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Motivation in management Essay

The study of motivation aims to facilitate understanding of what prompts employees to initiate action, what influences their choice of action and why they persist in such action over time. Motivation is important to business practitioners since it assists in seeking high performance within organisations. While effective employee motivation improves productivity, it also generates challenges for managers to channel motivation towards the accomplishment of organisational goal.

This essay intends to examine several motivation theories with reference to the film the Devil wears Prada, and then discuss some challenges managers may face when attempting to motivate employees in the contemporary world of work. Following this introduction, three motivation theories including ERG theory, two-factor theory and reinforcement theory are exemplified by the film the Devil wears Prada in the findings part. Then, conclusions generating from findings as well as recommendations suggesting implications for managers will be given evolutionarily. Findings

Motivation refers to the forces either within or external to a person that arouse enthusiasm and persistence to pursue a certain course of action. The rationale behind theories of motivation is to provide a framework through which organisations can better influence their employees’ drive to work and increase their enthusiasm with their roles. Theories of motivation mainly contain content theories focusing on the underlying needs that motivate, process theories explaining the way employees select behavioural actions and reinforcement theories examining the relationship between behaviour and its consequence.

Among so many theories concerning motivation, the ERG theory, two-factor theory and reinforcement theory are selected to be discussed in this essay. Besides, using film to simulate and examine organisational behaviours is considered to be an effective way to assist students in applying management theories, and even the primary instructional medium which can be incorporated into an organizational behaviour class as proposed by Gerald W. Smith. (Gerald, 2009) To illustrate motivation theory for further understanding, the Devil wears Prada is rather a good choice.
Alderfer EGR Theory

To some extent, Alderfer’s ERG theory can be considered as a condensate of famous Maslow’s five needs hierarchy theory. ERG theory considers the intrinsic factors that drive employees to behave more productively as well and Alderfer classified underlying human needs that generate motivation to three categories, containing existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs. (Samson & Draft, 2012) Motivating employees through satisfying their intrinsic needs is an effective way to understand and accelerate motivation in workplace. In the devil wears Prada, Andy’s progress in her job as Miranda’s assistant is an excellent illustration to understand this theory.

Existence needs include all material and physiological desires for physical wellbeing. When Andy initially takes the job in Runway and strives for being Miranda’s second assistant, she is identified to be motivated by her existence needs that affording living expenses in New York and getting career started after graduation from university. She considered ‘this stuff’ has nothing to do with her, indicating she felt unrelated with this workplace, unlike Emily who have great enthusiasm towards fashion industry and therefore are extremely motivated especially by strong needs for growth (chance to go Paris for Fashion week). Then, after being frustrated by failure to complete missions and Miranda’s reprimand, Andy gradually gets involved and emerges relatedness needs, which encompass external esteem and relationships with significant others like co-workers and employers.

She seriously cares about her competence of this job and wants to be recognized in Runway. Being successfully motivated, Andy becomes most productive assistant and wins appreciation of Miranda on the basis of her capacity. Andy seems to have a bright future of career at that point. However, Andy chooses not to persist as she realizes that her growth needs, which represent internal esteem and self-actualization, can never be satisfied in Runway. She eventually decides to turn another way to pursue the job satisfying all her needs. Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Herzberg’s two-factor theory of motivation considered satisfaction and dissatisfaction as two separate entities caused by quite different factors, which were named hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors are characterised as extrinsic components of job design that contribute to employee dissatisfaction if they are not met, while motivators are intrinsic to the job itself and include achievement, recognition, responsibility and opportunity for growth. (Samson & Draft, 2012) Herzberg believed that hygiene factors work only in area of dissatisfaction, while employees are highly motivated just by the presence of motivators. It is the only motivational theory that splits out demotivating factors from true motivators.

This two-factor theory seems to be illustrated in the Devil wears Prada as well. When Andy starts to work as Miranda’s second assistant, she is driven by several hygiene factors that generate job dissatisfaction, referring to working status, co-worker relationships, supervisory style and company administration.

Andy has to deal with all of Miranda’s sudden requests no matter when and how difficult, indicating a terrible working status. She is not into Runway’s culture as well as her colleagues, and finally becomes frustrated about her job in Runway. However, after Andy gets involved in her job, motivators, referring mostly to Miranda’s recognition and her advancement at work, starts to continually burst Andy’s enthusiasm as well as productivity. At this stage, Andy’s capacity and even potency is successfully stimulated. Moreover, Adrian Furnham, Andreas Eracleous and Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (2008) stretched to further examine motivation in workplace based on combining two-factor theory with personality variables.

