Motivation Theories in Society


Motivation is a psychological factor that drives one to take action towards specific set goal. It ensures that individuals’ behavior is oriented towards that goal. Motivation can therefore qualify as a driving force since it propels one towards achieving the aim. It can also be referred to as an inner factor that can be characterized by a certain manner. Despite numerous theories that try to explain motivational factors, motivation starts with satisfaction of individual need. Motivation theories are divided into two major clusters, which are Content and Process Theories.

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Content Theories of Motivation

The content theory of motivation seeks to look at the issues that make people change within the course of time. This theory tries to answer the question “what motivates people?” (Leake, 2010) by examining people’s needs and goals in life generally. Content theory covers the works of Abraham Maslow, Alderfer and David McClelland among others. The theory does not indicate how they change but only highlights the factors that motivate people. This theory looks at motivation as being driven by needswants. For instance, when one is hungry, the hunger drives the individual to go out and get something to eat. Hunger in this case is a motivating factor. Once the need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor at that particular time. In this case study, Bill has a hunger to showcase his skills. That is what motivates him to join Secure Systems.

An example of content theory of motivation is the Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy Theory. Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1998, p.68) developed this theory; it classifies all known human needs into a hierarchy of five groups. This groups form a pyramid as originally depicted by Abraham Maslow. At the bottom, there are physiological needs. Physiological needs are mainly the needs that a person has for food, air, water and shelter (Winslow 1998). This are considered as the most important needs in the life of a human being. The salaries he received from his previous employer and in the secure systems motivated Bill. The salary enabled him to cater his needs for food, shelter and other basic needs. After physiological needs, safety needs come second in the pyramid. This refers to the need to have a surrounding environment that is stable and secure. This includes an environment that is free from threats, illnesses and pain. Without a job, Bill could not secure these needs. Therefore, it propelled him to go to work even though the circumstances at his new job place were not favorable as it turned out later.

Belongingness comes after safety needs. Belongingness in this case can be considered as the need for love, affection and socializing with other people (Winslow 1998). By transferring from his old job, Bill got the chance to meet new people at Gremlin Electronics. The thought of meeting new people at Gremlin and Secure Systems motivated Bill to leave his old job for Secure Systems’ offer. Esteem needs follow belongingness in the hierarchy. This refers to the need to realize self-esteem, independence, commendable status and prestige (Buchanan & Huczynski 2010). At his previous job, Bill’s abilities were not fully exploited. When he joined Secure Systems, he was given a big project to handle by himself. This motivated him since mastery was being recognized at last.

Self-actualization esteem comes at the top of the pyramid as the last need. This refers to the need to gain respect and recognition from others. Bill was given the chance to work with Gremlin Electronics that had a contract with the Ministry of Defense. He was tasked with the responsibility of giving recommendations to the board and implementation. This is a huge task for anyone who had been working mainly in an office. The thought of being recognized as among the ones who implemented systems for the Ministry of Defense motivated him to work even harder to the extent that he did not notice the situation back at the office. This is what drives many people to go into politics so that they may be in a position of power where other members of the society should respect them.

Maslow concluded that the behavior of employee was motivated by several need levels at one and the same time. However, the most unsatisfied need on the lower level is bound to be the motivating factor for that particular employee. As a person satisfies the needs at a lower level, they cease to be motivating factors and the ones at the higher level start to be motivating factors. This is what referred to as satisfaction –progression process. The needs will continue calling until when they are satisfied. The only exception is self-actualization. Self-fulfillment is unique since when one experiences self actualization, he or she longs for more instead of less.

Some researchers have found out that some needs may not occur in the same way Maslow categorized the hierarchy of needs. Furthermore, satisfaction of needs at one level may not prompt for satisfaction of needs at a higher level in some people. As seen in the case of Bill, in the long run he was not paid a lot at Secure Systems. Salary for him is a way of satisfaction of his needs at a lower level. They, however, were not important to him since he was more focused on exposing his abilities.

