Theories of Motivation - Motivation Essay Example

In a constantly changing, interactive business environment, to retain a strong competitive position is essential to every company - Theories of Motivation introduction. Usually, this happens by the incorporation of every practical resource. Some organizations desperately seek doubtful partnerships or engage in insecure maneuvers in their struggle for dominance and profits. In fact, the most valuable resource that a company may utilize is its employees (Hristova 1996). Nevertheless, the human factor is probably the most unstable part of a business strategy. According to Fincham and Rhodes, in general, employees tend to be inconsistent in their working behavior.

This is usually due to various individual reasons, such as personal problems, conflicts at the workplace, or lack of job satisfaction. To eliminate these issues and create the perfect working environment, managers often count on a range of motivation and human resource literature (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). According to Hristova, work motivation, in its essence, is by many considered to be the key to excellent work performance, efficiency, and productivity. Therefore, in the recent years the range of motivation and job satisfaction research has expanded to encompass various theories developed by Western scholars (Hristova 1996).


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As explained by Fincham and Rhodes, motivational theories can be divided into content and process. Content theories examine humans as a whole, ascribing them the same set of needs and thus a narrow set of characteristics at work. Process theories, on the other hand, concentrate on the cognitive processes which are considered the reason for the variation in human needs. Two of the most discussed and influential content theories are Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and Alderfer’s ERG Theory (Fincham & Rhodes 2005).

As described in Understanding Organisational Behaviour, in his study of human personality, Maslow pays serious attention to motivation factors (Roberts & Corbett 2009). He believes that people are motivated to achieve their personal aims and this is what gives meaning to their existence (Maslow 1954). He states that the human is a desirous being which rarely reaches a state of satisfaction; if one need is satisfied, there is always another to take its place and engage one’s attention and striving (Maslow 1954).

According to Maslow’s theory of motivation, human needs are organized in a hierarchical pyramidal model: in order for the upper needs to be consciously realized and start working as a motivational factor, the dominating ones, situated in the pyramid’s base, must be satisfied (Maslow 1954). If this is does not happen, Maslow explains, the reaching and fulfilling of the upper needs is impossible. He presumes that people originally strive to comply with their physical needs, such as thirst and hunger.

Once they are no longer an issue, one would climb up the hierarchical model, moving to the need of security. In the working environment, this is the want for secure job and regularly paid, reasonable salary. Social needs – desire of spiritual relationships, love, and friendship – take up the third level of the pyramid. If one succeeds in satisfying them, he then faces the necessity of self-esteem, including the feeling of self-respect and recognition by others. Finally, at the top of the hierarchical model stands the need for self-actualization, concerning the development of one’s full potential.

This accomplishment is more a matter of personal point of view, since individual differences cannot be completely ignored (Maslow 1954). The uttermost one reaches in this pyramidal model, the more virtues and mental health he demonstrates. Nonetheless, Maslow’s motivational model permits room for some exceptions (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). Maslow admits that extraordinarily creative people or people with extreme, individually formed system of values can pursue their goals without paying much attention to their social status or fundamental existence needs (Maslow 1954).

Furthermore, the stages of the pyramidal model emerge and are satisfied gradually. Yet, a simultaneous satisfaction of one and dissatisfaction of another is also possible to occur (Maslow 1954). Thus, Maslow’s theory of motivation becomes a starting point for further studies of motivation and the underlying needs (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). Clayton Alderfer develops a theory about the connection between the necessities of existence, relatedness or intrapersonal relationships, and personal growth (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). For him, these three groups comprise all human needs.

To the existence ones, Alderfer includes all material and physical desires. On the other hand, the desire to feel attachment, love, friendship, and even anger, envy, etc falls into the relatedness needs group. Finally, the necessity of personal growth and psychological comfort appear in the last set of needs (Alderfer 1972). Furthermore, the difference to Maslow’s theory of motivation does not stop with the classification. First, Alderfer states that the three categories are hierarchically ordered only in terms of decreasing concreteness and increasing abstractness (Alderfer 1972).

