The Theories Of Motivation Business Essay


Several theories have been developed to explain motivation. Still, for this study, only three classical theories will be considered namely Maslows Hierarchy of needs, Herzberg's two-factor theory and Mayo's Hawthorne experiments. We must stress that though these theories are quite old, they are still very popular in the field of motivating employees. Also, they can be applied even in today's real life situation. Below are the explanations about the chosen theories which have been tested by some of the earliest thinkers (Kessler, 2003).

2.2.1 Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow's theories were among the first theories about work motivation. His investigations were based on human behaviour between 1939 and 1943. He finally created a model known as the Hierarchy of needs consisting of physiological, safety, belongingness and love, self-esteem and self actualisation needs. Figure 2.1 illustrates the model whereby Maslow placed the physiological needs at the bottom and the self actualisation needs at the top (Molander, 1989).

Esteem needs

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Achievement, status, responsibility, reputation


Personal growth and fulfilment

Belongingness and Love needs

Family, affection, relationships, work group, etc.

Safety needs

Protection, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

Biological and Physiological needs

Basic life needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

Figure 2.1 Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

(Source: Alan Chapman

According to Maslow, the physiological needs consist of the basic human needs that sustain life itself namely: food, shelter, clothing and a good pay. After the basic needs come the safety needs which refer to security, stability and protection (Maslow, 1970). Belongingness and love is at the third level in the hierarchy. Through this need, people seek to have love and affection from others in order to evade a sense of loneliness and we want to be part of a group of friends, colleagues and family. Maslow mentioned that the above process repeat itself and a fourth need crop up; the self-esteem needs. He argued that some people desire strength, achievement, confidence and independence while other individuals crave for reputation, respect and dominance. At the top level, Maslow designed the self-actualisation needs. The self-actualisation needs "refer to a man's desire for self-fulfilment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualised in what he is potentially" (Maslow: 4, 1970). Maslow clearly expressed it "What a man can be, he must be." Consequently, self-actualisation need can be referred to as the desire to become what one is capable of becoming.

2.2.2 Herzberg's two-factor theory

Many models of human needs were created after Maslow introduced his Five-Factor model one of which is Herzberg's Two-factor theory. Herzberg based his studies on what factors caused satisfactions or dissatisfactions among white-collar jobs' workers. Ultimately, he came out with two groups of human factors; the motivators and the hygiene factors (Pinder, 1984). Hygiene factors were perceived as necessary but not sufficient conditions for the satisfaction of workers however, their absence can cause dissatisfaction. These factors are mostly attached with job content and environmental factors encompassing working conditions, salary, interpersonal relations and supervision. On the other hand, motivators were associated with what make workers work harder. Responsibility, achievement, need for advancement, growth, recognition and self-actualisation were named motivators (Herzberg, 1959). According to Herzberg, satisfying the hygiene factors will not lead to higher work performance but will only prevent job dissatisfaction. Conversely, satisfying motivators would result in higher job performance (Landy, 2004). Nevertheless, some studies criticised this theory while others supported it. The argument put forward was that this theory was based on the behaviour of people. To this end, the validity of the theory was questioned. Yet supporters stated that the tests were carried in the right way.

2.2.3 Mayo's Hawthorne Experiments

Elton Mayo (1880-1949) findings were that workers are not just concerned with money but could be better motivated by having their social needs met whilst being at work. His conclusions were partly in line with Herzberg view on motivators and hygiene factors. In other words, Mayo brought to the attention that the need for recognition, security and a sense of belonging is more important in determining workers' morale and productivity than physical working conditions. Moreover, Mayo was in charge of certain experiments on human behaviour which was carried between 1924 and 1927. This was named the Hawthorne Experiments. As a result, it was discovered that when people spend a large proportion of their time at work, they must have a sense of belonging, of being part of a team. Furthermore, his studies showed that greater use of teamwork, greater manager involvement in looking after employees' interests as well as better communication among workers and managers have positive impacts on workers' motivation. Mayo assumed that the workplace should be a social system which meets a worker's attitudes and effectiveness as an influence of social factors.

2.3 Factors of Motivation

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We must stress that factors of motivation are our research question. According to Wiley (1997), there exist several factors that have a say in motivation be it appreciation, salary or having an interesting job. He also affirmed that these factors which are time dependant may change and vary between individuals. A survey conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence (2001-2004) revealed that in order to have a motivated workforce, management must adopt policies and procedures that will satisfy those goals that the majority of employees seek mainly equity, achievement and camaraderie. This research also outlined that employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job but in about 85% companies, employees' morale declined after the first six months and continued to deteriorate for years.

