What are the benefits and dangers of motivation theory

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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 ¿½benefits. and

¿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 ¿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 ¿½benefits. and ¿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 ¿½contemporary managerial practice. really is.

Once the ¿½contemporary managerial practice. has been analysed, motivational theory will be

analysed within that context, trying to unveil the ¿½benefits. and ¿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

¿½contemporary. Marx states that workers experience ¿½alienation., other theorists acknowledge the

fact that a distinct separation between ¿½workers. and ¿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 ¿½men make history, but not under conditions of their own

choosing¿½ (Knights et al, 2007, pg. 58), through Marx.s quotation the core conception of

¿½contemporary managerial practice. can be portrayed: people need coordination. Contemporary

managerial practice developed as ¿½significant number of workers [started to become] employed by

a single capitalist¿½ (Braverman, 1974, pg. 59). In order for the ¿½capitalist. to achieve coordination,

he needed a system of ¿½guidance. and ¿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 ¿½management method and [way for] organization of labor¿½

(Braverman, 1974, pg. 85). Taylor.s approach was ¿½an attempt to apply the methods of science to

the increasingly complex problems of the control of labor¿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 ¿½contemporary managerial

practice., the essay will now develop in analysing the ¿½benefits. and ¿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.

¿½For the man who is extremely and dangerously hungry, no other interest exists but food¿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 ¿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 ¿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. ¿½If

the physiological needs are relatively well gratified, there then emerges a new set of needs¿½

(Maslow, 1987, pg. 39), in a modern workplace environment, basic needs, such as ¿½physiological.

and ¿½safety. needs tend to be satisfied. However the importance for managerial practice resides in

attempting to deliver satisfaction of the more complex needs, ¿½belongingness. ¿½esteem. and ¿½self-

actualization. needs. If the need for ¿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 ¿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 ¿½danger. for contemporary managerial practice. Yes. This is convincing.

A common ¿½danger. of motivational theories, is that of cultural boundaries. Maslow.s theory

certainly can be afflicted by such dangers. ¿½Two different cultures may provide two completely

different ways of satisfying a particular desire¿½¿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:

¿½Spanish managers were nor appreciably different from German managers or English managers ¿½

their reports of their motivations¿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 ¿½exploiting. human needs is significantly different according

to culture. The danger, for example, is that the actual meaning of ¿½self-actualization. might differ

according to cultural background. This has a significant impact on managerial practice, and if not

¿½managed. correctly it could present a ¿½danger. to the organisation. Ok. Am I right to guess that you

use ¿½danger. in inverted comas to suggest that it may be identified as a danger by some groups but

not others?

A further ¿½danger., which Maslow.s theory may exert on modern managerial practice, is that

it disregards, to a certain degree, the effect of the ¿½environment. on human motivation. ¿½Human

motivation rarely actualised itself in behavior except in relation to the situation and to other people¿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 ¿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 ¿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 ¿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 ¿½the person is able to

perform or not perform the act at will¿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 ¿½human needs. are innate, on

the other hand Vroom suggests that motivation is achieved through interaction, as well as through

¿½valence. ¿½expectancy. and ¿½instrumentality. (Knights, 2007). I believe the greatest beneficial effect

of Vroom.s theory on managerial practice, is the concept of ¿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 ¿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 ¿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 ¿½tap the unrealised potential present in human resources¿½

(McGregor, 1960, pg. 4). McGregor.s ¿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 ¿½passive.,

requires ¿½intervention. from management to be ¿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 ¿½persuade. employees in

achieving target goals are analysed, they are merely objectives set by management in order to

¿½direct. and coordinate the worker.s efforts. ¿½The average human being prefers to be directed,

wishes to avoid responsibility, has relatively little ambition, wants security above all¿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-

Amoudi, 2007).

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 ¿½danger. for the entire organization. I agree. In your view, what causes these differences

in needs?

Taking into consideration all the benefits and dangers which have been analyzed, I believe a

common ¿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 ¿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 ¿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 ¿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

may have.

¿½Possibilities are not recognized, innovating efforts are not undertaken, until theoretical

conceptions lay a groundwork for them¿½ (McGregor, 1960, pg. 54). The essay could be easily

summarized through McGregor.s quotation. In fact, motivational theories seem to have ¿½benefited.

contemporary managerial practice through the provision of a ¿½groundwork. from which

management styles can develop in motivating employees. However the ¿½dangers. seem to derive

when the ¿½theoretical background. is not applied in accordance with the managerial environment it

is established in. Nikolas Rose.s statement, based on Marxist beliefs, that: ¿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 profit¿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

¿½benefits. and ¿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 ¿½dangers. motivational theories can cause, and seek to

achieve the ¿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.