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Overview Of Motivation And Its Theories Business Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 5485 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Motivation has been a complex concept to define, because there “are many theoretical approach towards the nature of human beings and about what can be known about people” (Pinder 1998, p. 11). There are different perceptions and definitions of “motivation”.

Sims (2002, p.55), defined motivation as the satisfying of the inner needs through actions and behaviours. According to him, motivation includes various mental and physical drives, combined with the proper environment that guides people to act in a certain way.

According to Robbins and Coulter (1998), motivation may be defined as the willingness to put forward high levels of effort toward need. From this theory, Mullins (1996) has come up with the definition where he assumes that every person is unique and this uniqueness is demonstrated in one way or another via the various theories which influence worker’s control and behaviours towards a particular goal. He also identifies two factors about what gets people activated (arousal) and secondly, and what drives people to engage in the desires behaviour or choice of behaviour.

“The set of processes that arouse, direct, and maintain human behaviour towards attaining some goal.” (Greenberg & Barron, 2003, p. 190)

On the other hand, Rabey (2000) defined “motivation as a reciprocal process. We will give you something you want if you give us something we want”.

From the above definitions, it can be observed that every author has defined motivation from different viewpoint but they all have tried conveying the same message, that is, the individuals’ drive to do something at a particular time.

Halepota (2005, p. 16) defines motivation as “a person’s active participation and commitment to achieve the prescribed results.” From this theory, there is no single strategy that can generate guaranteed positive results all the time, since different strategies produce different outcomes at different times.

It can be concluded from the above definitions that, motivation in general, is more or less mainly concerned with the different aspects that moves, leads, and drives human action or inaction over a given period of time. In other words, there is an “invisible force” that drives people to do something in return.

Evolution of Motivation Theories

The theories about employee motivation have greatly varied over the past century, from scientific management through the human relations movement, to the human resource approach.

Scientific management: According to the scientific management theory workers see work as a pain and money is their main concern. Thus, it assumes that people will work hard and behave sensibly to gain their own personal objectives, that is, to maximise their own income first, rather than putting their effort towards the organisational objectives as priority.

Human relations movement: According to this school of thought, managers should take into consideration the social aspect in the working environment because employees value social belongingness much more than money. Bendix (1956, p. 294), summarised this revolution by taking into consideration that failure to treat workers as human beings is regarded as the main cause of low morale, lack of interest and confusion. Thus, the Human relations model to this problem has come up with creating opportunities for teamwork and nurturing closer relations between management and employees.

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Human resource approach: This approach assumes that the Human Resource department plays an important role in the implementation of different types of rewards system in an organisation inorder to maintain the employee and organisation morale. According to Steer et al. (1996), the human resource model, human beings are motivated by a set of complex factors, including, money, need for affiliation, need for achievement, and desire for meaningful work. Therefore, it is the management’s responsibility to learn how to tap such resources as employees are the reservoirs of potential talent.

Scientific Management

As per the “Scientific Management” theory (1911) which was proposed by Gilbreth and Taylor, the relationship between worker and the management is based on the low trust. However, he believed that higher salaries may contribute to cooperation between them. However this form of management is no longer as “scientific” as Taylor first suggested. Today workers are considered much more as humans than as commodities, as new management approaches focus on the human side of employment relations.

Mayo and Hawthorne Studies

According to the Mayo and the Hawthorne studies (1927-1932), human relations approach to management has become the main focus of managers (Bedeian, 1993). It was concluded that employees exert greater effort at work when they were not bossed by or being closely supervised by anyone. As such workers developed an increased sense of responsibility by themselves rather than expecting management imposing their set of discipline on workers. Moreover, interpersonal relationships and informal work groups greatly influence output, in the sense that workers felt themselves to be contributing freely and without force.

Mayo’s conclusions were that money was a less influential factor and that group influences extensively affect individual behaviour towards output. In addition to this, workers were better motivated when they were having their social needs met at work (Robbins, 1998).

Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor (1960) had further contributed to the study of work motivation with his opposing motivational theories as Theory X and Theory Y. According to the theory X (McGregor 1989, p. 315), it is the management responsibility to set elements of rewards in order to motivate people and modifying their behaviours to fit the needs of the organisation. Thus, without the interference of management people would be be passive-even resistant- to organisational needs. Thus, workers must be persuaded, rewarded, punished, and their activities should be controlled. Conversely, the Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs emphasises towards the fulfilment of workers needs. Such an example is that Theory X may use a salary cut to motivate employees rather an increase in the salary.

On the other hand, Theory Y postulates that people like to work; they are self-directed and they do not have to be threatened to work and they seek more responsibilities. In the framework of Maslow’s theory, Theory Y presume that , it is the social, esteem, and self-actualisation needs which are the driving forces that motivate employees.

Given that traditional Theory X orientation is far more negativistic, Theory Y is rather widely used and accepted nowadays.

Hackman and Oldham

Hackman and Oldman (1980) put forward their Job Characteristics Theory as a three-stage model, in which a set of core job characteristics impact a number of critical psychological states, which can motivate the workers. The worker must have knowledge of the ultimate results of their work, experience responsibility for the work results and consider the work as important, as something which is generally valuable. As such the job itself must be designed accordingly to promote all the three psychological states. (Hackman and Oldham, 1980, p.81) suggested that the work should include five characteristics – skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback, as shown in Figure…, where the presence of certain job

attribute motivates workers.

Figure…. The job characteristics model

Source: web.njit.edu/~rotter/courses/hrm301/lecturenotes/hrm301-11.

The job characteristic model identifies that adding certain elements to the jobs may alter people’s psychological state in a manner that boosts their work effectiveness (Greenberg and Barron, 2000). Thus, there is the need to redesign jobs through job enlargement, by increasing the number and variety of activities performed, while at the same time, redesign the jobs by increasing the employees’ level of responsibility and control.

What can be deduced till now is that, the first theories of motivation have focused on the financial aspect as being the motivator. On the other hand, more recent theories such as Hackman and Oldman’s Job Characteristics Model, has laid more emphasis on the content of work as a motivator.

Content Theories of Motivation

In this section, there are four prominent content theories of work motivation which will be analysed. The first two theories – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Alderfer’s existence-relatedness-growth (ERG). Abraham Maslow is a humanistic psychologist that developed a theory of personality, which is valuable in the field of employee motivation. Then, there is the Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene and Mc Clelland’s needs theory.

Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory

Maslow’s (1954) theory of motivation is one of the most well-known motivation theories called the Hierarchy of Needs (fig..). Robins and Coulter (1998) mentioned that Maslow envisages the worker’s needs in relation to a pyramid whereby people progress up the hierarchy as they successively gratify each level of need. The five basic kinds of needs are: psychological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualisation needs. Thus, it is understood from this theory that managers must attempt to identify individual employee needs and promote satisfaction. If they do so, employees will progress toward self-actualization, permitting the organisation to be all that it can be (Sims 2002).

Marchington & Wilkinson (1995) argued that money act as a motivating factor for those at the lower level of the hierarchy, since these workers are low income earners. On the other hand, those already earning a higher income and have been able to satisfy their lower level needs can therefore proceed to the high order needs.

However, this theory has been criticised for being vague and without ability to predict human behaviour. It also views individual needs as stagnant rather than dynamic. An example is, needs can change unexpectedly when subject to undesirable factors such as the effect of job loss on aesthetic needs.

Figure….Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy on Needs

Source: http://www.wiziq.com/tutorial/122744-Organization-Management-models-and-diagrams-for-presentations

Alderfer’s Existence-Relatedness-Growth Theory (ERG)

This theory of needs for existence, relatedness and growth by Alderfer (1972) is much simpler than the Maslow’s approach. According to Greenberg and Baron (2003, p.192), the five needs identified by Maslow corresponds with the three needs of Alderfers ERG theory. Alderfer specifies that there exist three main needs but these needs are not necessarily activated in any specific order. In fact, Alderfer claims that any need may be activated at any time (Greenberg and Baron, 2000).However, this theory has a frustration regression element which suggest that if a higher order need is frustrated, an individual will increase his level of desire for a lower level need. Such an example is, an individual is unable to meet the growth need, perhaps due to a restrictive work environment, thus, his desire for rewards such as money is likely to increase.

