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In order to analyse the impact of benefits. and dangers. motivational theory exerts on contemporary managerial practice, it is important to analyse what is meant by contemporary managerial practice. in the first place. Ok Once the background analysis as to what contemporary
managerial practice is, the essay will develop in the attempt of analysing the ï¿½benefits. and
ï¿½dangers. mainstream motivational theories cause on modern management. The contemporary
managerial practice will be depicted mainly through the Marxist and Taylorist perspective.
However in order to portray a rather more ï¿½modern. view, an interview by George Harris (2005)
with Peter Drucker, will be used to extract certain elements of twenty-first century management.
Mainstream motivational theories will, above all, be exposed through the concepts portrayed by
Maslow, Vroom and McGregor. The essay will ultimately hypothesize that the danger of
motivational theories is not in the theoretical aspect itself, but in the practical application of the
theories adopted by management.
In the attempt of analysing the ï¿½benefits. and ï¿½dangers. of motivational theory causes to
contemporary managerial practice, the essay will evolve by analysing two central arguments.
Primarily a discussion will aim at portraying what the ï¿½contemporary managerial practice. really is.
Once the ï¿½contemporary managerial practice. has been analysed, motivational theory will be
analysed within that context, trying to unveil the ï¿½benefits. and ï¿½dangers. the theories exert. The
essay will adopt a contemporary time frame, ranging from the works on Scientific Management by
Taylor at the start of 20th Century to the modern application of motivation theories at the dawn of
the 21st Century. Good. You are right to define the time frame corresponding to what you mean by
ï¿½contemporary. Marx states that workers experience ï¿½alienation., other theorists acknowledge the
fact that a distinct separation between ï¿½workers. and ï¿½managers. exists. This separation between the
two employee categories creates the need for managers to motivate, in order to achieve the best
possible output from their labor power (Knights et all, 2007). The essay will, therefore be based on
the conception that motivation is an empowering tool (Harris, 2005), and from this conception it
will analyse the two central arguments previously mentioned.
Karl Marx famously stated that ï¿½men make history, but not under conditions of their own
choosingï¿½ (Knights et al, 2007, pg. 58), through Marx.s quotation the core conception of
ï¿½contemporary managerial practice. can be portrayed: people need coordination. Contemporary
managerial practice developed as ï¿½significant number of workers [started to become] employed by
a single capitalistï¿½ (Braverman, 1974, pg. 59). In order for the ï¿½capitalist. to achieve coordination,
he needed a system of ï¿½guidance. and ï¿½control. for his labor power. However in modern managerial
practice, power lies within a group of capitalists: the shareholders (Harris, 2005). It can therefore be
said, that to a certain extent, twenty-first century capitalism sees the managerial force itself as part
of the labor force, and the shareholders as the capitalists. Agreed. Another (post-marxist)
conception is that the dichotomy worker-owner is less salient than in the 19th Century, in part
because of the advent of a class of rich employees who represent the interests of owners and in part
because of the mass ownership of many firms by a large amount of upper middle class people.
With the large growth in organizations the US experienced during the early twentieth
century, Taylorism developed as a ï¿½management method and [way for] organization of laborï¿½
(Braverman, 1974, pg. 85). Taylor.s approach was ï¿½an attempt to apply the methods of science to
the increasingly complex problems of the control of laborï¿½ (Braverman, 1974, pg. 86). With the
contemporary managerial practice becoming more complex, and with more labor power to be
controlled and coordinated, new methods to do so had to be found. Taylor.s piece rate wage system
can be said to be both a control method, as well as a motivating method. Absolutely. Therefore
taken into consideration the basic conception of capitalism, expressed by Marx, and its modern
prospective in the twenty-first century, it can be said that contemporary managerial practice, is the
practice of control and coordination. Motivational methods derived from mainstream motivational
theories, can be seen as the means to achieve coordination and efficient productivity (Knights,
Having depicted in general terms the basic structure of the ï¿½contemporary managerial
practice., the essay will now develop in analysing the ï¿½benefits. and ï¿½dangers. motivational theories
have on it. The essay will develop through the conviction that contemporary managerial world still
heavily relies upon theories exposed by Marx and Taylor in past centuries.