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Clayton Alderfer came up with his own theory in the year 1969 according to which he claimed that it was a simplified version of Maslow’s theory. In his approach, he merged physiological and safety needs into one group, named existence needs. Promise of better pay at Secure Systems meant that Bill’s physiological needs would be met. This motivated Bill to move from his old employer to Secure Systems. The need for belonging was renamed to relatedness need and he formed another group named growth needs, which catered for self-esteem and self-actualization. Working at Gremlin and giving recommendations gave Bill a chance to grow professionally. This was also a motivating factor due to a high-level exposure he was gaining.

Another theory that is relevant to this case study is the so-called Herzebergs Two Factor Theory. Frederick Herzberg developed this theory in the year 1959. According to the Two Factor theory, only two factors affected the motivation of an individual, they are hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors are very critical and they may create dissatisfaction if an employee views them as being poor. Poor salaries, security of tenure and working condition create dissatisfaction among workers. In his new job position, Bill was given a huge project to deal with. This gave him a perception that there was job security especially since there was much focus on improvement of security systems. Herzerberg also paid special attention to the sense of achievement, recognition, sense of responsibility and personal growth as motivators. All these factors were present at Secure Systems. When the factors changed, Bill started becoming dissatisfied. The two groups, hygiene factors and motivators affect dissatisfaction and satisfaction respectively.

Process Theories

Process theory examines the relationship between inputs and the output resulting from the output. According to Mullins, process theory consists in the fact that if output is to be multiplied, the process involved must be enhanced while keeping some factors as constants (Mullins, 2010). Process theories are applied to human motivation to explain why human beings need change when they have been in place for too long. Process theories include expectancy theory, equity theory, reinforcement theory and goal setting theory. These theories mainly dwell on cognizant human decision processes in order to explain motivation. They all seek to explain how an individual can be energized, directed and made self-driven. These theories also stress out that human behavior is dependent on decision-making processes made by a conscious mind.

Victor Vroom in early 1960s modified a research by Kurt Lewin and Edward Tolman to come up with the expectancy theory. This theory suggests that people select behaviors (work related) that they are confident in, they bring outcomes they desire (Mullins, 2010). To determine the amount of energy to invest in a wok behavior, people mostly consider factors, such as their expectancy, instrumentality and valence. Expectancy refers to the expectation that the effort invested in that decision will yield desirable results.

Instrumentality refers to the belief that the certain level of performance will yield favorable outcomes while valence is the degree to which the expected results are likely to be favorable or non-favorable. For an individual to be fully motivated, these three factors must be high. Bill was not satisfied with the amount of work he was doing at his former employer’s place. When Secure Systems approach him with the Ministry of Defense project, Bill sees a chance that he has been waiting for. He, therefore, makes a decision to join Secure Systems. He works on the project with the aim of being recognized even though things do not go his way.

These are considered as the most important needs in the life of a human being. The salary he received from his previous employer and at secure systems motivated Bill. The salary enabled him to cater for food, shelter and other basic needs. After physiological needs, safety needs come in second in the pyramid. This refers to the need to have a close environment that is stable and secure. This includes an environment that is free from threats, illnesses and any pain.

Equity theory states that people have a tendency of comparing their efforts and rewards with those of others in a relevant position. This comparison creates a certain perception that has great influence on the motivation of an individual. Equity is present when those who compare themselves to others think that the ratio of efforts is similar for both of them. Under reward is present when one thinks that his efforts are underestimated when compared with rewards that another individual obtains in the same position, at the same time putting fewer efforts. Over reward, on the other hand, will exist if an individual’s effort to reward ratio is high while putting in less effort or higher, compared to another person who puts in the same effort.

