Two theories of motivation
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Motivation is an intangible human asset which acts as a driver that pushes humans to be willing to perform certain actions. In just about everything we do there is something that moves us to perform the action which involves some motivation allowing us to perform tasks or actions which produces some type of personal benefit as a result. The general theory would be that, the greater the personal gain in performing the task for the individual, the more motivated they are to try at the task to achieve the best outcome. Motivation is usually stimulated by a want where there is a gain to be had as a result of performing a certain task. As Todes, McKinney, Ferguson, Jr. (1977) p.223 states, ‘A person is a wanting being – he always wants, and he wants more.’ Therefore if there is nothing that an individual wants, there would be no need for them to perform a certain task as there is nothing they can gain from it. Over time there have been many motivational theories developed to try and explore what motivation is and how different levels of motivation can be achieved with different inputs. Two of the most widely recognised motivational theories come from Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of needs) and Fredrick Herzberg (two factor theory). Managers in businesses would use these theories in an attempt to motivate staff to provide them with job satisfaction and in return receive better task performance.
Through extensive research Maslow and Herzberg developed their own theories which are now used in businesses all around the world. Both differ in how they are applied but in the modern world they are ‘seen as being totally true by many although they should be perceived as being an interesting problematic set of observations about what motivates people’ (Finchman & Rhodes, 2005) p.199. This is due to the lack of evidence to say that they are completely true despite applying to the overall majority. Each is very similar in the way that there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled before high levels of motivation can be obtained.
Abraham Maslow sets out a ‘hierarchy of importance’ where human needs are arranged in a series of levels (Todes et al. 1977). Like Herzberg’s two factor theory, the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy can be split into two levels. The first set being the basic needs, contain physiological and safety needs. The second set can be seen as the motivators consisting of social, esteem and self actualizing needs. In comparison to Herzberg, basic needs would be the equivalent of hygiene needs consisting of: salary, colleagues, supervision, policies and environment. Herzberg’s second set (motivators) includes: recognition, promotion, achievement, responsibility and intrinsic job aspects, all of which are individually quite self-explanatory and fairly interlinked (Finchman & Rhodes, 2005). As the structure of Maslow’s hierarchy suggests, the higher motivators are harder to achieve than the previous and there is an order to which they must be acquired. If the previous motivator has not been reasonably satisfied then there will be no desire to try and obtain the next. The physiological needs ‘are reflected in the human need to eat, breathe, rest, drink and engage in active endeavors’ (Todes et al. 1977) p.244. These needs can be seen as essentials for survival making it logical to be place at the bottom of the hierarchy and as the lowest motivator (Todes et al. 1977). Safety needs come in the form of feeling secure in the job that you have which means that there is a requirement of: shelter, a strong feeling of job security and as Todes et al. (1977) states, a need for protection against physical dangers along with the need to earn a fair salary that can satisfy a given standard of living which is an element in Herzberg’s list of hygiene factors. A manager would be able to fulfill the basic needs by giving suitable amount of time for breaks in which the physiological needs can be easily met. Safety would derive from supervision and policies of the company where they act as a guide, helping the employee’s progress giving them a feeling of being well supported. The environment that they work in would also help with employees feeling safe as long as there is the avoidance of physical dangers. Also there is the conflict of whether or not salary is a motivator. Managers may think that employees would work harder for a raise whereas others believe it is ineffective. Although necessary, hence it being placed in the hygiene factors and incorporated in the safety needs, it is not a motivator. The reason for this may be that although one receives more money for what they do, they will not necessarily work harder having acquired the raise. This therefore links salary to the motivator, promotion which would be the reason for why there is a sudden increase in an individuals income.
The motivators, beginning with social needs, (Maslow’s third need which could be seen as being at the base of the motivational hierarchy) cannot be achieved unless the basic needs prior to it are in place and adequately satisfied. Social needs can be seen as the desire for interaction, acceptance and a sense of belonging with associates and personal acquaintances (Todes et al. 1977. With Herzberg, it can be argued that the social motivator is split between both the categorical factors contradicting Maslow’s perception of it. As the hygiene factors of colleagues and to an extent, supervision, fulfill the social need for interaction, the motivator recognition would lead to meeting the need for acceptance and belonging. Herzberg’s motivator of recognition combined with promotion, responsibility and perhaps achievement would also be linked with Maslow’s fourth need, esteem. This, a more personal, perhaps egotistical need, is much harder for a manager to incorporate into the working environment due to ‘the managerial trend of reducing most jobs to their lowest level of job content’ (Todes et al. 1977). Being noticed for good performance through praise and recognition, which could lead to the achievement of a promotion where responsibility is increased, can all be contributors towards fulfilling esteem but never effectively satisfying it entirely. Even if it does, it will only be temporarily and perhaps not enough for the peak need of self-actualisation to start being met. It therefore acts as a constant motivator to work harder or continue working to meet the higher needs (Finchman & Rhodes 1977).