Therefore the above two need theories, namely Maslow’s need hierarchy and Alderfer’s ERG theory, do not agree completely. However, they do agree that satisfying human needs is a vital part in motivating employees.

Need Theories: A comparison

Source: e-learning.mfu.ac.th/mflu/1203141/chapter7.html

Herzberg Motivation Hygiene Theory

Frederick Herzberg (1923) had close links with Maslow and believed in a two- factor theory of motivation. He identified hygiene factors which do not motivate but cause dissatisfaction in the employee and the other one are called the motivators which lead to satisfaction, comparable to Maslow’s higher needs (Jones and Jordan, 1982). Hygiene factors are all extrinsic factors found in the external environment, while motivators are all intrinsic factors which the employees attribute to themselves and to a certain extent, these factors correlate to Maslow’s esteem needs. According to Mc Kenna (1996), hygiene factors vary from motivators in the sense that a lack of adequate “job hygiene” will cause dissatisfaction. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the hygiene factors are correct, and the manager should manipulate the motivators by attending to job-content issues, like job enrichment (Johnson and Gill, 1993). Job enrichment entails redesigning jobs to make them more exciting and challenging by allowing requirements to be made for increased responsibility and creativity.

According to Adair (1990), the phrase ‘job satisfaction’ arose from the work of Herzberg. In identifying a set of motivational factors, Herzberg made a distinction between long-term and temporary motivation levels. The motivators are long-term satisfaction and they are essential to intrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan, 1985), which are also very similar to the Maslow’s esteem needs. On the other hand, the hygiene factors contribute to more life dissatisfaction and money cannot buy happiness (Kasser, 2002). They found that the lowest ranked motivator was an increase in salary because money do fulfil the requirement of the hygiene factor, but overtime are poor motivators.

Since the hygiene issues are not the source of satisfaction, these issues must be in order to create a conducive atmosphere in which employee satisfaction and motivation are possible.

However most practical studies with distinction made by Herzberg, show that salary, recognition and responsibility, for instance, have been seen both as motivators and hygiene factors (Maidani, 1991).

Mc Clleland Theory of Needs

David Mc Clelland proposed the three-needs theory: affiliation, power, and achievement, which serve as motivators in organisations (Robbins & Stuart-Kotze, 1990).

The first need is the need for affiliation which is same as to the Maslow’s social needs. This need gives rise to the desire of friendship; prefer to keep good relationship instead of competitive environment (Robbins and Coulter, 1998). As such, individual with a strong need for affiliation is likely to take up jobs which is characterised by a desire to belong to a particular group, or a concern about interpersonal relationships at work, such as counselling, customer service, and public relation.

The second need proposed is the need for power. The need for power is indicated by a person’s desire to control and the ability to influence people and their actions. As such, Mc

Clleland and Burnham (1976) find that the acquiring and maintaining of power is an essential motivating process in organisations.

The third need is the need for achievement, which refers to the individual’s desire to success and obtain excellent results. People are highly motivated by challenge and competitive work situation (Stoner, et al. 1995). In view of the last two needs of Mc Clleland’s theory, the Maslow’s influence can be seen as it is similar to the Maslow’s esteem needs, with power and recognised achievement come self-confidence and prestige.

However to study the need for achievement, Herzberg and Atkinson developed the Thematic Apperception Test which determines the individual’s score for each of the needs of achievement, affiliation and power.

For the high achievers, money is looked upon as a symbol of achievement rather than an intrinsic motivating factor. In this theory, people with a high need for achievement are eager to obtain feedback on their performance and exhibit moderate levels of risk taking (Wood 1992). Financial rewards are not the key motivator and money is a form of feedback and recognition to them.

