Motivation is the key to performance improvement. There is a difference between people performing because they have to, and people performing because they want to. If people are not happy then they begin to behave in ways that balances their discontent with their state of affairs.
People’s rationale for doing things is seldom simple. Motivation theory helps us to understand the nature of motivation in a work setting. These theories range from over simplistic to complex. In some way, each motivation theory states the same thing. Let’s turn our focus to the key researchers and see how their findings can contribute towards your ability to motivate.
Frederick Winslow Taylor
Taylor was an American engineer who was seen by some as a controversial figure. His publication “The Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911 was a major milestone in evolving management theory. Taylor believed that individuals had a tendency to seek the maximum rewards for minimum effort. Taylor compared the organization to a machine. He incorporated his beliefs into scientific management, which included three main elements:
- A systematic collection of knowledge about work processes by managers.
- The removal of worker discretion and control over their activities.
- The creation of standard procedures and times for performing certain tasks.
Taylor attempted to make a science of each element to eliminate the margin for error. His ideas had a huge effect on productivity but the efficiencies it brought soon vanished. The problem with a machine model is that people are not parts in a machine. They have a range of wants and needs that they wish to fulfill through their work. In any discussion of motivation, the work of Taylor must be mentioned. Although Taylorim is now regarded by many as over simplification of human motivation – but payment by results schemes are still prevalent in many organizations..
Abraham Maslow: The Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s motivation theory is based on clinical observations that individuals are motivated by a desire to satisfy specific needs. He came up with a list of basic human needs in order of their importance:
- Level 1 – Physical needs–food water shelter
- Level 2 – Security needs–physical or social security
- Level 3 – Social needs–the need to be accepted
- Level 4 – Self-esteem needs–the need for recognition
- Level 5 – Self-actualization–the need to develop
The other needs in the hierarchy become important after the basic needs have been satisfied. These needs work on an ascending scale. There is a definite priority in which needs becomes significant to us. According to Maslow:
- People operating at level 4 or 5 will revert to level 2 if a feeling of insecurity sets in.
- Unmet needs are visible in behavior.
- A fulfilled need no longer motivates.
Theory X and Y
Douglas McGregor was an American social psychologist. According to him, there are two distinct schools of thoughts when it comes to employee behavior. He called these as theory X and theory Y.
The average worker:
- Dislikes work
- Avoids responsibility
- Responds to threats
- Needs close monitoring
The average worker:
- Welcomes work
- Seeks responsibility
- Responds to problems
- Is self motivated
Managers subscribing to theory X are very task-oriented and managers subscribing to theory Y are very people-oriented. McGregor did not suggest that either of these theories are valid in itself. According to him, you must challenge the assumption you hold about people. People will begin to behave according to the theory you hold. Your beliefs will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Frederick Herzberg – Two factors Theory – Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction
He identified a number of factors, which lead to job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction. They are:
Potential satisfiers (motivators)
- Work itself
Potential dis-satisfiers (hygiene factors)
- Company policy and admiration
- Interpersonal relations
- Work conditions
Herzberg’s two-factor theory recognizes that between highly motivated and completely dissatisfied there is a third category called “not de-motivated.” A strange but common situation. Herzberg determined that absence of hygiene factors leads to de-motivation but presence of these factors DO NOT LEAD TO HIGH LEVELS OF MOTIVATION. In other words, the presence of hygiene factors get us to be ‘not de-motivated.’
The potential satisfiers (motivators) are seen as conducive to real motivation. The best advice for you is to try to appeal to the motivation factors, even where there is dissatisfaction with hygiene factors, otherwise you might as well give up before starting.
There is no meta-theory (unified theory) of motivation. It is, therefore, important to be aware of the alternative competing theories and relevant aspects of human behavior. In general, no view of the motivation theory can replace the value of sitting down with your colleagues and understanding their specific wants and needs. If you would like to explore this topic further, you can go through the following theories as well:
The ERG theory by Aldefer
McClelland’s acquired needs theory
Vroom and expectancy theory