Self-actualization is where an individual grows towards a firm understanding of their abilities and utilises these skills at an optimum level (McGregor. 1964). This final need however, is rarely met, hence it being at the top of the hierarchy as the idea of: as you progress up the hierarchy, the peak of each need that must be passed is higher than the need before it. Not only is this an important factor, there is also the requirement that the previous needs, although less dominant in focus, must remain active and acceptably satisfied before the next factor can be of any interest to the individual (Krech, Crutchfield & Ballachey cited in Todes et al. 1977). Due to this and the general fact that self-esteem is satisfied in small quantities and not regularly, it does not make acquiring self-actualization an easy task due to the previously described theory rule. Although Herzberg’s theory operates similarly, there is not as strict an order to follow as to whether a specific factor must be met before another one can become of any interest other than working on the basis that all hygiene factors must be adequately satisfied before any motivators can begin to be of any relevance to the individual. In this aspect the model is more lenient and due to not having a strict order of how they must be met, any factor within their respective categories can be acquired in any order making it easy and ready to be tested. Not only this but each factor is very much interlinked and compliments one another in the way that when one is achieved, other factors can be acquired in quick succession. Managers could then incorporate this into the way that tasks are delegated so that when an employee completes one task they obtain a certain amount of need satisfaction. On the next task performed, more needs could be fulfilled and unknowingly, employees would be progressing through the fulfillment of either Maslow or Herzberg’s needs where they attain either more self-actualisation or job satisfaction.
What needs to be kept in mind is that although the two are very similar, Maslow’s hierarchy can be applied almost any situation with the aim of exploring psychological progression. Whereas Herzberg’s theory outlines more of what factors must be in place before job satisfaction can be achieved relating more specifically to motivation and its impact within the work place (Finchman & Rhodes. 2005). The intrinsic job aspects would be the closest motivator related to personal accomplishment as this need involves the employees feeling that through working they are benefitting and developing as an individual. This therefore means that a manager would need to try and identify which of the two theories they think would be most effective and achievable in developing employee motivation. Do they want their employees to acquire job satisfaction through Herzberg’s motivators or to be self actualizing being more willing to work understanding themselves and what they are capable of. A combination of the two could be possible in Maslow’s basic needs and Herzberg’s hygiene factors but the acquisition of both does not necessarily mean that motivation or job satisfaction would be obtained, it just means that job dissatisfaction would be likely to develop without it (Finchman & Rhodes 2005). Another point to remember is that not all individuals are the same in what they want hence the models not being universally accurate. A situation where either model would not be fully applicable is where one is happy with their current position and the tasks that they perform. As a result of the fulfillment of an unwanted need such as promotion, that particular employee may underperform as they have lost the job satisfaction they had prior to the acquisition of that motivational need. Whereas another who may have wanted such a need would be discouraged due to them not receiving the promotion and as a result de-motivated the employee. As mentioned, everyone is different in their levels of satisfaction and motivational priorities, some of which would be unknown to the individual. Even if known they may not know what to do to obtain them. From this a manager would have to find a way of being able to ‘match the needs of people with appropriate incentives’ (Todes et al. 1977) p.165. Of course for a manager to fulfill all these needs they would have to be able to relate to the motivational needs of the employees beneath them and incorporate them into their strategy so that employees would be able to achieve them through the tasks they perform. As these motivational needs are met, employees may be more motivated to work and unknowingly develop other motivational needs that are fulfilled through the manager’s task setup. A very important factor for a manager to remember according to Finchman & Rhodes (2005) p.266, is that the principle of behaviour that is rewarded tends to be repeated and that which is punished, avoided. From this, it can be seen ‘that managers have a strong ability and influence on their employees behaviour.’
Therefore both motivational theories are not total opposites of each other but are in fact very similar. Both focus on the motivators as being contributors to psychological growth and development (Finchman & Rhodes, 2005). Each has certain requirements which must be met before someone can progress onto achieving motivational needs, such as in Maslow’s case the basic needs and the hygiene needs in Herzberg’s both are seen as being needed to be in place before there can be any progression onto the next set of motivators. This also expresses how both are similarly split into two groups. A big difference would be how Maslow’s theory can apply to any situation but Herzberg’s is more applicable in the workplace and set out in a way that made it easy to prove correct, whereas it was more difficult with the former despite being taught as true (Finchman & Rhodes, 2005). Managers could effectively incorporate the motivational techniques into developmental strategies by designing a work environment where employees would be able to develop personally as they work, in turn they could unknowingly acquire motivation (Todes et al. 1977). This way employees would be more willing to perform their tasks and develop needs encouraging them to work harder, becoming more motivated to meet these new needs. But perhaps the most obvious and important similarity is that although they are taught as being true, a manager would need to keep in mind that they are not. Even though they apply to the majority, different people have different needs and levels of satisfaction therefore either model cannot be totally relied on for a manager to try motivate employees (McGregor. 1964).
- Finchman. R & Rhodes. P, Principles Of Organisational Behaviour, 2005 P.199, P.233
- McGregor. D, The Professional Manager, 1964 P.11, P.75
- Todes. J.L, Mckinney. J, Ferguson Jr. W, Management & Motivation, 1977 P. 165, P. 223-227, P.244
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