Theories of Motivation and their effect on Motivation Policy



There are some reasons for working that could apply to every employee, such as the need to earn money. Also some reasons have more importance for particular individuals than others. One employee may like work with a team, whereas another might be happy working on his own. This is important for a business to find out what satisfies its employees. Well motivated employees will be productive which should lead to better efficiency and benefit a business. This is why it's necessary to understand how an organisation's motivational practises and reward systems are influenced by theories of motivation. Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Vroom's Expectancy theory are taking motivation and its factors into deep consideration. The manager needs to decide which method will lead to greater efficiency and which one is the most suitable to increase performance at the workplace.

Understanding of the theories

2.1 Maslow's hierarchy of needs model

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The first comprehensive attempt to classify needs was by Abraham Maslow. The hierarchy of needs is generally presented as a pyramid, where each level consist the class of needs.

In organizational behaviour, theories that focus on needs are known as content theories (S. Clegg & T. Pitsis (2005)). Maslow's theory is consisted of two parts; classification of needs and how these classes of need could be placed into a hierarchy (D.Hall, R.Jones, (2005), Business Studies 3rd ed., p291). Maslow developed a classification of human needs from 'lower order' to 'higher order needs.

The hierarchy in 'higher order needs' is described in certain class of needs as;

Self-actualization needs , which includes factors such being promoted, given more challenges and responsibilities, introducing new ideas, need to reach full potential, self-esteem needs which contain need for recognition, feeling appreciated and needed at the workplace , social acceptance needs include emotional factors such feeling love and belonging, the need to be able to form support relations at a workplace between colleagues (Maslow, A.H (1943) A theory of human motivation, p370). 'Lower order needs' is followed by factors such; safety and security needs (need for stable environment) and basic psychological needs (need for food, shelter etc.)

Maslow argued that needs at the bottom of the pyramid are the basic needs. Higher level on the pyramid means harder to obtain. Each need has to be fulfilled totally before the next one becomes important (David Lines (1996), A-Z business studies, p121).This can be explained by a simple example; a hungry person will not be motivated by consideration of e.g. affection or acceptance until his hunger be fully satisfied. These needs must be satisfied before a person can move to the next level, however this not always could apply to each individual person. Perhaps some individuals don't pay so much attention on social acceptance and don't need to feel close to other employees or don't need to devote attention on emotional aspects as others. Such individuals may also move to self-esteem needs and do their job as successful as fully satisfied staff.

Maslow assumed that all these needs within his theory applied to all individuals. Maslow's pyramid has become as an important tool and the key for better understanding of the forces that have an impact on the employee motivation (S. Linstead, L. Fulop & S. Lilley (2004)). It gave the fundamental factors that apply to motivation and basics for another theorists. However each individual has his own list of needs and demands, advantage of the theory is that all its needs can be divided into types depending on the similarities in individuals' needs; from physical, through social to personal. An autonomy, responsibility and new challenges may have a great impact on workers, especially amongst highly skilled employees (G.A. Cole (2004) p. 31).

In nowadays, the Maslow's hierarchy of needs is still used in organisations and still apply in practice. This complex theory is giving an advice of how to avoid a disappointment by having a low productivity at a workplace caused by weak motivation and how to predict problems within motivating staff. These factors are relevant to managers and other individuals who work in organisations. By grouping these needs and meeting all demands, organisation may become more efficient (S.Have, W.Have & F.Stevens (2003)).

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Hierarchy of needs have also some negative and weak sides. There are huge cultural differences throughout the world. The weakness of the Maslow's theory is that it's based on American/Western European values (S.Have, W.Have & F.Stevens (2003)p.136). It does not take into account cultural differences and norms. In Asia, the social needs tend to be more important than personal. There are also problem in deciding when a level has actually been satisfied. Priorities are changing along with developments in the standard of living and this also needs to be taken into consideration. For some individuals, work might be more than just the source of earning money.(S.Have, W.Have & F.Stevens (2003)p.135).

Using the theory of Maslow's needs hierarchy is helps to understand what people may experience at work. This hierarchical model is still in use. Tracey Nash, the manager of one of the tReds stores in Worcester High Street suggested, that Maslow's theory supports an idea of a modern and present outlook on motivation at the workplace. Especially in situations where stress or changes are involved, the manager position is to be aware of these issues and discover what can help to achieve employees' goals and what kind of behaviour is leading to full satisfaction.

Expectancy Theory

The expectancy theory is mainly focused on the process of motivation. Vroom's theory states that people try to satisfy their needs and so meet their goals (D.Hall, R.Jones, (2005), p.297). Each individual have different goals and the value of that goal will affect his motivation. Vroom suggested that people will tend to achieve their goal if they be sure that there is a chance to succeed.

To explain why people are motivated to behave in certain ways, there is need to be consider what processes are involved into motivation. If people know what they want in result of their hard work and believe they can achieve it, they will be well motivated towards it (David Lines (1996), A-Z business studies,p.94). Theory concludes three factors that are based on the individual's personal vision of the certain situation. First was Expectancy; this one is based on individual's perception of the situation, belief that effort will produce a particular outcome.

