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Motivation Theories

Motivation Theories

Motivation is a state-of-mind, filled with energy and enthusiasm, which drives a person to work in a certain way to achieve desired goals. Motivation is a force which pushes a person to work with high level of commitment and focus even if things are against him. Motivation translates into a certain kind of human behaviour. 

It is important to ensure that every team member in an organization is motivated. Various psychologists have studied human behaviour and have formalized their findings in the form various motivation theories. These motivation theories provide great understanding on how people behave and what motivates them.

Motivation is a huge field of study. There are many theories of motivation. Some of the famous motivation theories include the following:

1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow postulated that a person will be motivated when his needs are fulfilled. The need starts from the lowest level basic needs and keeps moving up as a lower level need is fulfilled. Below is the hierarchy of needs:

  • Physiological:  Physical survival necessities such as food, water, and shelter.

  • Safety:  Protection from threats, deprivation, and other dangers.

  • Social (belongingness and love):  The need for association, affiliation, friendship, and so on.

  • Self-esteem:  The need for respect and recognition.

  • Self-actualization:  The opportunity for personal development, learning, and fun/creative/challenging work.  Self-actualization is the highest level need  to which a human being can aspire.

The leader will have to understand the specific need of every individual in the team and accordingly work to help fulfil their needs. 

2. Hertzberg’s two factor theory

Hertzberg classified the needs into two broad categories namely hygiene factors and motivating factors.

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factors are needed to make sure that an employee is not dissatisfied. Motivation factors are needed for ensuring employee’s satisfaction and employee’s motivation for higher performance. Mere presence of hygiene factors does not guarantee  motivation, and presence of motivation factors in the absence of hygiene factors also does not work.

3. McClelland’s theory of needs

McClelland affirms that we all have three motivating drivers, and it does not depend on our gender or age. One of these drives will be dominant in our behaviour. The dominant drive depends on our life experiences. 

The three motivators are:

  • Achievement: a need to accomplish and demonstrate own competence People with a high need for achievement prefer tasks that provide for personal responsibility and results based on their own efforts.  They also prefer quick acknowledgement of their progress.

  • Affiliation: a need for love, belonging and social acceptance People with a high need for affiliation are motivated by being liked and accepted by others.  They tend to participate in social gatherings and may be uncomfortable with conflict.

  • Power: a need for control own work or the work of others People with a high need for power desire situations in which they exercise power and influence over others.  They aspire for positions with status and authority and tend to be more concerned about their level of influence than about effective work performance.

4. Vroom’s theory of expectancy

Victor Vroom stated that people will be highly productive and motivated if two conditions are met:  1) people believe it is likely that their efforts will lead to successful results and 2) those people also believe they will be rewarded for their success.

People will be motivated to exert a high level of effort when they believe there are relationships between the efforts they put forth, the performance they achieve, and the outcomes/ rewards they receive.

5. McGregor’s theory X and theory Y

Douglas McGregor formulated two distinct views of human being based on participation of workers. The first is basically negative, labelled as Theory X, and the other is basically positive, labelled as Theory Y. Both kinds of people exist. Based on their nature they need to be managed accordingly.

  • Theory X:  The traditional view of the work force holds that workers are inherently lazy, self-centred, and lacking ambition.  Therefore, an appropriate management style is strong, top-down control.

  • Theory Y:  This view postulates that workers are inherently motivated and eager to accept responsibility.  An appropriate management style is to focus on creating a productive work environment coupled with positive rewards and reinforcement.

Motivation is the state of mind which pushes all human being to perform things with the highest spirit and with positivity. The leader will have to ensure that every individual in the team and the organization is motivated. The various motivation theories helps in understanding what will motivate people.