ï¿½For the man who is extremely and dangerously hungry, no other interest exists but foodï¿½
(Maslow, 1987, pg. 37), if this quotation is taken literally, then it has little significance. However if
it is interpreted as a metaphor for human behavior, then its application is immense, because humans
seem to be motivated solely by their ï¿½needs. (Maslow, 1987). Ok Maslow.s theory implies that
human needs must be satisfied (Maslow, 1987). If managers know the basic needs that must be
guaranteed satisfaction for their workers. then most likely they will act to provide human needs
satisfaction, this can be considered a ï¿½benefit. for managerial practice. However according to
Maslow, if workers are guaranteed a particular need, then they will develop the necessity to satisfy
another need, most likely even more demanding for management to guarantee than the previous. ï¿½If
the physiological needs are relatively well gratified, there then emerges a new set of needsï¿½
(Maslow, 1987, pg. 39), in a modern workplace environment, basic needs, such as ï¿½physiological.
and ï¿½safety. needs tend to be satisfied. However the importance for managerial practice resides in
attempting to deliver satisfaction of the more complex needs, ï¿½belongingness. ï¿½esteem. and ï¿½self-
actualization. needs. If the need for ï¿½belongingness. where to be analysed, it might be said that this
need might never be reached at lower levels of an organisation. According to Marx at a blue-collar
worker level, alienation from others might be experienced; therefore, management will not be able
to provide means to encourage the satisfying of ï¿½belongingness. needs. Therefore, although
Maslow.s theory might bring the benefit of knowing certain needs exist, one danger management
might encounter, is that it will be hard to apply this theory to all levels of an organization. The
achievement of human needs also vary according to which cultural background a person might
belong to. Therefore the idea that human needs are standard between all people, is too simplistic,
and could become a ï¿½danger. for contemporary managerial practice. Yes. This is convincing.
A common ï¿½danger. of motivational theories, is that of cultural boundaries. Maslow.s theory
certainly can be afflicted by such dangers. ï¿½Two different cultures may provide two completely
different ways of satisfying a particular desireï¿½ï¿½ (Maslow, 1987, pg. 22). In a global economy, if a
multinational organization adopts similar motivational techniques in every nation it operates in,
then it risks to create a malfunctioning method of motivation. However some research seems to
suggest that differences in desire of needs is not as different as it could be thought to be. Hair,
Ghiselli and Porter (1963) conducted a cultural study to demonstrate how managers from different
cultural backgrounds rate needs on Maslow.s hierarchy of needs. The results were striking:
ï¿½Spanish managers were nor appreciably different from German managers or English managers ï¿½
their reports of their motivationsï¿½ (Vroom, 1965, pg. 22). Therefore, although, there is research,
which seems to suggest that cultural differences might not be present at a high degree, I believe that
how managers implement methods of ï¿½exploiting. human needs is significantly different according
to culture. The danger, for example, is that the actual meaning of ï¿½self-actualization. might differ
according to cultural background. This has a significant impact on managerial practice, and if not
ï¿½managed. correctly it could present a ï¿½danger. to the organisation. Ok. Am I right to guess that you
use ï¿½danger. in inverted comas to suggest that it may be identified as a danger by some groups but
A further ï¿½danger., which Maslow.s theory may exert on modern managerial practice, is that
it disregards, to a certain degree, the effect of the ï¿½environment. on human motivation. ï¿½Human
motivation rarely actualised itself in behavior except in relation to the situation and to other peopleï¿½
(Maslow, 1987, pg. 28). The effect of workplace relationships differs greatly from the type of
organization one analyses. Therefore if the organization in question is a small or medium enterprise
(SME), employees might experience greater ï¿½belongingness., because of more frequent and closer
contacts with co-workers. However if the organization in question is a large multinational
corporation, then belongingness needs might be harder to achieve, and ï¿½alienation. might be
experienced even at managerial level (Knights, 2007). Therefore the danger for managerial practice
resides in how theories are applied to practice. Motivational theories will be adopted differently in a
SME than they would in a large multinational corporation.
