Comparing various motivation practices in countries

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A typical research on motivation and job satisfaction enlightens us that people are satisfied with their jobs to the degree that the job meets their needs and they are motivated to work in order to fill their current mix of needs. People are still motivated to excel because of certain intrinsic needs which could be achievement, appreciation of effort, self-development, meaning found in the work, recognition, power, etc.

According to Snyder and Grasberger (2004), the need for motivation was true 30years ago and will still be true 30 years later and the challenge for managers, they also said according to Porter Henry " two people can be motivated in the exact same way, and within one individual motivation may vary from time to time."

The purpose of this study is to compare motivation practices between America and Japan. If an American company wants to set up a business in Japan there is a need for them to know what motivates the Japanese to work.


The study of motivation is mainly concerned with why people behave in a particular way. According to Krech et al, (1962), motivation is concerned with why people choose a particular course of action in preference to others, and why they continue with a chosen action, mostly for a long period, and when faced with difficulties and problems. Baron and Greenberg (1990) defined motivation as a beginning to understanding work behaviour. They also defined motivation as the set of processes that stimulates, direct, and maintain human behaviour toward achieving goals (Baron and Greenberg 1990).


Mitchell (1982) says there are four main characteristics of motivation;

Motivation is characterized as an individual experience.

Motivation is described as a deliberate act.

Motivation is multifaceted.

Motivational theories are to predict behaviour.


Motivations can be categorized into two: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is related to subconscious rewards, such as the opportunity to use one's ability, a sense of challenge and achievement, receiving appreciation, positive recognition, and being treated in a caring and considerate manner (Mullins, 2002). Extrinsic motivation is related to tangible rewards such as salary and fringe benefits, security, promotion, contract of service, the work environment and conditions of work (Mullins, 2002).


Motivation theories are grouped into two main categories such as; 'content theories' that focus on the sorts of factors that produce motivation and 'process theories' that attempts to explain how motivation is related to behaviour.



According to Maslow (1943), needs can be classified into a hierarchy. The hierarchy of needs is shown as a series of steps, and is usually displayed in the form of a pyramid, which is illustrated below;

(Source: Maslow, 1943)

From the illustration above, the hierarchy of needs shows the five main levels, from at the lowest level which is the physiological needs, to safety needs, social needs, and esteem needs, to the need for self-actualisation which is the highest level.


One of the known views of work motivation is Herzberg's two-factor theory, where he examined the job attitudes of 200 accountants and engineers. These factors are the hygiene factor and motivator factor (Herzberg et al, 1959).

Hygiene Factors

Hygiene factors are factors based on the need for a business to avoid conflict at work. If these factors are viewed inadequately by employees, it can lead to dissatisfaction at work. Hygiene factors include:, income, salaries and other financial remuneration, feelings of job security, Quality of inter-personal relations, working conditions etc (Mullins, 2002).

Motivator Factors

Motivator factors are factors based on an individual's need for personal growth. Motivator factors strongly create job satisfaction and if they are effective, it can lead to motivating an individual to achieve a high performance and effort. These motivator factors include: Gaining recognition, Status, Opportunity for advancement, Challenging /stimulating work, sense of personal achievement & personal growth in a job (Lloyds and Basset-Jones 2005).

There is a connection between Herzberg's and Maslow's models. They both argue that needs have to be satisfied for the employee to be motivated. Nevertheless, Herzberg argues that it's only the higher levels of the Maslow Hierarchy which is the self-actualisation, esteem needs that acts as a motivator. The remaining needs can lead to dissatisfaction if not handled (Herzberg et al, 1959) while Maslow says that the needs of the next higher level in the hierarchy demand satisfaction and become the motivating influence. Thus Maslow states that 'a satisfied need is no longer a motivator' (Maslow, 1943).


McGregor developed two theories at work namely; theory X and theory Y.

Theory X includes;

1. Individual dislikes work and will avoid it if it's possible.

2. Individual must be forced and if possible bribed before he can put out the right effort.

3. Individual would prefer to be led than accept responsibility, which he avoids.

4. Individual is motivated mostly by money and desire security.

Theory Y includes;

1. Work is necessary to man's psychological growth that is he considers work as just rest and play.

2. Individuals are interested in their work and, under the right conditions that they enjoy it.

3. Individual will direct himself towards an accepted target.

4. Under the right conditions man is motivated by the desire to realize his own potential.

5. Vision and originality are widely distributed.

If managers choose to use either the set of ideas related with theory X or Theory Y, there will be a tendency for people in the organisation to respond to the way they are being managed. Therefore, if employees feel that they are not being trusted, they may behave in a less trustworthy way.


Alderfer (1972) attempted to focus on the limitations in Maslow's theory by associating the needs hierarchy with empirical research (Robbins, 1998). A modified need hierarchy model in this case proposed three, instead of five, levels based on the core needs of Existence, Relatedness and Growth (ERG theory).

The existence needs include the basic human needs that are necessary for existence, which are the physiological and safety needs. The relatedness needs refer to man's desire to maintain important interpersonal relationships which are man's social, acceptance, belongingness and status desires. The growth needs represent man's desire for personal development, self-fulfilment and self-actualization (Arnolds and Boshoff, 2002).



hierarchy of needs


ERG theory


two-factor theory




Hygiene Factors







(Source: Mullins, 2002)

From the diagram above, the hygiene factors can be related nearly to Maslow's lower-level needs and the motivators to Maslow's higher-level needs. However, the motivation-hygiene theory has extended Maslow's hierarchy of need theory and is more directly applicable to the work situation. According to Ellis and Dick, (2000), the opposite of dissatisfaction is not satisfaction (Ellis and Dick, 2000). It is argues that if management is to provide positive motivation then attention must not only be given to hygiene factors, but also to the motivating factors. In other words, for employees to be motivated, managers must use motivation factors and not simply remove the dissatisfiers (Herzberg et al, 1959).