Conclusion of the need theories

Table …. shows the relationships among Maslow’s, Alderfer’s, and Herzberg’s theories of motivation.

Table … Conclusion of Need-Based Approaches

Source: http://e-learning.mfu.ac.th/mflu/1203141/chapter7.html.

Despite the obvious differences between need theories discussed, there are several points at which the theories intersect. On the other hand, the need-based theories share an innate weakness.” They do an adequate job of describing the factors that motivate behaviour, but they tell us very little about the actual processes of motivation” (Moorhead & Griffin, 1995)

Process Theories of Motivation

Process theories attempt to identify the relationships between variables which give rise to motivation. According to Mullins (1996), process theories provide a further contribution to our understanding of motivation. They focus on why people choose to behave in a certain manner in order to fulfil their needs and also how they evaluate their satisfaction level after they have attained their goals.

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Expectancy Theory

The expectancy theory was developed by Victor Vroom in 1964 and it has been further developed by Lyman Porter and Edward Lawler in the 1968, where it is believed that there is a direct correlation between performance and outcome and the reward for that outcome is defined. Therefore, this theory is concerned with the internal processes that an individual undergoes in order to decide whether he/she wants to put in additional efforts towards a specific goal (Robbins & Stuart-Kotze, 1990; Stueart & Moran, 1993; Server & Wescott, 1983). Vroom suggests that there should be a link between effort and performance for an individual to be motivated (Droar, 2006, p. 2).

According to Vroom, the three factors that should be considered when determining the effort put forth by an individual are: valence, instrumentality, and expectancy (Holdford and Lovelace-Elmore, 2001). The first variable “valence”, refers to the desire that an individual has to achieve a goal or to fulfill a need. The second one is “instrumentality”, whereby there is the belief that performance is related to rewards such as bonuses, piece-rate incentive system or sales commission plans. As such, the merit system, which is referred as the pay-for-performance may be carefully implemented. The third element, “expectancy” refers to the belief that an individual has about the relationship between effort and performance.

According to Armstrong & Murlis (1994), this theory is the most relevant one to reward practice. However, this theory also recognises that people are motivated by other different things (Robbins & Stuart-Kotze, 1990). Therefore, it can be seen that there is no one theory which can explain everyone’s motivation. According to Marchington & Wilkinson (1998), what motivates people depends on their perception of the attractiveness of the goal and its attainability. Figure …provides an overview of the Expectancy Theory.

Expectancy Theory: An overview

Source: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadhb_2.html#Vroom

Equity Theory

The Equity theory was developed in 1963 by John Stacy Adams and states that people will be motivated if people are treated fairly and equitably, and they would be demotivated if they are treated unfairly and inequitably. Employees evaluate their own input/output ratios based on their comparison with the input/outcome ratios of other employees (Carrell and Dittrich, 1978). That is, they will compare the ratio of what they put in (e.g. experience and effort) and what they get out of the job (e.g. salary and promotion) with what others are getting in a similar job. If an employee notices that another person is getting more recognition and rewards for their contributions, even when both have done the same amount and quality of work, then dissatisfaction will occur. As such, the employees will behave in ways to enforce equity (Cheung, 1997). Therefore employees will seek to reduce it, either by increasing performance to output when the perception is that of being over-rewarded or decreasing performance when they feel they are being under-rewarded or even leave the organization (Carrell and Dittrich, 1978).

In light of the equity theory, it can be said that employees should be rewarded based on their performance and hard work, rather than on their seniority, for example. For instance, instead of receiving a bonus at the end of the year, the increase in salary should rather be based upon the employee’s performance so that employees may feel they are being treated equitably. As such, it is believed that employees contributing more to the organisation , should receive higher rewards. This belief is called the “equity norm”.

Employees are the passive observers and they are aware of what is happening at their workplace. If they feel they are being exploited or treated unfairly, they might take the initiative to go on a strike or retaliate in other ways. On the other hand, when employees are being paid more than what they deserve, and they are actually receiving this higher pay, they tend to lower their work level to normal (Greenberg and Barron, 2000).

