Motivation is a key element of organisational behaviour and is described by Robins (2008) as the process that accounts for an individual’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort towards attaining a goal. Over the years there has been much research into the effectiveness of motivation in the workplace and whether happier workers are more productive workers (Robins, 2008). Robins (2008) indicates that over 300 studies have compared the worker satisfaction-performance relationship. When satisfaction and productivity data are gathered for organisations as a whole we find that organisations with more satisfied employees tend to be more effective than organisations with fewer satisfied employees (Robins, 2008). We can clearly see that satisfied employees make more effective organisations and these studies have highlighted the importance of motivation in the workplace as nowadays most companies are looking into ways to improve efficiency, productivity and quality in the workplace (Halepota, 2005).
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There are many motivational theories around today however they can all be divided into two categories termed content and process (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). Fincham & Rhodes (2005) explain that content theories assume that all individuals possess the same set of needs, and process theories emphasise the role of an individual’s cognitive processes in determining their level of motivation. The two content theories of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Frederick Herzberg’s two factor theory are the motivational theories that are going to be compared and contrasted and then seen how they can be put into practice by managers to motivate their staff.
Abraham Maslow outlined what is perhaps the most influential of the content theories, the hierarchy of needs (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). Fincham & Rhodes (2005) point out that Maslow believed human needs are instinctive in nature and have their basis in our biogenetic and evolutionary heritage, therefore Maslow believed that motivation was largely an unconscious process.
Maslow did not originally intend this theory to be an exploration of motivation in the workplace however such its acceptance that it is often included on training and teaching course as if it were true, rather than an interesting but problematic set of observations about what motivates us (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005).
The hierarchy is based on the theory that within every human being exists a theory of 5 needs, as each one of these needs become substantially satisfied the next becomes dominant (Robins, 2008). Robins (2008) goes on to describe the levels of the hierarchy in order beginning with the bottom level of Physiological needs; these include hunger, thirst, shelter, sex and bodily functions. The next level is safety needs included is security and protection from physical and emotional harm. The following step up in the model are social needs, such as; affection, belongingness and acceptance and friendship. The next are esteem needs, these include internal factors such as self respect, autonomy and achievement and external ones such as status, recognition and attention. Finally the terminal level of the model is self actualisation; this is the drive to become what one is capable of becoming, this includes; growth, achieving one’s potential and self – fulfilment.
The second theory that is going to be examined is Herzberg’s two factor theory. Herzberg believes that an individual’s relation to work is basic and that one’s attitude toward work can very well determine success or failure, Herzberg asked himself, what do people really want form their jobs? (Robins, 2008). Herzberg (1968) when trying to answer this question observed that people work effectively when they are well treated physically.
Following his own ideas Herzberg initiated a study on motivation which became the basis of the two factor theory; he did this by interviewing 200 engineers and accountants. The interviewers began by asking the staff to recall a time when they had felt exceptionally good about their jobs and then probed them for reasons why they felt as they did, this was then repeated for when the time which they felt bad about their jobs and were again asked to describe why (Herzberg 1968).
The results of the interviews were recorded and then summarised; five factors stood out as strong determiners of job satisfaction, they were; achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility and advancement. The major dissatisfying factors were; company policy and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations and working conditions (Herzberg, 1968).
Herzberg (1968) observed that the dissatisfying factors essentially described the environment and served to prevent job dissatisfaction, while having very little effect on positive job attitudes, they were named the hygiene factors. Herzberg (1968) described the use of the word being an analogy to the medical use of the term meaning; preventive and environmental. The satisfying factors were named the motivators, since the study suggested that they are effective in motivating the individual to superior performance and effort.
Herzberg (1968) reiterated the fact that the factors involved in producing job satisfaction were separate and distinct from the factors that led to job satisfaction. He regarded these two sets of needs as having entirely separate origins (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005).
The first of the many similarities between Maslow’s and Herzberg’s theories is that they are both content theories; this means they both build on the assumption that all individuals’ posses the same set of needs (Fincham and Rhodes, 2005).
Secondly both theories make general predictions for example the order of the hierarchy, or the motivators in the two factor theory; however both writers accept that individual differences may exist, for example in the way a person moves up the hierarchy or what motivates someone may differ from person to person (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005).
The two theories have received much attention in both scientific journals and the workplace as they represent a foundation from which contemporary theories have grown, and practicing managers still regularly use the them and their terminology in explaining employee motivation (Robins, 2008).
Both Maslow’s and Herzberg’s theories have motivators and needs that can be broken up into two different groups. For example Maslow’s hierarchy can be differentiated between higher order needs such as esteem and self actualisation which are satisfied internally and lower order needs such as physiological, safety and social needs which are predominantly satisfied externally (Robins, 2008).
Herzberg’s two factor theory is differentiated by the fact that the two groups of needs lead to different things. Hygiene factors led to job dissatisfaction because of a need to avoid unpleasantness and the motivating factors led to job satisfaction because of a need for growth or self – actualisation (Herzberg, 1968).