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Over rewarded individuals have subtle behaviors; they tend to convince themselves and others that effort to reward ratio is equal to the others. For instance, Bill was initially highly motivated when he joined Secure Systems due to the duties he was assigned to do. However, the attitude of his colleague, Leslie began to take effect on him. Leslie felt that he was under rewarded and he used the hard feelings in him to poison Bill’s mind. Leslie questioned him why he was working in the same dingy room as him and yet he earned more than him. When projects started becoming scarce, the situation was further aggravated.

Based on the equity theory, managers should strive to motivate their employees especially if they feel under rewarded because an under rewarded employee lacks motivation and may end up being a lousy worker. This theory emphasizes the need for a reward scheme that is equitable to all.

Another process argument named the goal setting theory suggests that the motivation and behavior of an individual are highly affected by the goals set by the individual. This argument was put forth byEdwin Locke and Gary Latham. This theory states that for one to have a motivated behavior, the person should set specific and challenging goals. The theory also emphasizes that specific goals should include quantitative targets to achieve progress in the particular behavior of interest (Leake, 2009). Bill was yearning for a chance to work at Secure Systems when he finally got it, poor working environment and lack of projects changed his mind. Challenging goals may seem impossible. Therefore, the individual puts in more effort to achieve them hence improving the person’s motivation. This is far better than vague goals or “pulls up your socks” encouragements that may not have significant effect on an individual.

The gap between specific goals and challenging goals is filled with many factors that dictate the level of motivation to be achieved. Goal commitment forms the first factor for one to achieve a certain goal; the person must invest in a lot of effort to achieve the goal. This explains why most managers and even teachers at school encourage students to participate in goal setting to increase their motivation. The second factor is self-efficacy. For one to achieve a goal, the person should have enough confidence and self-belief that he/she can accomplish the task. This means that individuals with high self-efficacy levels set challenging tasks and set out to achieve them unlike their counterparts who suffer from low efficacy.

B.F. Skinner came up with another theory that he called reinforcement theory. This theory is both a learning theory and a motivation theory. This theory states that for motivated behavior to be achieved, there must be enforcers. This is to ensure that motivated behavior recurs repeatedly. The management of Secure Systems failed to ensure that Bill was well motivated by reinforcing his activities and not rewarding him properly for the good job he did at Gremlin. This theory further suggests that it is not practical to study the needs of an individual to understand motivation. However, it is more practical to examine the results of certain behaviors. This works in regards to the practicability that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is not rewarded thereby not repeatable by the individual. Managers can use this theory to effectively motivate their employees by always rewarding good behavior (Taylor 2010, p. 66).

Possible Measures to Improve Bill’s Situation

The management of Secure Systems seems to be on the verge of losing the great talent in the person of Bill. They employed him and then gave him a lucrative project to work on; this made him feel great; he was motivated to care less about the surroundings. Lack of enough jobs has made him realize that he is working in poor conditions. The management, however, still has a chance to reverse this situation.

The first step to be taken to motivate Bill will be to improve the working conditions in the office. As described, the office is in poor condition as compared to the one he was working in previously. Working with his former employee, he had everything he needed in the office, including a secretary. Even though they may not give him a secretary, they would help the situation by improving the lighting, the floor carpet and the filing cabinets. The management should also revise their reward scheme so that Leslie also feels appreciated in order to prevent him from poisoning the minds of other workers including Bill. Lastly, Bill joined the organization because he was promised more opportunities that are challenging. Therefore, the management should look for ways of giving Bill more tasks that are challenging even if they are small in nature, that is, they should improve on the frequency of the jobs being awarded.

List of References

Buchanan, D & Huczynski, A 2010, Organizational Behaviour, Pearson Books, London.

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Leake, B 2010, Evaluating explanations : A content theory, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New York.

Maslow, A 1998, Maslow on Management, John Wiley, New York.

Mullins, L 1998, Management and Organisational Behaviour, Perason Books, Edinburgh Gate.

Taylor, F 2010, Motivational Theories : Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, Cognitive Dissonance, need for Power, Self-determination Theory, General Books, London.

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