Theories Of Motivation In The Enterprise Business Essay


To understand the nature of motivation, many competing theories were developed. They help you to understand the individual's behaviour. They explain how they might act on different occasions. These theories show that there can be different motives which influence an individual's behaviour and performance. They alert us to possibility of the many needs that people have and fulfilment of which motivates them. However these are not conclusive. They can vary depending upon the organisation and situation. As Mullins, (2008, p.178) suggest "The manager therefore must judge the relevance of these different theories, and how best to draw upon them, and how they might effectively be applied in particular work situation. The manager should be aware of at least the main theories of motivation".

Based on the needs and approach the motivation theories have been divided in two contrasting categories

Content Theories of Motivation

Based on identifying the specific human needs, these theories explain the specific factors that help people to motivate to work. They focus on the internal factors which boost, guide, sustain or prohibit individual's behaviour in an organisation. A lot of emphasis is placed on understanding the nature of specific needs and what motivates people. Over the years there were several theories developed. The major content theories of motivation include

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs Theory

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In 1943 Abraham Maslow came up with one of the most popular needs theory of motivation. He placed all the needs of a human in a series of levels, hierarchy of importance. Satisfying the needs of them will motivate people to work in an organisation. The hierarchy ranges through five main levels.

The bottom most or the first priority level of human needs defined by Maslow is the Physiological needs. These include the basic needs of human being such as food, water and air. The other needs which he included in this are the health benefits, sensory pleasures, sleep and other mental satisfaction.

Safety and Security. Mullins, (2008, p.180) says that these include freedom from pain of physical attack, protection from danger or deprivation. Though these are patently obvious but organisation must include seniority of the job and physical safety so that employees can work without being cautious of getting deprived.

Belongings and Love. These include affection, friendship and love. In an organisation, where there is lot of interaction, teamwork and positive feedback should definitely fulfil these needs.

Esteem needs. These include both respect to self and others. Organisationally, satisfying these can be working in a prestigious position with public recognition and value or taking pride in self work or achievements.

Self-Actualisation. These underline the self realisation of an individual to its full potential. Taking charge, being autonomous, assuming responsibilities and pushing for peak performance can be the few behaviours of an employee in organisations.

Although Maslow had no intention to apply these to work situation, it has significant impact on the approaches managers follow to motivate employees and structure their organisation to meet individual needs. Over the years this theory is considered as a convenient framework to understand the different needs and expectation of people, wherever they are in the hierarchy.

Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

Weiss (2001) comments that, in contrast to Maslow's theory to job needs F.Hezberg theory relates to job satisfaction. Maslow did a study on the engineers and accountants in America. He asked them to relate time when they felt exceptionally good or bad in their present and previous job. Based on this study he found out that there were two different set of factors affecting motivation and work. These were

Hygiene Factor. (other book) These factors include working environment and the other extrinsic conditions. Weiss (2001) argues that, when these are present, an employee may not be motivated. But with absence of these, job dissatisfaction can be expected. Hence he said that Hygiene factors are the 'minimal requirements' in an organisation to maintain a "no- dissatisfaction" level of motivation.

Motivators. These are based on extrinsic conditions related to work performance, for example, recognition, responsibility and growth. Unlike hygiene, without these, people are not necessarily unsatisfied. But if these are present, higher job performance can be expected with strengthening of motivation.

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Herzberg's theory helps us to get a concrete picture of the nature of the job satisfaction. This theory is readily practised in the organisation and provides a good tool to give importance to 'job design'.

McClelland's Achievement theory

So far we have discussed factors which were developed and used. The person's current circumstances determined what level or factors to be acted on. Learned from the experience, needs which motivate your behaviour is learned. McClelland believed that there are needs which an individual acquires culturally and can be changed with proper training. Unlike other these are concerned with satisfying needs with creating and developing them to increase the productivity. He developed three types of learned others t achieve, acquired needs.

Need to achieve (nAch). This is the learned need to accomplish complex task and demonstrate high levels of performance. (Corbett & Roberts 2009) says that employees get motivated with challenging but doable task. They desire immediate and proper feedback on their performance. McClelland argues that those with high achievement needs are likely to excel in jobs characterised as managerial and autonomous.

Need for Power (nPower). A learned motive that finds satisfaction by taking charge and controlling others. Individuals with such behaviour are concerned with using powers to manipulate others. They want to engage in competitions where they stand a chance of winning. You need to have people, whom power is a dominant motive, in an organisation so that it can function effectively. These are the shapers and specify the goals in an organisation and inspire others to achieve them.