The two writers of the theories both agree that once lower order needs or hygiene factors are met they cease to further motivate the individual. According to Maslow as lower order needs are satisfied, they no longer drive behaviour (Ikwukananne & Udechukwa 2009). While Herzberg (1974) explained that all hygiene factors are potentially of equal importance and once met they will cease to motivate further.
According to Ikwukananne & Udechukwa (2009) both writers of the theories helped the evolution of psychology and helped it develop further. In line with Maslow’s diversion of psychology studies from animals to humans and Herzberg advocated the diversion of psychology from insane to sane.
A similarity between the two theories is that they both have flaws and are criticised because of them. Maslow (1943) in his original writing on the hierarchy accepted these flaws and explained that there is a very serious lack of sound data in this area. He further adds that the lack of sound facts is due to a lack of valid theory of motivation and states that the hierarchy of needs must be considered to be a suggested program or framework for future reference and must stand or fall (Maslow, 1943).
The main flaw of Herzberg’s theory is that it is limited by its methodology, for example when things are going well, people tend to take credit themselves. Conversely, they blame failure on the extrinsic environment (Robins, 2008).
We can see there are many similarities between the two motivational theories however there are also many differences.
One of the main differences between them is that Herzberg’s is set out in a way which it is readily testable however Maslow’s is not (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005).
Herzberg’s two facto theory is backed up by evidence which as we have already seen is readily testable (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). The difference is that Maslow’s theory is not backed up by evidence, Maslow provided no empirical substantiation, and several studies that sought to validate the theory found no support for it (Robins, 2008). Maslow (1943) recognised this issue in his original publication of the theory stating that it is far easier to perceive and criticise the aspect in motivation theory than to remedy them. Mostly this is because of the very serious lack of sound data in this area.
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Unlike Maslow’s theory, Herzberg’s theory states that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposite and result from different causes (Ikwukananne & Udechukwa, 2009). Herzberg referred to this in his work as the dual continuum: the opposite of satisfaction is no satisfaction and the opposite of dissatisfaction is no satisfaction (Robins 2008). The dual continuum explains that the things that make people satisfied and motivated on the job are different in kind form the things that make them dissatisfied (Herzberg, 2003).
Herzberg’s work clearly describes satisfaction horizontally and creates the distinction between types of satisfaction. Herzberg suggested that if an employee experiences a low level of satisfaction it does not necessarily imply that the employee is dissatisfied (Ikwukananne & Udechukwa, 2009). On the other hand Maslow’s theory describes satisfaction vertically and leads analysts to scale each need as absolutely met or unmet, satisfied or unsatisfied (Ikwukananne & Udechukwa, 2009).
There are many ways in which managers can use the two theories to motivate their staff. Maslow retorted that the top level of the hierarchy is different to other needs as self actualisation is never fully satisfied but operates to promote continuous psychological growth and development. (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). In regard to this managers could harness this continuous need for growth and development and use it to motivate their staff. For example by handing responsibility of tasks to certain employees in the workplace will allow the growth and development of employees and will give them the potential to reach their self actualisation needs.
One of the difficulties in motivating workers is that they are all different and react differently to the same kind of change or action (Halepota, 2005). If management were able to assess their workforce and tell what level of the hierarchy of needs they were on then they would be able to set staff personal goals. For example by asking them to complete a questionnaire then they would be able to select motivational strategies appropriate to individuals. Using this knowledge, a manager or supervisor can set meaningful goals for good performance that would allow employees to move up the hierarchy (Halepota, 2009).
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be evaluated my management to assess how to keep workers satisfied and motivated. To do this management must observe it in two parts the higher and lower order needs. Firstly management must look to address the lower order needs as these can be satisfied externally by things such as pay, union contracts and the conditions of the working environment (Robins, 2008).
Once the lower order needs are satisfied then management can focus on attempting to fulfil the higher order needs as they provide the psychological stimulation by which the individual can be activated toward his self realisation needs (Herzberg, 1968). These needs can be stimulated in the workplace by relaying responsibility and setting tasks for employees which pose a challenge for them.
In the same way the lower and higher order needs can be used to stimulate employee motivation so can Herzberg’s hygiene and motivation factors. From Herzberg’s original findings the hygiene factors were: company policy and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations and working condition (Herzberg, 1968). In the same way the lower order needs can be controlled by management so can the hygiene factors to give the employees a more satisfying place to work. Similarly to the application of the higher order needs of Maslow’s hierarchy in the workplace the motivators in the two factor theory could be used by management to motivate employees; to do this management could redesign peoples jobs to incorporate more motivators (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005).
One alternative example of how some managers are using these theories is the use of the two factor theory in the hotel industry. Some hotel managers have applied the theory in regard to guest satisfaction, as opposed to its normal application within the employee motivation area (Balmer & Baum, 1993).
There are many similarities and differences between both Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s two factor theory furthermore, although it is accepted by both the writers and other academics that they both have flaws and are no way perfect we can see that they can be applied both in similar ways by management in the workplace to increase levels of motivation in staff, therefore potentially as stated by Halepota (2009) leading to increased productivity, efficiency and quality for the organisation.
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