If an organization cannot motivate its employees, this in turn may obstruct the company from using its resources to the maximum. In his article "What motivates employees", Wiley (2004) states that employees at different organizational levels may be have diverse motivational values. Below are couple of motivational factors which researchers have studied.

2.3.1 Salary

Money is often referred to as a symbol of success (Tang and Kim, 2002). A survey from The Hay Group concluded that payment was the least important motivational factor (Kaye and Evans, 2003). Yet, the reality is actually the opposite. In fact; money is repeatedly incorporated in management's strategies to attract and retain employees thus being a powerful tool to motivate workers. Earning a good salary allows a person to live a decent life. Money helps satisfy many of the basic needs as identified by Maslow. Besides, it can also improve one's social status.

2.3.2 Creative, Challenging and Interesting Work

Today, employees are motivated to undertake creative and challenging tasks (Kaye and Evans, 2003) and hence actively participate in the organisational success. Even though this means struggling, employees want to be recognised, have a sense of achievement and see that their works are being appreciated. This is in line with Maslow's self esteem and self actualisation needs. Furthermore, according to Herzberg's two factor theory having an interesting job is seen as a motivator factor. If the job is interesting, workers will undoubtedly be motivated to work thus leading to job satisfaction.

2.3.3 Opportunity for Growth and Career Development

Dessler (2001) found out that, many people experience job satisfaction when they feel that their future prospects are good. He goes on saying that providing opportunities for growth and development may be a good motivator since people like to grow in skills, capability and experience. On the other hand, even Kaye and Evans (2003) suggested that employees stick to their current working place because of growth, learning and development opportunities provisions.

2.3.4 Relationship with management and colleagues

Humans have the need to feel connected (Kaye and Evans, 2003). Consequently, creating healthy relationships at the workplace and developing groups can be regarded as another factor of motivation. Even Mayo pointed out that workers could be better motivated by having their social needs met whilst being at work.

2.4 Actions for boosting motivation

It cannot be argued that there exist very few simple moves that management can adopt to keep employees' motivation high enough and do their work regularly (Khilawala, 2010). However, what can be done is sometimes context dependant. As such, some motivation strategies have discussed. For instance, Khilawala (2010) goes on saying that all employees should be treated fairly and equally in areas such as pay, benefits and job security. Moreover, there must be an effective channel of communication whereby every employee can feel his importance through his active participation in the organisational success. An organisation must be a bit flexible for the sake of convenience while formulating its policies for employees are human beings after all (Khilawala, 2010).

Before taking any decisions, it is wise to consult employees' views and at the same time promote teamwork. This can in turn make them more loyal towards the organisation thus increasing their motivation (Sirota, 2005). According to Sirota (2005), the most important thing is to provide employees with a sense of security where employees must not feel that their jobs are at risk if their performance is not perfect or if they do not act as per the management. Conversely, management should assist employees in improving their performance and Churchill (2007), a freelance author, suggested that management should regularly recognise good jobs. Besides, he also pointed out that management must provide incentive programs such as a small gift or a token for every job well done because incentive program is among the most effective tool to improve employee motivation. Too much work will tire your employees quickly. So, don't forget to set aside it once in a while (Churchill, 2007). In other words, Churchill suggested that recreational activities must be provided to press on motivation.

2.5 Employees' Perception

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Perception is the fundamental tool in human relations with the forces of nature, upon which mankind's survival depends, that is, it is the ability to recognise and analyse change. It incorporates all senses, feelings as well as mental activity during human interaction with surrounding nature (Romanov, 2009). On the other hand, perception can be defined as 'a process by which individuals organise and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment' (Robbins, 2004). In other words, perception is merely a perspective from a particular individual's view of a situation and is not necessarily based on reality.

2.5.1 Employees' perception of motivation

To better motivate a workforce, an organisation must first know the needs of the employees (Bernard et al. 1995). To this end, Akintoye (2000) highlighted that people assert money as the most significant motivational factor because money symbolises security, power, prestige, and a feeling of accomplishment and success. Moreover, according to Olajide (2000), there exist no organisation where no people feel that communication, collaboration and corporation is vital. According to Mitchell and Lasan (1987), job satisfaction is the most important factor that impact on employees' motivation since job satisfaction is a result of employee's perception of how well their job provides those things that are viewed as important. Another researcher, Kose (1985) stated that employees' perception about management policy, working conditions, possibilities of promotion, gaining respect and self development, achievement and the use of talents can also play a role in motivation of workers.

2.6 Summary of literature review

This chapter looked at the concept of motivation and three theories of motivation namely: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Herzberg's two factor theory and Mayo's Hawthorne Experiments. Besides, this section also pointed out what affect motivation of an employee and what is employees' perception of motivation. Though the list is too long, only four factors have been considered. At the end, the literature review considered what can be done to improve the level of motivation among employees.