The methods of satisfying existence needs are concrete. In contrast, while climbing up the categories, they become more and more abstract. Maslow, on the other hand, believed that each stage is a basis for the upper one and cannot be obtained without the other (Maslow 1954). Second, according to the ERG Theory, once the relatedness or growth needs are satisfied, they actually become more important (Alderfer 1972). This conflicts with Maslow’s assumptions that the higher need is always the stronger motivator and driving force for the individual (Maslow 1954).

In addition, Alderfer introduces the concept of frustration regression. It occurs when the fulfillment of growth needs seems too difficult, so the individual concentrates back on his relatedness needs (Alderfer 1972). Thus the frustrated group of needs is no longer of great importance; namely that is one of the fundamental differences between Maslow’s and Alderfer’s theories of motivation (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). Alderfer takes the exceptions to Maslow’s general principles mentioned above and transforms them into the standard on which his presumptions are based (Fincham & Rhodes 2005).

In his research, he firmly stated that the frustration regression acts as a complicated defensive mechanism against the disturbance that an unsatisfied need may lead to (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). According to Principles of Organizational Behaviour, even though these two theories differ in their essence, they both can be applied to contemporary business environment and be of use in dealing with various workplace issues. Maslow’s theory of motivation can find some serious applications for management.

Holding a key position in a company, managers have control over most practices and working relationships that are introduced to the employees (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). As described by Roberts and Corbett, satisfaction of the basic physiological needs involves providing workers with the necessary comforts and paying a reasonable salary, enough to ensure a well balanced, fine lifestyle. In addition, safety at work is essential to fulfill the need of security. Employees should not be subjects to physical violence, threats, or unfair treatment from their colleagues.

This can be accomplished by adoption of stronger security policies, promotion of trust to the leaders, establishment of organizational policies and structures that help ensure equitable treatment of employees and procedures (Roberts & Corbett 2009). On the other hand, the organization of team events and group projects usually stimulates team spirit and cooperation among the members of a collective. Finally, esteem and self-actualization needs may be met by employees who are being assigned important, challenging projects which involve creativity and long-term devotion (Roberts & Corbett 2009).

Their achievements must be recognized and awarded accordingly, so that they feel stimulated to reach their full career potential. According to Alderfer’s ERG theory on the other side, the frustration regression principle plays an important role in workplace motivation. The lack of growth opportunities would inevitably lead to focus on relatedness needs (Alderfer 1972). That way, if employees are not offered challenging assignments which stimulate the development of their strengths at work, they will abandon their natural strive for growth and focus back on socializing with co-workers.

If managers outline a strategy to cope with the frustrated needs, the above situation can be avoided and employees put on the right track to fulfill their growth needs again (Fincham & Rhodes 2005). The above arguments suggest that a good manager should always be wide awake for the needs of their employees. He should be aware of what they consider their basic, existence needs and be able to differentiate between the separate workgroups of a company (Hristova 1996).

Also, in order for the employees to feel successful and self-actualized, they need to know that the goals of their work align with the final goals of the company as a whole (Hristova 1996). That way when the company celebrates its success, the employee will associate his own work with the reached goal and feel valuable to the collective. As it has been described in the first part of this essay, both Maslow’s theory of motivation and Alderfer’s ERG theory define themselves by focusing on the fact that all people are motivated by the same set of needs.

Maslow’s research offers a more conservative and limited in its assumptions approach to human motivation. His hierarchical pyramidal model represents a rigid formula that, still, acknowledges the presence of some exclusion (Maslow 1954). Alderfer, on the other hand, with his frustration regression principle, recognizes that human needs are hierarchically ordered not by importance but only by level of abstraction (Alderfer 1972). Thus the ERG theory suggests a more open model of human motivation which allows a better understanding of workplace issues and relationships.

Nevertheless both Maslow’s and Alderfer’s theories give managers plenty of material to work on in order to satisfy the needs of their employees. By making sure staff’s necessities are met and means for professional growth are provided, managers will rise job motivation and obtain better productivity results. A healthy intra-workplace environment is definitely one of the major prerequisites for working efficiency and profit making. These are what will make a company competitive and successful on the market, which is the aim of every manager.

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