For instance, they released that motivators were associated positively with extraversion, whilst high scores in the hygiene-related factor were negatively associated with extraversion. Andy, who concerns friends a lot and is recognised to be highly extroversive, also complies with this finding. It is interesting that she is so highly motivated by her recognition and advancement needs, that she even overcomes job dissatisfaction and gets used to her ‘mission impossible’ spontaneously, indicating her high degree of extraversion personality leads to more sensitively react to motivators than hygiene-related factors. Reinforcement Theory of Motivation

While satisfying human needs are the key sources that drive employees to behave more productively, to the extent that managers understand employee needs, the organisation’s reward systems can be designed to meet them and reinforce employees for directing energies and priorities towards attainment of organisational goals. In the devil wears Prada, the main reinforcement tool utilized by Miranda to modify Andy’s behaviour at first she takes the job is recognised to be punishment, which mostly refers to reprimanding. Miranda berates Andy severely following her failure of getting the flight Miranda needs and actually succeeds in reducing the likelihood of the behaviour recurring under the circumstance in the film.

However, it is worth noticing that Andy is totally frustrated and don’t know what her fault is when Miranda punishes her through reprimanding. This indicates the controversial use of punishment in organisation which is often criticised for failure to direct the correct behaviour. (Samson & Draft, 2012) Then Miranda’s reinforcement tool changes to avoidance learning, which stops ignoring Andy after Andy is into her position and shows her capacity. Miranda also encompass positive reinforcement that she offers ‘gifts’, such as cosmetics and bags, as well as higher level task indicating recognition (delivery of the mock-up book), and promotes Andy by replacing Emily. In contrast, Emily is given extinction reinforcement tool at this stage as her chance to go to Paris is withdrawn.

In the first 30 minutes of the film, it shows that motivation arising from satisfying existence needs only leads Andy to ‘deign to work’ and turns to be not enough to boost Andy’s productivity Miranda requires. Andy tends to just accomplish her tasks passively and evaluates her job requirements are not reasonable due to inadequate motivation. No extra, or even required passion or efforts is given spontaneously, which is described by Nigel as ‘not trying’. It indicates the inefficiency for organisations to drive employees to work only relying on payment.

Besides, while the motivation from satisfying growth needs perfectly stimulates Emily to make every effort, the assistant job can never meet the growth needs of Andy, based on diverse aspirations of them two. It indicates one of the complexities faced by managers that identifying purpose derived from work for individuals is sophisticated, and meanwhile bound to motivate employees effectively as well as sustainably.

Moreover, the film reveals the implication of two-factor theory for managers that poor hygiene factors will generate dissatisfaction, while recognition, achievement and opportunities for growth are powerful motivators that stimulate employees’ productivity. What’s fascinating about this is that even things like human relations training and job participation don’t intrinsically motivate people. They may charge a person’s battery, but it will run flat again at some point of no real motivation is instilled.

Although it is a special situation that employees with particular personality, like Andy, can be forced to get involved through experiencing failure, the lesson of motivation, that employees will emerge relatedness needs and then generate higher motivation once they concern and feel related to workplace, is rather a useful inspiration for managers to encompass enhancing employees’ involvement as motivation issues. To the extent manager generates employee’s involvement, they can initiatively get into organisational norms and makes additional efforts to behave towards management’s expectations.

Besides, as motivation arises from within employees and typically differs for each employee, organisations should learn about employees’ living conditions as well as personality variables that contribute to their diverse needs, with the intention of increasing job satisfaction and performance. On the basis of such knowledge, motivators aim to accurately satisfy employees’ intrinsic needs and then burst their productivity to the greatest extent, can be established.


Adrian Furnham and Andreas Eracleous Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (2008) Personality, motivation and job satisfaction: Hertzberg meets the Big Five, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 24 No. 8, 2009, pp. 765-779

Jennifer Kunz & Stefan Linder (2012) Organizational Control and Work Effort – Another Look at the Interplay of Rewards and Motivation, European Accounting Review, 21:3, 591-621

Samson, D. and Daft, R.L. (2012) Management (Fourth Asia Pacific Edition).Cengage Learning: South Melbourne

Smith, G.W. (2009) Using Feature Films as the Primary Instructional Medium to Teach Organizational Behavior, Journal of Management Education, Vol. 23 No. 4 462-489

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