Need for Affiliation (nAff). A motive to achieve satisfaction from the quality of the social and interpersonal relationships. Individuals have a desire to affection, both receiving and giving. This kind of need should not be present in the managers or bosses.

McClelland argued that the needs are related closely to the measure of business success. But their finding was to analyse the same for large complex organisation. Will the need be related to good management. In large complex organisation the main criteria is to manage others to perform. This will result to lack of immediate feedback. Hence he suggested that a need of power is more appropriate in big organisation.

Process Theory of Motivation

In contrast to identifying the content of need based theories, there is a different approach which focuses more on identifying the external sources of motivations and actions required to influence behaviour and action. As Weiss (2008) suggest "The process theories include perceived and actual exogenous, workplace dimension, for example, performance, goals and tasks". These explain the reason and procedure a worker uses to select its behaviour and help them evaluate their success on it. As the human tendency is to select the best possible and advantageous option, these theories are based on expectancy and equity. The process theories include:

Vroom's Expectancy Theory

Victor Vroom focussed was the first to find out the expectancy theory related to work motivation. As discussed in 'Research Focus', his study focussed on the person's belief in the relationship between effort, performance and rewards for doing a job. The theory proposed that as long as the people expect that they will achieve what they want, they will be motivated. Vroom argued that motivation (M) is a function of expectancy (E), valence (V) and instrumentality (I).

M= E * I * V

Weiss (2008) believes that, individual perceives that exerting a little effort may improve performance (expectancy). Performing at a level may lead to rewards (Instrumentality) and such rewards motivate him to his goals (Valence).

Expectancy theory helps in explaining further the nature of behaviour and motivation in the work situation and find out the difficulties in performance. Mullins (2008, p.193) advices that the expectancy theory indicates several factors which managers should give attention including rewards in terms of performance, clear procedures to evaluate performance, paying attention to intervening variables and minimising undesirable outcomes.

Equity Theory

The theory argues that at work, people compare their inputs and outputs with other to determine the justice of the result. It focuses on the peoples feeling and how fair is the treatment they received in comparison to others. When there is an unequal comparison an individual may experience a sense of inequity. The perceived inequity can alleviate chances to motivate individuals to take remedial actions.

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In a working environment, a perceived inequity may lead to tension and this leads an individual to motivation to reduce his tension or inequity. Adams (1965 cited in Mullins, 2008, p.194) in his works suggests that six broad types of possible behaviour which can be the consequences of inequity:

Changes to input. A person may change its input levels like work quality, additional hours, etc.

Changes to outcome. Attempt to change pay, working conditions, status and recognition, without any changes to input.

Cognitive distortion of Inputs and Outcome. Adam suggests that, within limits, it is possible to distort the utility of facts about self to maintain the equity and get self motivated.

Leaving the Field. A person may try to leave its current situation and resort to a new one within more favourable conditions. Such can be obtained by resignation, job transfer, etc.

Acting on others. A person may try to change the outcomes or inputs of the compared person.

Changing the object of comparison. By changing the reference group. This means that a person may now try to compare himself with people either in a higher level in the organisation structure or a lower level.

Such theory is widely used in determining the behaviour of people in the organisation. The manager may reduce tension by influencing these types of behaviour. He may be able to motivate its staff by either removing the comparison or changing the inputs or outcome, like changes in pay, perks, etc.


If we take all the content theories together and analyse how they impact or help understanding the behaviour of the people in the organisation, we see that they provide a many challenges to the leaders, managers or the other members of the organisation. These theories help them to gain an understanding of the work needs for themselves as well as people working with them or under them. The theories make them learn how to relate professional needs to the organisational jobs, position and assignments. The theories are helpful to design and develop feedback questions and performance appraisal guidelines so that workers can identify their work needs, sources of satisfaction and their needs for power, achievement and affiliation.

The process theories have vividly contributed in highlighting the effects of cognitive and apparent processes on single objective of work condition for employees in the organisation. It forces managers to pay attention to four main aspects of their subordinate's perceptions:

Focus on the crucial expectancy (relation between effort and performance.)

Managers should determine what is outcome valued by the employees.

They need to connect the rewards to their performance.

Managers need to ensure that pay is not perceived as inequitable.

Even though these theories are not conclusive, but they are very important to the organisation. They help intensely in understanding the different motives that shapes people's behaviour at work. These theories provide a framework the managers to how to motivate and reward staff so that they work willingly and efficiently.