Maslow.s theory provides a core foundation for understanding motivation through human
needs. However, although it can be used as a ï¿½fundamental. theory, its dangers are evident, since it
seems to be too generic for effective implementation in managerial practice. However it is hard to
find mainstream motivational theories, which do not exceed in generalisation, for obvious practical
Vroom states that motivation in essence is the moment in which ï¿½the person is able to
perform or not perform the act at willï¿½ (Vroom, 1965, pg. 7) [sounds very much like (a certain
conception of) freedom to me]. Motivational theories seem to all derive from general
generalizations about human behavior, Maslow seems to suggest that ï¿½human needs. are innate, on
the other hand Vroom suggests that motivation is achieved through interaction, as well as through
ï¿½valence. ï¿½expectancy. and ï¿½instrumentality. (Knights, 2007). I believe the greatest beneficial effect
of Vroom.s theory on managerial practice, is the concept of ï¿½valence. (Vroom, 1992). The benefit
would consist in the fact that if management knows people are driven by what they expect the
outcome to be, then a method might be conceived to encourage employees in believing their actions
will be ultimately ï¿½rewarded.. By doing so employees will be motivated, according to Vroom, only
the expectations they develop about their work (syntax?). This concept guarantees a great benefit
for managerial practice, mainly because motivation can be achieved through little managerial effort.
For example motivation could be achieved via great encouragement speeches, and reward systems.
However the ï¿½danger. for managerial practice, exposed by Vroom.s theory, is immense. If
employees develop low expectations from their work, then they will be unmotivated, and
productivity will ultimately drop (Knights, 2007).
Vroom.s theory seems to suggest that every individual has an individualistic approach on
motivation; in other words, individuals drive their own motivation. However this is not always the
case in mainstream motivational theories. Douglas McGregor, on the other hand, seems to suggest
that management has the stronger impact on employee motivation, or in more general terms: some
people have a significant impact on other people (Knights, 2007).
McGregor tries to analyse how to ï¿½tap the unrealised potential present in human resourcesï¿½
(McGregor, 1960, pg. 4). McGregor.s ï¿½Theory X and Theory Y. can be said to be a beneficial tool
for managerial practice, because it essentially portrays what can be expected from employees, and
managerial practice styles can consequently be derived from what is expected.
Theory X.s is based upon the general assumption that the average worker is ï¿½passive.,
requires ï¿½intervention. from management to be ï¿½persuaded. and motivated (Knights, 2007). In the
modern managerial environment theory X can be said to still have a strong influence on managerial
decisions, to a certain extent. In fact, if the incentive schemes used to ï¿½persuade. employees in
achieving target goals are analysed, they are merely objectives set by management in order to
ï¿½direct. and coordinate the worker.s efforts. ï¿½The average human being prefers to be directed,
wishes to avoid responsibility, has relatively little ambition, wants security above allï¿½ (McGregor,
1960, pg. 34). If these beliefs McGregor exposes in his Theory X are taken into account in the
modern workplace, then it might seem that managerial practice has the complete responsibility of
directing and controlling the labor force. However evidence also tends to demonstrate that twenty-
first century managerial practice is moving more towards a position of individual empowerment
(Harris, 2005). Therefore a modern manager might be described more as a Theory Y type of
individual rather than a Theory X, and if managerial practice were to relay upon Theory X
assumptions too heavily it could comprise danger for the whole enterprise.