Goal Theory

The Goal theory or the goal-setting theory was initially developed by Latham and Locke (Locke & Latham, 1990, 2002). According to Goldstein (1993), “goal provides a sense of direction and purpose”. Goal setting is simply defined as a specific outcome that an individual is striving to achieve (Alderman, 1999). Seijts et al. (2004), found that people with a specific high learning goal is effective in increasing a person’s performance. That is, the more difficult the goal, the higher the level of performance expected.

Feedback also help to identify the difference between what an individual has done and what they want to do and thus guide them as to how well they are moving ahead towards their goals. Also, according to Moorhead and Griffin (1995), when employees are given the opportunity to participate in setting their own goal, their efforts in achieving them will be greater when compared to the goals being assigned to them. Therefore the control tend to restrain motivation, while the individual’s involvement in their own goal-setting task, creates a more productive environment (Kennish, 1994). In general, Locke and Latham’s model of goal setting has been supported by several studies which suggests, it is a valuable approach concerning how the goal-setting process works.

Reinforcement Theory

Reinforcement theory was proposed by BF Skinner (1975), whereby he states that individual’s behaviour is a function of its consequences. This theory emphasises on re-designing the external environment should be made suitable to the individuals and that punishment will actually lead to frustration and de-motivation. This approach explains the role of rewards in greater detail as they cause the behaviour to change or remain the same.

Positive reinforcement refers to rewarding a desirable behaviour as this may increase the probability of outstanding behaviour occurring again. Praise and recognition are appropriate examples of positive reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement is another way to influence behaviour, but the aim is to prevent an a negative action from being repeated in the future. Such an example may be negative feedback or reprimands.

According to Skinner, a third way to influence behaviour is punishment, which decreases the probability of the behaviour from being repeated. Punishment is something unpleasant that an individual tend to avoid, and as a result, employees would be motivated to behave in the right behaviour.

The last method of behaviour modification is lack of reinforcement. The idea behind this concept is that, if behaviour is not reinforced, it will decrease and soon be forgotten by the individual (Stueart & Moran, 1993).

Section 2

Performance Management


According to Gilley and Maycunich (2000), performance management helps organisations maintain and improve performance, encourage greater consistency in performance appraisal and provide high quality feedback.

Motivational approaches tend to boost up the workforce in order to attain the likely job performance. (Byham and Moyer, 2005). Referring to above theories which has been discussed above, it can be assumed that some theories do consider ways to increase motivation aiming at improving employees’ performance which will contribute to organisational goals.

A motivated team and hard-working employees is essential to the success of the company. This is because performance will certainly suffer if workers lack motivation, resulting in poor productivity.

Furthermore, job satisfaction has an important role in the improved performance of an employee. In other words, high employee job satisfaction implies improved performance of the organisation. Thus, this statement signifies that improvement may be achieved by providing people rewards and the chance to perform (Armstrong, 2003, p. 240).

However, according to some experts, people consider work as a less significant aspect due to the fact that the new generation of the highly educated workforce want more prospect for development, autonomy, flexibility and work experiences (Hammett, 1984).They want to contribute fully in the work environment and respond unfavourably to rigid hierarchies.

Thus, performance management is declared to be part of human resource management which can make the utmost impact on organisational performance (Philpott & Sheppard, 1992).

Creating and sustaining a high performance organisation

Organisations go into business to create long term performance and values. According to Keith Owen et al. (2001), the ability of an organisation to maintain the delivery of quality products and services is essential to its long-term success. And this ability is a learnable organisational competence.

From Performance appraisal to Performance management

Performance appraisal and reward systems are based on the supposition that employee’s performance and motivation can be enhanced by establishing a clear link between efforts and reward through formalised and particular individual targets (Latham et al. 2005).

As companies move towards the complex business environment, they will have to develop approaches to tackle various threats, challenges, internal and external problems and explore new opportunities simultaneously. Thus, these companies have to invest in the most vital element – the performers.