Instrumentality appeals that effective performance will lead to awaited rewards, this motivate employees to do their job with a positive attitude while knowing they have a chance to succeed and have good benefits at the end. The third factor is the Valence; perception that attractive rewards are available or knowing the value of an outcome, these will lead to a better performance and more efficient effort (G.A. Cole (2004) 6th Edition Management Theory and Practice, p43-44).

Vroom's model includes basic components such effort, performance and then rewards. Effort leads to certain performance which is recompensed with an appropriate reward. Three factors; expectancy, instrumentality and valence create a driving 'Force' which is presented as a formula;

Force= Expectancy x Valence

Formula shown above represents useful definition that can be used by managers or consultants, such driving force motivates workers to make an effort and help them to gain a better performance at work and will benefit them with a reward for achieving appointed task. There are two types of rewarding system which includes intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. (G.A. Cole (2004) 6th Edition Management Theory and Practice, p43-44). Extrinsic are those that are enforced by a company such as pay, working conditions, promotions etc. Intrinsic rewards are more likely to lead to job satisfaction because of fulfilling personal needs such personal growth. This basic formula gives a general overview on the motivation, helps create new concepts and initiatives of increasing the performance at a workplace. As stated in Seongsin Lee's journal (2007, Volume 56, Number 9, pp. 788-796); , "expectancy theory has its critics, it has generally developed results that indicate it is currently the clearest and most accurate explanation of individual motivation".

However, there are some 'down sides' of the theory. Effort may not always lead to effective performance as Vroom suggests. This can also depend on skills and knowledge the employee posses. Similar with effective performance which not always results with valuable or convenient reward. Sometimes an employee may not be interested in certain reward or may feel underestimated which can lead to low performance at work. Organisational culture, style, job role may also affect the performance. The manager's role is identify and apprise performance so an employee can be fairly rewarded. If managers want to achieve the high effort off their workers, they may need to entice them by offering a large outcome (G.A. Cole (2004 Management Theory and Practice, p43-44). It may indicate that employees will only act for a valuable reward, which not always might benefit the company. Managers and supervisor need to monitor their employees to ensure that high effort and good performance are met, and also ensure that all reward system are equitable.

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Managers can improve efforts for the high performance expectancies by supporting employees in accomplishing their performance goals. Managers should plan the strategy that helps increase employees efficiency like e.g. monitor valences for various rewards (Steven Pool, Richard E. and Sandra J.(2007) Journal of Management Development, Volume 26 Number 4 pp. 353-369).

The Expectancy Theory suggested, that individuals decides how much effort they put into job performance after assessing the expectancy, valance and instrumentality (Steven Pool, Richard E. and Sandra J.(2007) Journal of Management Development, Volume 26 Number 4 pp. 353-369). This theory was used by other researches for more profound explanations and better understanding of motivation. This is followed by Equity Theory, Attribution Theory , Goal Theory and Reinforcement Theory (G.A. Cole (2004) Management Theory and Practice, p43).

Theorists added new factors that have an impact on motivation and job satisfaction. These theories are based on people's perceptions, goals, behaviour and environmental factors.


A list of employee's needs that may lead to great satisfaction at work might be very long and depends on many factors. Individuals may need to feel appreciated for their workplace, which could be reflected in the prestige attached to their job. Reduced effort or lack of commitment may occur due to negative motivation. Both of above described theories have their strengths and weaknesses, and that both may be successfully used in practice depending on the circumstances and goals.

The manager's role is to understand both of the theories and conclude which is the most suitable to apply to a workplace they working in. It needs to be known what people seek in their job to satisfy themselves and what motivates them to achieve their personal goals. Vroom's theory may have an impact on pay and benefit systems and help to design jobs that enable employees to satisfy their needs (known as a reward system). The expectancy theory, opposite to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, takes into account that individuals have different needs and that certain incentive factors may have a positive effect on some employees, and some may want something different.

Modern businesses cannot generalise about what motivates people because individuals have different priorities at different times and it also may vary on circumstances. Maslow's theory represents basic needs and still can be used as a foundation of motivation aspects in any business.

It depends on what organisation expect from its workers. If managers decide to use Vroom's theory, they may obtain lower job interest by their employees. Money may be a positive reward, but managers should consider its issues when deciding between monetary and non-monetary rewards (Steven Pool, Richard E. and Sandra J.(2007) Journal of Management Development, Volume 26 Number 4 pp. 353-369). High wages, rewards, good welfare benefits may become the most important for workers. This can lead to make a responsibility less important.

However, both of these theories were written long time ago, where level of skills and knowledge wasn't so advanced (D.Hall, R.Jones, (2005), Business Studies 3rd ed, p297). This may apply to effort and performance at work (Vroom's theory), where Maslow's ideas and his message for business is clear. Manager could use Maslow's hierarchy of needs, decide on which level each individual is and chose a suitable reward.