However if some of the aspects expressed in McGregor.s Theory X were not true, then
managerial control systems would not be present in companies (McGregor, 1960). Therefore the
benefits, which could be derived from McGregor.s mainstream theory is that it enforces
management not to completely bypass the assumption that some employees might need and want
guidance and coordination. However it should also create awareness that some employees might be
more ambitious, and require a degree of freedom to work at their best. McGregor.s theory therefore
greatly benefits managerial practice, in that it provides a core knowledge for managers, so that they
can direct their managerial style in accordance to the type of employee they are faced with (Al-
However, I believe, that evidence exists which suggests that in the modern organisation
Theory X beliefs are still present yes. An example would be stock option plans for managers. If
Theory Y completely dominates, then theoretically there will not be the need to encourage
managers. work via stock option plans. Therefore the benefit in knowing the application of
McGregor.s theories, relies on the fact that it allows management to make better decision-making in
regard of which motivational method to choose. However the danger might consist in relaying too
heavily upon one of the two theories more than the other. This would compromise the stability or
performance of the company, because it would not take into consideration that both Theory X and
Theory Y types of employee exist, and that both require different styles of managerial style.
Ultimately, it is also true, that the needs at different levels of the organisation are extremely
different (Knight, 2007). In fact, a production worker will have different needs, and ambitions, then
a top manager, and if management generalizes McGregor.s theories, this could consist in an
enormous ï¿½danger. for the entire organization. I agree. In your view, what causes these differences
Taking into consideration all the benefits and dangers which have been analyzed, I believe a
common ï¿½danger. to managerial practice, is found in all theories. Motivational methods tend to be
dictated from top management. Therefore, I believe a great danger resides in the fact that when
management turnover takes place, for example a change in the CEO of the company, all the
motivational methods knowledge ï¿½leaves. with him. Well, in big firms, CEOs are often trained in
similar ways. If this is the case, chances are that the next CEO will use the same recipes.
Motivational theories in fact, do not provide practical applications; therefore if the previous
management leaves no practical knowledge, the new management taking over the position might
dramatically restructure motivation methods based on completely new motivational theories. This
would consist in a great danger for the organisation. Therefore the greatest danger might reside in
the fact of basing a ï¿½practical discipline. as management is, on theoretical approaches, and leaving it
up to the present management at the time to develop practical applications of those theories. It can
therefore be speculated that the ï¿½danger. for managerial practice, is not in the theories themselves,
but rather in the practical application by the managerial force, which adopts them (Best, 2000). Yes.
Another aspect of the gap between the theory and practice of motivation is that theories can at best
complement, without replacing, the tacit knowledge of her employees that a (paternalist) manager
ï¿½Possibilities are not recognized, innovating efforts are not undertaken, until theoretical
conceptions lay a groundwork for themï¿½ (McGregor, 1960, pg. 54). The essay could be easily
summarized through McGregor.s quotation. In fact, motivational theories seem to have ï¿½benefited.
contemporary managerial practice through the provision of a ï¿½groundwork. from which
management styles can develop in motivating employees. However the ï¿½dangers. seem to derive
when the ï¿½theoretical background. is not applied in accordance with the managerial environment it
is established in. Nikolas Rose.s statement, based on Marxist beliefs, that: ï¿½in work, it would
appear, the worker is no more than a factor of production, just one factor among many caught up in
a process whose sole rationale is profitï¿½ (Rose, 1989, pg. 55), seems to be slowly(?) fading as a
conception. In twenty-first century management, although Taylorist and Marxist beliefs are still
present, the emphasis seems to have shifted more towards employee empowerment, namely
McGregor.s Theory Y, as a means of motivation (Harris, 2005). Ultimately I believe that the
ï¿½benefits. and ï¿½dangers. do not reside in the motivational theories themselves, but in how
management applies the theories to everyday managerial practice. Therefore it can be said that it is
up to managerial practice to avoid the ï¿½dangers. motivational theories can cause, and seek to
achieve the ï¿½benefits. they might bring to the enterprise.
This is a very good essay. Clear. Well-structured. Nicely written. You address the question
and have skilfully avoided drawing an empty catalogue of theories of motivation.