Current And Traditional Approaches To Motivation Business Essay


In this dissertation paper I am going to provide a definition of motivation, describe and explain the differences between current and traditional approaches to motivation and identify and describe all motivation theories including content, process and reinforcement theories. I am going to explore the way motivation influences performance and explore ways in which managers can create a sense of meaning and importance for employees within their working environment.


In this paragraph I have the need to express my deepest gratitude to all the people that in one way or another contributed in the gathering of information and successful completing of this dissertation paper.

First of all I would like to thank my tutor please state the name of your tutor, whose constant advising and guiding has offered me wealth of knowledge and support throughout my years of study.

I would also like to thank my internship and at the time work supervisor, for showing me that theory can be put into practice and even though there might be difficulties in applying academic theories, results compensate for all the effort that is put in these actions.

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Last but not least I would like to thank my parents that offered me the opportunity to continue my studies at this academic level and have supported my efforts, both morally and financially, throughout all my years of study.



Motivation is not a new managerial or leader's tool. It has been used for years and therefore a number of motivation theories exist, current and traditional ones. However applying motivational theories in practice makes us come across difficulties that have to do with each individual employee. Personality, needs and goals are factors to take under consideration before applying any motivational theory to a group of employees in order to make sure that positive results with derive from this effort.

Daily change makes its appearance due to either market switches or technological achievements. Every industry faces changes and in most cases senior employees become outdate and reduce their productivity. Younger and more energetic employees become their managers, leaving them with no other personal goal rather than to wait for their retirement.

So companies have come to a point where, what used to be once the most productive part of their manpower stop producing. Even if the new employees fill the gap of the reduced production (or sales) the company still is at loss and that has to be corrected.

During this effort to produce a realistic and actual solution to this problem, I came across the strongest limitation I could ever encounter. Motivation, as well as all the factors it involves cannot be observed directly. All theories and their evaluation derive from the final outcome of a person's actions. However our observation of that result makes the steps followed previously seem rational and make sense. But it is not until the final result is measured that we actually know if the method used was the correct one or the most efficient one.

So, in order to provide a solution I am going to present the data collected from my research and attempt an analysis that will offer a number of proposed solutions. I can not claim that this paper includes new motivational theories and concepts. However, I believe that it depicts, analyzes and offers solutions to a major problem of out time.

The motivation Concept

"Motivation refers to the forces either within or external to a person that arouse enthusiasm and persistence to pursue a certain course of action." Richard L. Daft, 2006.

Every day, from the very morning we wake up, we are involved into actions. We go to school, or to work, we have a certain behavior, but it is very rare for as to question the reason behind, us liking some activities more than others. For instance why do we enjoy one class more, or certain projects at work bring out the best of us. However our behavior is always motivated by something.

The following table will help us indentify what hides behind our behavior.

Model of Motivation. Source Modified from Games H. Donnely, James L. Gibson, and john M. Ivancevich, Fundamentals of Managemnet, 3rd edition, p. 185, 1978, by Business Publications, Inc.

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The needs we feel depend on our recent activity. For example, some one who is attenting a dinner event and has just eaten, may not feel hungry but yet wishes to communicate and entertain. On the other hand someone who is just returning from work and had no meal during the day, is hungry and probably has no mood for social interraction until he/ she eats. So, what we want (our goals) depends on our

approaches to satisfying our needs. Let us not forget that the approach to satisfying one's need may seem logical to the person involved, but strange to someone who has other needs to fulfill.

The next step is to follow a certain behavior that will lead to reaching our goals. This effort might tow different outcomes. One is the goal's achievement which gives feedback that the behavior used to satisfy the needs is succesful. However a continious effort with no success will bring frustration, in which case the person involved may either try a new constructive behavior (actually involves new search behavior, goal indentification and goal-directed behavior). If again numerous efforts do not succeed, psychological defense is put to use, meaning that the person involved avoids thinking and feeling of the need even though it is not fully or at all fulfilled.

When a goal is achieved a person received a sort of reward, that indicate that the behavior followed was the appropriate one and is to be used again in the future. There are two types of rewards.

The instrinsic reward, which derives within the person involved and has do more with the sense of self fulfillment. And the extrinsic reward, which is given by a third person a supervisor or manager and could be a promotion, or bonus. Both types of rewards are important for an employee. Successful managers help their employees reach their intrinsic reward, while offering them extrinsic rewards too. It has been observed that the most innovating and high performance employees are the ones that find reward in the work itself.

