The concept and formulation of motivation


The concept of Motivation has been defined as: the psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction (Kreitner, 1995); a predisposition to behave in a purposive manner to achieve specific, unmet needs (Buford, Bedeian, & Lindner, 1995); an internal drive to satisfy an unsatisfied need (Higgins, 1994); and the will to achieve and also it is operationally defined as the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals (Bedeian, 1993).

Earlier at one time, employees used to be considered as just another input into the production of goods and services. What perhaps changed this way of thinking about employees was research, referred to as the Hawthorne Studies, conducted by Elton Mayo from 1924 to 1932 (Dickson, 1973). This study found employees are not motivated solely by money and employee behavior is linked to their attitudes (Dickson, 1973). The Hawthorne Studies began the human relations approach to management, whereby the needs and motivation of employees become the primary focus of managers (Bedeian, 1993).Understanding what motivated employees and how they were motivated was the focus of many researchers following the publication of the Hawthorne Study results (Terpstra, 1979). Five major approaches that have led to the understanding of motivation are Maslow's need-hierarchy theory, Herzberg's two- factor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory.

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In this case study analysis focus is over analyzing Maslow and Herzberg motivation theories through answering three different questions from the case in the coming section along with their critique with reference to literature that can help in analyzing the situation at Bradley as without the understanding and shortcomings of these approaches it is not possible to make sense of the questions around the applicability of these motivation theories alone which were overwhelmingly being applied at Bradley and were encountered with huge difficulties.

Review of Motivation Theories of Maslow and Herzberg in the light of case analysis highlighting the various points and the lack of consideration of them by the executors that caused failure of motivation program at Bradley answering question 1 & 2 simultaneously:


According to Maslow, employees have five levels of needs (Maslow, 1943): physiological, safety, social, ego, and self- actualizing. Maslow argued that lower level needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees. Before implementing the program Alice Johnson should have taken the following points into consideration that could have brought the deeper understanding of the concepts and their shortcoming, which were seen as not fully considered and well researched before applying the theory into practice and fostered the efforts regarding motivating employees in wrong directions.

Historically the need hierarchy theory developed by Maslow has not been subjected to as extensive testing in the job situation as it should have been; on occasion there has been what can only be viewed as uncritical acceptance (Miner & Dachler, 1973).

Alderfer (1972) contends that in addition to satisfaction- progression process described by Maslow, a frustration- regression sequence also exists. Hence a less flexible model in describing the real world scenario.

Wofford (1971) finds, contrary to the Maslow formulation, that higher level needs may be related to job satisfaction even when lower level needs are not gratified. Thus the concept of a fixed hierarchy, with needs at higher levels emerging only when those at lower levels are gratified, continues to appear highly questionable.

Studies approaching need hierarchy theory from the viewpoint of content rather than process also raise serious questions. Factor analyses by Payne (1970) and Roberts, Waiter & Miles (1971) have generally failed to yield groupings of items which match the categories of the Maslow typology.

A study of blue collar workers in comparable Mexican and United States plants by Slocum, Topichak & Kuhn (1971) produced quite different rankings of the Maslow needs in the two cultures. Furthermore, the Mexican operatives consistently had greater need satisfaction and placed more importance on the various needs, irrespective of level. A comparison of U.S. executives working in Europe with executives in the U.S. conducted by Ivancevich & Baker (1970) also produced some sizable departures from the rankings need hierarchy theory would anticipate.

Hence through the review of literature it can be said that Alice understood the motivational level of human on the simplistic grounds as the consultant pointed out. In designing different programs she couldn't been able to take grounded approach that posed difficulties at organizational level and programs confronted with failure.


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Herzberg's work categorized motivation into two factors: motivators and hygiene (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Motivator or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction. Hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, produce job dissatisfaction. This theory in combination with Maslow was applied at Bradley and motivational programs were designed irrespective of the shortcomings of both the theories. And also much of the critical underpinnings offered by literature over the applicability and the extent of success of these theories in motivating employees were neglected that could have provided insights into understanding the nature of motivation itself before apply it in the context of scheming programs of work design which were misunderstood and considered as unimportant by majority of employees. Following points below in these terms are noticeable that got ignored largely.

Job Enlargement:

Sales (1969, 1970) presented evidence that role overload can contribute to the etiology of coronary disease. His laboratory research also indicated that although role overload increases productivity, this occurs at the expense of quality and that tension increases while self-esteem decreases. There appear to be sizable individual differences in susceptibility to role overload. Combining these findings with prior evidence from studies of division of labor and job enlargement yields strong support for the view that there is an optimum job size which may vary considerably from one person to another. As in the case at Bradley where redesigning job patterns in various dimensions were taken and comprehended as work overloading without pay increase furthermore failed to motivate the workers instead majority become immune to accept the change and considered it as wastage of time to whom recognition or labels were not of any importance and yet few workers of low ranked jobs felt appreciated for the work done. Hence different people at different job levels perceived and took the program differently with different motivations and behavioral intentions.