Vroom (1964) claims that this theory was only one of many conclusions that could be drawn from the research. Despite these shortcomings, Herzberg's two-factor theory has a substantial influence on the thinking of managers and researchers. Most studies of this theory reveal the relatively greater importance of psychological factors versus environmental factors (Vecchio, 1995).



Expectancy is the relationship between a chosen course of action and its foreseen outcome. Vroom (1964) was the first person to propose an expectancy theory aimed specifically at work motivation. Vroom's model was based on three key variables: valence, instrumentality and expectancy (VIA). He argued that motivation at work was the perception of a link between effort and reward. Feeling this link could be thought of as a process in which individuals calculated first whether there was a relationship between effort and reward and then the chance (valences) would follow from high performance (instrumentality.) This leads to a difference between first-level outcomes which is performance-related and second-level outcomes which is need-related. Instrumentality is the association between first-level outcomes and second-level outcomes (Mullins, 2002). Several clear assumptions for motivating others can be derived from expectancy theory. If managers want to affect employee behaviour by applying expectancy theory, what should be considered is if the potential rewards for the behaviour are highly valued by the individual, or if the individual believes that the reward will be received if he or she behaves as required (Vecchio, 1995).


According to Tremblay and Roussel, 2001, justice is an important motivator for working people (Tremblay and Roussel, 2001). Adams' (1965) theory was basically on the concept of social comparison. Festinger defined social comparison as a process by which individuals compare themselves with other people as to arrive at a self-judgement (Festinger, 1954). Adams' equity theory believed that a higher level of job satisfaction comes from individuals who perceive their overall situation to be equitable and also adopt a better work behaviour than those individuals who feel they are been treated unjustly (Sweeney, 1990).


Goal theory is based mainly on the work of Locke (1968). The key foundation of goal theory is that people's goals or objective play a major role in determining behaviour. People try to achieve a certain goal in order to fulfil their desire or emotion. Goals guide people's responses and actions, direct work behaviour and performance, and lead to certain consequences or feedback (Gordon, 2002). Individuals with specific quantitative goals will perform better than people with no set goal or only a vague goal, such as 'do the best you can'. Ellis and Dick also argued that individuals with difficult goals will do better than those with easier goals (Ellis and Dick, 2000).


American employees are motivated based on pay, advancement, supervision etc (Lewis 2006). Jurgensen 1978 found differences in desires for attributes such as advancement, pay, supervision, and type of work across age groups and between men and women. According to Fisher and Yuan 1998 employees reported that pay was fifth in importance to them, but felt that it was first in importance to other people and also security and interesting work top rated in America. Full appreciation at work place is ranked first in importance by US employees, 'good wages' is also a motivating factor for US employees. Job security was ranked first or second in Jurgensen's records between 1949 and 1975 but in the early 1990s it seems to be floating at around third or fourth place in the US. One might expect that it would have less importance in China for several reasons (Fisher and Yuan 1998). The US employees also find interesting work as a motivating factor at present, and promotion and growth are relatively important too. In reviewing the history of US work psychology, pay was considered the primary motivator at the start of the century, social relations and job satisfaction came to the fore in the 1930s, and interesting work was not 'discovered' as an important variable for rank and file employees until the 1950s(Fisher and Yuan 1998).


The Japanese executives give motivational factor the highest priority. In fact, a Japanese present president of a Japanese-affiliated company commented that Japanese business people were more familiar with 'management by objective' than Korean people were (Usugami and park 2006). Based on this, the Japanese executives are likely to consider 'clarifying company policy and job objectives' as a strong motivational factor, based on the business strategy they have implemented.

Both the Korean and Japanese executives recognize maintenance and improvement of employee motivation as an important management issue for the sake of high corporate performance and employee job satisfaction. The Japanese recognize 'wage and bonus increases' and 'opportunity and speed of promotion and career development' as strong motivational factors. 'Fringe benefits' and 'good human relationships and communication in the workplace' are serious hygiene factors for them. In other words, the motivational factor of Herzberg's two-factor theory is what motivates the Japanese, while it is a hygiene factor to Korean (Usugami and park 2006).


If an American company wants to set up a business in Japan, there is a need for them to know what motivates the Japanese workers. The problem that an American manager will face in Japan will basically be on the issues raised based on the motivational factor of Herzberg's two-factor theory in Japan. The problem on communication may not necessary be problematic for the manager since the Japanese's communication flows is participative as continual interactions and exchange of information is present in the Japanese culture as this is also present in the American culture.


However, the motivation theory can be responsible for the performance of workers and for the attainment of organizational goals. Furthermore, the employees' view of their relationship with their employer or manager, and in particular the level of support they receive from them, would seem to influence performance. To solve the problem associated with difference in motivation theory, it is important for the Americans to be trained so as to understand and be aware of such differences in its culture and also to know how the Japanese employees can be motivated.

Understanding how the Japanese work is also very important, what motives them and their general attitude towards their job is very relevant

An appropriate understanding of both the verbal and non verbal communication style of the Japanese people should be well understood by the Americans, as communication is also a vital aspect of motivation because the subordinate are given order through communication.


The world is becoming a small global village and as such, people move from one geographical area to another and these leads to meeting people from different cultural cluster to another resulting to the mingling between people from different culture and regions, therefore interaction with people cannot be ignored.