It is only natural to conclude, enen though studies have also proven it so, that employee motivaton leads to high performance nad increases productivity and profits.

motivation approaches

There are four motivation approaches and the managers form the way they use motivation and rewards according the motivation approach they choose to follow.

The Traditional Approach

Frederic W. Taylor was the first who studied employee motivation in order to increase their work efficiency. The rewards of this approach are only financial. The employee is paid more according the to quality and quantity of the work produced.

The Human Relations Approach

The human resource approach takes a step further that the traditional approach. For the first time employees were studied as people and managers tried to provide rewards that covered social needs as well, which seemed more important that economic rewards.

The Human Resource Approach

This approach brings the two previous approached to a new level. This theory actually identifies employees as complex human beings that can be motivated in more than one way. According to the human resource approach, working a vital activity for every person. This is the basis of the contemporary approach.

The Contemporary Approach

Three types of theories dominate the contemporary approach. The content theories point out the employees' needs and help managers identify them and fulfill them in the working environment. Process theories are focused on the behavior the employees embrace in order to reach rewards within the work place. The third and final are the reinforcement theories that focus on how employees are going to be trained into a certain type of behavior, within their working environment that will lead them to the desired result and thus the reward as well.

Content theories on motivation

Understanding what motivates employees is a key aspect of management and can assist in achieving high performance standards and organizational development. Content theories seek to identify what people need at work and additionally how they try to meet these needs. Managers need to understand the variety of needs employees are trying to fulfill and design work in such way as to help them satisfy these needs but at the same time reach organizational goals as well.

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So, this theory focuses on the needs that drive employees. People have all sorts of needs, at one time or another, from basic needs such as food and clothing to achievement and money rewards. Content theories help identify the needs that act as motivators and make people adopt behaviors that will lead them to fulfill these needs. So, all management has to do is to design jobs that will meet theses needs and promote desired work behaviors.

The Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Developed by Abraham Maslow, the hierarchy of needs theory may be the most famous theories and identifies that people have multiple needs which are put in hierarchical order.

According to Maslow human needs form a pyramid, at the base of the pyramid are most basic human needs, also knows are physiological needs. They involve eating food, drinking water, breathing air. Within a working environment these needs represent salary to ensure survival as well working condition up to sufficient heat and air supply.

Just above are the safety needs that represent the needs for a safe and secure environment. Following are the belongingness needs and they include the need of feeling part of a group, having good relations with other co workers and generally being accepted as a team member.

Then come the esteem needs that mainly have to do with receiving recognition and positive attention, being appreciated and motivated by receiving praise, promotion and more responsibilities. Last come the self actualization needs that represent the need for self fulfillment. Within an organization self actualization is reached when employees are provided with opportunities for growth, creativity and training.

According to Maslow the needs at the base of the pyramid must be met, before the one at the top are satisfied. Once one level of needs is satisfied then the person seeks to fulfill the next in hierarchy level of needs.

The ERG Theory

The ERG theory is "a modification of the needs hierarchy that proposes three categories of need: existence, relatedness and growth." (Richard L. Daft, 2006). This theory was developed by Clayton Alderfer that actually modified Maslow's theory.

He simplified the needs and set the tree below categories:

Existence needs, are the needs of physical well being that include food, water, air, heat, safety and so on.

Relatedness needs, are the needs to have relationship with others.

Growth needs, are needs that focus mainly on a person's development.

This theory also suggest that when an employee fails to fulfill a higher level need, as the need of personal growth, then turns back and focuses on an already fulfilled need, as the need to earn more money.

This theory explains why companies are working so hard in order to find ways to show recognition and encourage participation of employees in decision making. The reason is that employees that contribute ideas and feel appreciated feel valued, loyal and motivated. It is also important to note that when an employee's idea is actually implemented the positive affect of motivation influences not only the employee involved but the entire work force, that sees hope for their efforts to be recognized and appreciated as well.

It is also important to note, at this point that other actions such as offering job flexibility enhance motivation within organizations. Such actions include telecommunicating, flexible hours, and job sharing, enables employees to have more control over their work and responsibility for its organization. Job flexibility is considered an important benefit that makes employees more committed to the company they work for. Additionally companies have tried to make employees feel that there is connectivity between their personal and working life, by trying to add the element of fun in the workplace, making less strict rules and making work something more pleasant and personal.

The Two-Factor Theory

The two-factor theory was developed by Frederic Herzberg, who after interviewing large number of employees concluded that there are two factors that influence work motivation.