On the other hand, Sims (2002), has relate both performance management and the performance appraisal systems through the HRM systems. According to Sims (2002), performance appraisal is a process by which an employee’s contribution to the company during a particular period of time is evaluated. Performance appraisal acts both as an evaluation and a development tool. Moreover, it is a legal document which contain , both positive actions as well as deficiency and plans for the future development.

However, the main disadvantage of performance appraisal system is that there is no mutually agreed goal since job description and performance appraisal does not correlate, arising the issue of unclear evaluation criterion (Grote and Grote, 2002). As such employees are reluctant to support this system because it fails to consider the human touch and employees’ job expectation diminishes.

The organisation’s culture and empowerment

Nowadays organisational culture has become popular compared to earlier times due to increased competition, globalisation and diversified workforce (Schein, 1992).According to Sammuto and O’Connor (1992), culture is a vital factor which contributes to the success or failure of an organisation. Organisational culture is the sharing of values, thoughts and experiences with others Cummings and Worley (2001). As such, the shared culture encourages a certain level of stability among the members of the organisation. Organisational culture basically include the values, beliefs and ideas on what the organisation is all about, how its workforce should behave and how it defines itself in relation to its external environment.

On the other hand, Leach, Wall and Jackson (2003) defined empowerment as a motivational state which comprises of having a personal choice over work behaviours and processes. Empowering employees may develop feelings that may help increase work motivation. Thus, workers may develop a “can do” attitude that reflects a feeling of confidence within themselves (Geller, 2001). However, empowerment is often misinterpreted and feared by traditional managers, because they may lose control and respect by sharing their power and authority (Kahnweiler, 1991).

Pay and Motivation

Pay is an important factor which encourages motivation, as individuals utilise it to satisfy their needs and wants. It also acts as a recompense for employees’ diligence and commitment. According to Cooke (1999) and Fisher (2005), money is the key motivator for employees. This statement concurs with that of Crystal (1970) who further asserted that money can be a motivating factor, but little money may have no effect. The use of monetary or other financial incentives in the classic “work performance paradigm” is based on the reinforcement theory.

Performance-based pay is a compensation paid which varies with the individual, team or organisational performance, such as the merit pay, team incentives and profit sharing (Milkovich & Newman, 2002).

However, studies have shown that pay does not seem to boost productivity levels in the long term and money does not improve performance (Whitley, 2002).Instead, this can deteriorate employees’ attitude in which they work merely in the interest of high pay. Therefore, it can be said that pay is not the only main reinforcement as other non-financial factors such as rewards, social recognition and performance feedbacks are also found to be positive motivational factors (Smith & Rupp, 2003).

The job itself and motivation

According to Redmond (2010), a well designed job is one which is appealing to the person performing the task, that is, it should be interesting, motivating and meaningful. Well designed task will obviously lead to a higher employee satisfaction which encourages the workforce to be more productive and help to meet business goals (Schermerhorn et al, 2005). Conversely, poorly designed jobs that lack adequate attention to the needs of the workers are known as the “arbitrary groupings of activities” (Campion & Thayer, 1987, p. 78). Thus, in order to motivate employees, it is important to implement a flexible task system to provide job satisfaction (Redmond, 2010, p.2).

Nevertheless, there are two major theories which have considered this approach to motivation. Firstly, the Herzberg theory, which has addressed to the design of individual jobs as a two-factor theory, on the basis that motivation, arises from the nature of the job itself, and not from the job situation or external rewards (Garg & Rastogi, 2006). Secondly, Hackman and Oldman (1976) come up with the job characteristics model, which main focus was on the content and nature of jobs.

Training and motivation

Losyk (1997) considers training as a key motivator. Training is a way to learn new skill and behaviour and employees look upon training as a strong element of their career development as it makes them more marketable (Niemiec, 2000). The expectancy theory presents a framework for assessing, interpreting and evaluating employees’ behaviour in learning, decision-making, formation and motivation (Chen & Lou, 2002). According to McCloy & Wise (2002), learning is a vital factor which helps in contributing to both individual’s and organisational performance.


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