides. Covey called this sort of arrangement a “Win/Win” and explained: “Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying.” Merida offered an unusual picture of a mutually beneficial situation with Elijah and Ahab: “Consider Elijah and Ahab here primarily in terms of their respective offices, i.e. as prophet and king… The fact that Elijah runs before Ahab suggests that… …the kings and prophet could work together in ongoing reform.”


These are some of the interactive roles, issues, and theories related to the case of Amy and On-Ramps. The relationship of her personal motives and the organization’s goals is quite complex and presents an excellent opportunity for further discussion and evaluation.


Andrews, R. & Mostafa, A. M. S. (2019). Organizational goal ambiguity and senior public managers’ engagement: Does organizational social capital make a difference? International Review of Administrative Sciences, 85(2), 377-395.

Covey, S. R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. Simon & Shuster Inc.

Herrero, I. (2018). How familial is family social capital? Analyzing bonding social capital in family and nonfamily firms. Family Business Review, 31(4), 441-459.

Merida, T. (2015). Christ-centered exposition commentary: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. B & H Publishing Group.

Scott, W. R. & Davis, G. F. (2016). Organizations and organizing: Rational, natural, and open system perspectives (6th ed.). Routledge.

Sijbom, R. B. L., Lang, J. W. B., & Anseel, F. (2019). Leaders’ achievement goals predict employee burnout above and beyond employees’ own achievement goals. Journal of Personality, 87(3), 702-714.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version (1982). Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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