The first set of factor is also called hygiene factors. Are the factors that make an employee not satisfied, but not dissatisfied with the working environment. They include work condition, payment and interpersonal relationships. When the hygiene factors are low then the employee is more likely to be dissatisfied. It is important to note that good hygiene factors only remove dissatisfaction, but do not provoke satisfaction.

The second set of factors are called motivators. They are mainly focused on the higher level of needs, such as recognition, achievement, personal growth and responsibility. The absence of motivators causes, with good hygiene factors cause neutral feeling towards work.

The conclusion of this theory is very interesting. It shows that dissatisfaction and satisfaction for one's work come from totally different factors. So managers need to correctly focus their efforts towards both factors in order to have not only, not dissatisfied employees, but also motivated ones that will increase their performance.

Acquired Needs Theory

According to David McClelland, some needs people acquire during their lifetime. These needs are not at the basis of Maslow's pyramid of needs and people are not born with them, but rather learn to have them. More specifically these needs are:

The need for Achievement.

The need for Affiliation

The need for Power

Life experiences are responsible for the acquisition of such needs. After 20 years of study McClelland concluded that people with high needs for achievement are mainly entrepreneurs, while those with high need of affiliation make good coordinators and establish good working relationships. Those with high need of power are most probably the ones to choose paths that will lead them to managerial positions.

PRocess theories on motivation

Process theories of motivation seek to understand the complex relationship between the many variable that motivation consists of. Managers need to understand what initiates behavior, and how it is directed and sustained.

There are two main process theories. The equity and the expectancy theory.

Equity Theory

The equity theory is " the process theory that focuses on individuals' perceptions of how fairly they are treated relative to others" (Richard l Daft, 2006).

J. Stacy Adams, who developed the theory, claims that people are motivated by seeking social equity. If people believe that they are compensated as much as others for a relative equal contribution, then they would feel that they are fairly treated. In order for people to measure equity they use a ration of inputs (that are effort, education, experience and ability) to outputs (that are recognition, payment, promotions and benefits). Equity is achieved when one's person's ration equals another's person's ratio. Within a working environment that inequity is perceived there is tension and a strive to bring equity back.

The methods most commonly used to correct inequity are:

Change inputs. For example a person that is overpaid may increase effort while a personal that is underpaid may decrease it.

Change outcomes. For example an employee or a union may request a raise or better working conditions in order to equal input with output, relatively to better paid employees.

Distort perception In such cases, people artificially believe and make others believe that their job position is more important than it really is, or that someone else's benefits are not so important as they might sound. This brings a delusional balance.

Leave the job. For example people that feel that there is no equity will seek another working environment that is more balanced.

Expectancy Theory

According to the expectancy theory, motivation depend on individual's expectations about their ability to perform tasks and receive desired rewards. It is concerned with the thinking process people use in order to be rewarded. Based on individual effort and performance it involves the following:

Whether the effort that will be put into a task will result to the desired performance level.

Whether the successful performance will bring the desired outcome.

Whether the value of the outcome is highly valued by the employee as well.

High expectancy and high valued outcome leads to high motivation, otherwise motivation level is low. So actually this model theory is not concerned with the needs people have and how they act as motivators. It focuses on they way employees think in order to achieve rewards. Since each employee is a personal with different personality, their goals may differ as well and seek to satisfy different needs.

This personalization of needs brings implications for management. Since the goal of the management team is to help employees meet their own goals but at the same time meet the company's goals as well, managers need to make sure that personal abilities match the job demands and at the same time that each employee is given the time, equipment and support needed to reach the goals set.

The Goal Setting Theory

It has been observed that employees seem to be more motivated when specific targets are given to them to achieve. The goal needs to be specific, attainable and accepted by the employees. The last and one of the most important elements of his theory is feedback. Performance feedback is crucial in order to sustain desired work behavior, though motivation.

According to Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, who came up with this theory, goal setting increases motivation because it helps employees target their energy and efforts towards one direction. Challenge is another strong motivator, when asked to achieve difficult goals, that drives employees into putting in more effort to reach their goal achievement.

Reinforcement theories on motivation

The reinforcement theory does not involve approaches according to the needs and ways of thinking of the employees. It is only based on the relationship between behavior and consequences.

The law of affect is what rules over this theory. A behavior that is rewarded tends to be repeated when a behavior that is punished tends to be corrected. So a positive reinforcement, is a pleasant rewarding for an employee's working behavior and may consist of praise, promotion, more responsibility, work flexibility, social recognition. This tool of reinforcement theory shows that non financial incentives have proven to be as powerful as the financial ones.