The research in this area of job enrichment advocated by Herzberg had been extensively reviewed by Hulin (1971) and by Hackman & Lawler (1971). They had also managed to conduct a particularly significant investigation of their own. They had been able to demonstrate that the positive relationship between enlarged jobs (in terms of variety, autonomy, task identity, and feedback) and favorable outcomes (satisfaction, high quality work, and low absenteeism) is primarily a characteristic of those who desire higher order need satisfaction strongly. Thus, it would appear that individuals in whom such needs are dominant will be most likely to respond favorably to job enlargement. But not all employees respond favorably or in same manner which is the case at Bradley too.

Hence, through review of literature it is evident that every individual has different level of need and job enrichment efforts are viewed different among different people at different job level. Model doesn't sufficiently give attention to individual differences or to personality traits as well and assumes that job enrichment benefit all employees. Research suggests that individual differences are, in fact, the important moderator of the effects of job enrichment. As Mount and Barrick (1998) states: "understanding individual differences and their implications for behavior at work is one of the central tenets of our field, and personality characteristics are central to understanding individual differences".

Suggested frame of references by answering question # 3

If I were Ms. Johnson I would have considered the following approaches in order to have critical understanding of the complex nature of human motivations. Theoretical groundings from the review of literature are presented as well in order to justify that why I would have selected these options.

Importance of Detailed research:

Besides just considering and getting impressed by Maslow and Herzberg theories of motivation which are surely of use in developing the comprehension of the topic, I would have looked upon the emergent criticism of these theories in the literature for evaluations regarding the use and applicability of these motivators and frameworks before considering them using on practical grounds at job and reward design levels.

Use of Expectancy Survey:

I would have made sure by doing employee surveys according to Expectancy theory in order to know the employees' views and perceptions in my company regarding the kind of motivators important to them on individual level and sources of satisfaction for the employees. This method would have helped me in knowing the preferences of employees at different job position levels. Furthermore, doing it this way would have helped me in incorporating right kind of emphasis in designing jobs and reward schemes by matching right combination of rewards and job enrichment strategies to right category of employees.

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Effective communication and Involvement in design process:

After detailed analysis and homework I would have communicated different reward and work design strategies with the board of management to advise before launching the program. Also would have communicated by taking union representatives and employee groups into confidence and by asking them to provide feedback hence making them feel a part of the design process. I would have encouraged frequent reviews and interactions between superiors and subordinates in order to maintain harmonious relationships within the enterprise that also solve many problems faced during the period of designing, implementation and execution.

Due Consideration over Intentional Behavior, Goal setting and integration of process and content theories while designing task motivational programs:

Referring to literature Ryan's book (1970) on intentional behavior suggests systematic approach to human motivation which not only encourages integration of the process and content approaches to motivation but also provides a firm basis for the systematic exploration of the cognitive aspects of work motivation (Miner & Duchler 1973).

Another carefully articulated conceptualization of task motivation in terms of goals, intentions, and value judgments is represented by the work of Locke who argues and presents evidence indicating that satisfaction is a function of value judgments which he defines as the perceived relationship between what is perceived to exist (or anticipated to exist) in a job situation and a person's value standards and goals (Locke 1969). Locke comes to the conclusion, as have Cummings & Schwab (1972) among others, that performance produces satisfaction to the extent that it leads to the attainment of important job values or goals. "Satisfaction is seen as an incentive to action but it does not determine choice of goals which are the direct antecedent of behavior" (Locke 1970).

Hence, intentional behavior and goal setting theories provide useful insights coupled with the understanding of process and content theories which would have been considered.

Management by Objectives (MBO) approach:

The principle behind Management by Objectives (MBO) is to create empowered employees who have clarity of the roles and responsibilities expected from them, understand their objectives to be achieved and thus help in the achievement of organizational as well as personal goals. Although some of the assumptions on which MBO is based have counterparts in the theoretical literature on goal setting and motivation.

The motivational processes of MBO programs by Dunbar (1971) and Ivancevich, Donnelly & Lyon (1970), show that changes occur in the perceived need satisfactions of MBO participants that goals significantly affect performance and that monetary incentives may have an effect on goal level if rewards depend strictly on goal achievement. The MBO approach not only seeks to take advantage of the motivational consequences of goal setting, but also uses such approaches as participation as a means of achieving commitment to goals, giving knowledge of results with regard to achievement or non achievement of goals, and other motivating principles advanced by human relations theorists.

Thus it clearly provides an excellent vehicle for integrating different theoretical approaches which could increase the level of understanding of employee motivation and help in designing and managing the employees around goals and objectives that are SMART enough to manage both on part of managers and employees.


Following from the analysis of the case study it is evident that Alice Johnson missed out considering the pivotal areas through which human motivations and work design frameworks can be understood and hence took truly simplistic in account while dealing with the employee motivations. In particular considerations of difference of skill levels, preferences, behavioral patterns, personality differences, difference of goal and objectives are largely ignored by the theories of Maslow and Herzberg, around which Alice Johnson structured the reward and job design that proved out to be inadequate and made the situation complex and open to large criticism.

To understand human motivations detailed analysis of the study of personnel attitudes and motivation must be concerned with the organizational context as well in which manifestation occurs. Such organizational factors as climate, status congruity, reward and value structures, role conflict and ambiguity, and the clarity of behavior models all appear to relate to the degree to which there is integration or consistency of reinforcement in the organizational environment (Miner 1971). Furthermore theoretical work is extremely important for understanding concepts related to understanding human motivation, the interaction of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, etc.