Motivation and Work Behavior

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In a colony where recruitment happens as a newborn Z finds himself as an insignificant worker ant that has different ambitions than what he is expected to do. Each day he goes to work to build a strong foundation for the colony and finds himself tired of the monotonous life he is living. Therefore, he attempts to make a difference but this time in his own life and not just for the colony. On his journey to finding a comfortable lifestyle, the audience can pull apart the dynamic between several industrial-organizational concepts and the way he feels towards his job. Also, how motivation plays a role in not only Z's role but also his friends and his boss, General Mandible. Work Place

Behavior in Antz

DreamWorks Pictures, Antz, is an animated comedy that explores the work behavior of an organization that presents itself as a colony of ants. Here, Z, a pessimistic worker ant is expected to be a part of a colony whose main goal is to work hard to improve as a colony. His big dilemma is his desire for personal advancement. Z does not understand the idea of a gung-ho super organism. According to, back in World War II the Chinese phrase literally meant to work together with cooperative spirits especially during combat. In Z's world, thinking of oneself is considered unethical because the colony comes first. He mentions how digging dirt is not his idea of a rewarding career but his friends, Azteca and Weaver, would disagree. They find digging tunnels is everything they could ever dream of. The infatuation with the idea of being part of a greater colony is what motivates them to work with.

Work Groups and Work Teams

There are certain work environments with unwritten rules of behavior that people, in this case ants, that must follow in order to work effectively. This is what is considered an organizational norm. For example, the norm for a soldier ant is to fight in a time of war and a worker ant is expected to be productive when it comes to making their colony greater. Even the royals are expected to take part in bettering the colony. The queen reminds Princess Bala that everyone has their place even if they do not like their job. In this film, the colony as a whole is seen as a work group. This means that a collection of individuals come together to collaborate and share similar goals relating to the job. In the colony, millions of ants interact and share the same task goal: to make the colony bigger and better. The workers and the soldiers are seen as individual teams. Three characteristics must be met in order for a team to stand out from a work group.

The first one states that the group tasks must be affiliated with one another. These tasks are also organized. Secondly, each member must have a specific goal assigned to them. Lastly, for a team to be effective all members must carry out common objectives. Both teams are interdependent and coordinated with a specific goal of accomplishing objectives assigned to each ant. Each ant may have their own role but they strive for a brighter future. For instance, affiliation and organization within a job are met in the scene where the tunnel was being built, the audience can see that each ant had a different job classification such as soldiers, supervisors, diggers, and as Z likes to call himself a soil relocation engineer. The way they have specific jobs makes the whole process of building a colony an organized system. These jobs come with goals to either protect and fight for the colony or to build the colony In the case of the soldiers, their main goal was to fight when necessary.

The scene where Colonel Cutter is impressed by the tunnel acknowledges the point that one tiny ant may not be strong or be able to do much but when many ants form a team they can do great things and that is something General Mandible has a hard time realizing. The idea of group cohesiveness. Group cohesiveness is the sum of forces attracting group members and keeping the group together (Spector, P.E. p. 284). Of course this requires motivation and commitment to stay in the group, which is probably why Z could not hold on to the ball. His motivation to reach the ultimate goal of a better colony was simply not there.

Job Satisfaction and Motivation

How an employee feels about their job is known as job satisfaction. Throughout the movie, Z complains about how unhappy he is. He feels being a worker ant is not for him and says its unfair that he has to conform with the system that offers him no control over his life. Which he really had no freedom. The way they worked, the time they danced and even how they danced was controlled. That is why having autonomy to choose a career provides a sense of individualism. This is true in Z's case, at the very end of the movie he states that he is right back where he started after leaving the colony, the only difference was that this time he chose what to do with his life. When motivation is high, the more likely someone is to like their job and if they like their job there is less of a chance of burnout. On the contrary, we have Azteca who is in love with her job.

At the beginning of the movie Z comes in complaining by sarcastically saying he is ok with being a piece of construction equipment. Azteca then responds by telling him that it is not about him, it is about the colony. His pessimistic views on life effects his organizational commitment. Z does not see why he should share the common goal of slaving away to better the colony, so when he sees an opportunity to escape to Insectopia, he takes it. Lastly, he is not willing to work hard for the colony because of his lack of motivation. For example, his performance when it comes to working with his team as a wrecking ball falls short when Z literally drops the ball, causing a delay in the tunnel.

Expectancy Theory

The antagonist, General Mandible, has a dream for the colony to one day be greater. Attempting to provide a cleansed colony, he illustrates a plan to get rid of the worker ants. His close associate, Colonel Cutter, seems to have an open mind when it comes to the workers when he asks the general if they should really go through with killing them because after all they did build the tunnel. General Mandible replies by telling him he is crazy for even considering the weak ants. Later, irony strikes when Z digs through the dirt and Colonel Cutter states the weak elements were digging through. All along he knew what was good for the colony but being a high ranking soldier with more autonomy and power he struggled to refute the general's orders. The expectancy theory does not always play out the way it is intended to because it measures motivation rather that performance. It is also dependent on motivation and although the intent behind the motivation was not good it provides a model for the motivation behind the General Mandible's aggressive behavior towards the worker ants.

Even though his motivation to kill the worker ants during the tunnel opening ceremony fell through, the audience can see the characters self-confidence to be able to provide a brighter future. His strict and encroaching mannerisms acted as consequences from his motivation to make the colony great. Also, his great desire represents his valence, how far the general was willing to go to reach his malicious goal. The leader's expectancy was appropriate, he knew he had the capability to change the colony but his perception blinded him by thinking that the only way to improve the colony was to kill the worker ants. Thus he struggles to meet the performance for a better future.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) and Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB)

Z's colleague, Azteca, displays the characteristics of someone with Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB). This can include going above and beyond job requirements and aiming to better the organization. While working on building a better colony Azteca reprimands Z for thinking too much and that its not about them as much as it is about the colony. She is a compliant character who also shows altruistic qualities. Although Weaver never states that he works for the colony he is also seen as an ant whose task identity is clear and satisfying especially when he begins to handle dirt. Both of their motivation and performance line up with the presumptions of the job characteristics theory. No wonder they are attracted to one another they find that work performance is seen as skilled and meaningful, they simply enjoy it.

Counter productive work behaviors (CWB's) are behaviors exhibited from an employee that causes the organization and/or its members harm. Ironically Z drops the ball when the colony acts as a wrecking ball during construction of the tunnel. This impacted the colony development by wasting time. Z shows the audience his forced enthusiasm when he refers to himself as a piece of construction equipment. His feeling of constraints come from not having the freedom to choose his future. He seems frustrated with little control on the matter. Even when he tried to escape Princess Bala tells him that eventually they will find her and kill him.
It all comes down to who the person is and what their goals are. These goals are driven by an ambition to achieve a specific desire. When we take a look at different characters, the common objective for each ant is to achieve something.


Gung-ho. (n.d.). In Dictionary online. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from

Lewis, B. Warner, A. Wooton, P. (Producers), & Darnell, E. Johnson, T. (Directors). (October 2, 1998). Antz [Motion picture]. United States: DreamWorks Pictures.

Spector, P. E. (2016).Industrial and Organizational Psychology: Research and Practice(7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons."

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Motivation and Work Behavior. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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