Another tool is negative reinforcement, that mainly indicates that a negative consequences will stop once the desired behavior is adopted. Punishment is another tool that suggests that an undesirable working behavior suffers consequences, however this tools fails to point out the desired or "correct" behavior, since it provide only negative input to the employee. The last reinforcement tool is extinction, that involves the withdrawal of positive rewards such as praises, pay raises.

Reinforcement Schedules

There are five basic types of reinforcement schedules, according to which the timing and frequency of reinforcement have the desired impact on employees.

Continuous reinforcement is one method, suggesting that every time the desired behavior occurs it is reinforced. This strategy is especially effective in the early stages of learning desired working behaviors.

Partial reinforcement suggests that positive reinforcement occurs only after the repeating the desired behavior several times.

Motivational ideas

No doubt, we are going through some turbulent times. Organizations seek ways to increase performance and by hiring new, young and highly ambitious employees, that are highly motivated to reach new, increased sales and productivity goals. They are positioned as managers of senior employees with precious experience and know how.

So from the one hand we have highly motivated young managers and on the other we have low motivated senior employees. What happens to them is that the seconds lose interest in their job and rather pass their time, until retirement. The loss for the organization is greater than suspected, since the under productive employees, apart from their own productivity, influence the productivity of their entire group or team.

Their behavior derives from the lack of motivation. The new, younger and inexperienced employees are put to positions above the seniors, receiving the same or even more payment. This a clear case of inequity, that influences the performance of the once strongest performers are constantly under performing even though they know they still have a lot to offer. A smart manager should try to keep feelings of equity in balance in order to keep the entire workforce motivated.


Empowering people to meet higher needs is a very good way by which management can provide motivation. In our case of the senior workers empowerment would mean power sharing, and even if new and younger employees were put in managerial positions, authority could be shared with senior employees. This way, the managerial job description would be a little altered, however senior employees would not be hostile towards the junior managers and would try to work together with them as a team. This is also a way for the senior employees to put themselves on the test and check if they could, within the current market conditions, lead their team to successful results. These employees already know the can do a good job and so empowerment at this stage only releases a motivation that already exists. Employee empowerment involve four elements that need to be given to employees in order for them to be able and accomplish their job.

Information. Employees receive all information about company performance. Access to the company's financial and operational information gives the feeling of power and importance to the employee.

Knowledge. Training programs are put together, made accessible to all employees, making sure that everyone has the knowledge required to contribute to organizational performance but also fulfill the need of personal growth.

Power. Employees have the power to make substantive decisions, influencing organization performance, within self directed work teams.

Reward. Employees are rewarded based on the companies performance. This kind of reward inspires more team work and acts as a very powerful motivator.

Giving Meaning to Work

Another way to motivate employees is to help them identify intrinsic rewards from their own work. For example in the case of the senior employees, let them give talk to seminars for new management trainees and to speak and lead sessions at conferences on district managers, helping them fulfill high level esteem and self actualization needs. Mentoring relationships could also be allowed to help towards the same direction.

Another way to give meaning to the work for the senior employees could be to put them in groups that keep close communication and make them compete on actual results.

Using the above techniques and actions will help senior employees feel respected, valued, important and empowered within the company, shooting their motivation and thus their performance to the sky.


Now that we have closely seen what motivation is and how it is applied it is time to answer the question of how does motivation actually affect performance.

Traditional and contemporary motivation theories as analyzed before suggest that there is a strong link between motivation and performance. What we actually need to do is to understand the nature of motivation. An individual employee may question the motivation theory, by simply asking "Why should I perform harder?".

Is there concrete evidence that motivation is linked to performance? In order to answer this question we need to look to this issue from another perspective. Since motivation and the factors involved in it, cannot be directly observed and it is only the final outcome that can be evaluated, let us observe what happens to performance in the lack of any motivation activity. Taking under consideration the content theories of motivation there are clear hygiene factors, such as working conditions, payment and safety, that if not fulfilled will lead to extremely low performance.

Accordingly factors such inequity or rare reinforcement also show a very low performance level. However it is very hard to expect employee behavior to follow a certain pattern and also hard to suggest to what extend a yearly or semi yearly appraisal will ensure that desired working behavior is achieved on a daily basis.

The role of the manager nowadays is not to control the workforce but more to establish the environment in which the workforce will learn, contribute and grow. Their role also includes channeling employee motivation toward the accomplishment of organizational goals, by making the best out of each employee's unique skills, talents, interests and needs.