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Motivation: Theory and Practice Essay

Motivation theories and practices remain as one of the most difficult subject to understand. In order to fully comprehend this topic, one must go through several disciplines and enormous research. This is especially crucial in the workplace. There is no methodology that is more efficient in increasing productivity than using motivation. Despite the importance of practicing motivation theories, it is still an area that very few have ventured in. One of the many reasons behind the reluctances of managers to carry out motivation theories is due to the complexity of understanding human behavior (Landy & Conte, 2007).

Therefore, it is safe to say that most theories of motivation deal with the different aspects of human nature. This paper is going to look at 4 different motivational models. They are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Aldefer’s ERG theory, Herzberg’s two factor theory as well as Adam’s equity theory. The similarities and differences of these models will also be discussed in this paper. This is the prerequisite knowledge for the next section of the paper that is application of these theories by managers in order to help reduce the problem of involuntary absenteeism in the workplace and employee disengagement.

Motivational models Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Nobody can make a dent bigger than Abraham Maslow who introduces the hierarchy of needs model in 1940s. There are 4 layers in this motivational model and it is often portrayed in the form of a pyramid (Pride, Hughes & Kapoor, 2004). He believes that certain human needs are dominated over others. Therefore, at the bottom of the pyramid is the most basic and important needs of a human being. This layer consists of fulfilling the physiological needs of an individual such as food, water and air (Pride, Hughes & Kapoor, 2004). Literally, these are aspects that are required to ensure the human survival.

After the physiological needs have been cater to, the second layer of the pyramid is satisfying the safety needs. This can be triggered by war or economic downturn whereby a person seeks for personal security such as family and health as well as financial security like employment and property (Montana & Charnov, 2008). According to Maslow, the third hierarchy involves achieving a sense of love and belonging (Montana & Charnov, 2008). This plays true to human’s nature as a social animal. Friendship, family and intimacy play an important role in meeting emotional obligation.

The next layer is getting respect from others and building self-esteem (Montana & Charnov, 2008). Lacking in these aspects will lead to helplessness and depression. Finally, at the top of pyramid is the layer of self-actualization (Pride, Hughes & Kapoor, 2004). This is the stage where somebody reaches their full potential in life. One of the major criticisms of this model is the need to fulfill a human’s needs according to a hierarchy, from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. However, in real life, a person can be demotivated as a result from various reasons and not following a certain order.

Aldefer’s ERG theory Clayton Aldefer comes up with a revised version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The ERG theory also describes the necessity to fulfill human needs according to an order. Each letter of this model represents the three levels of needs. They are existence, relatedness and growth (Hoffmann, 2007). The existence needs are aspects that are needed to maintain the physical well-being of a person (Pattanayak, 2005). After this has been fulfilled, a person will move on to finding the relatedness needs such as building satisfying relationship with others (Pattanayak, 2005).

Finally, a person will seek out his or her needs for growth whereby the competence level is developed and full potential is realized (Hoffmann, 2007). One of the major differences between Aldefer’s ERG theory with Maslow’s motivational model is the amount of flexibility. Although it is mainly concentrating on an individual fulfilling his or her needs progressively, Aldefer also acknowledges that a person may regress to lower level needs as they are easier to reach a level of satisfaction. Besides that, this flexibility also allows ERG theory to justify and observe a wider range of behavior.

Therefore, ERG theory understands that different people will have different needs and the order can be changed or even, pursued at the same time. Herzberg’s two factor theory Frederick Herzberg is the psychologist who founded the two factor theory. According two him, there are two factors that play an important role in the enhancement of motivation and satisfaction of an employee in the workplace. They are known as the hygiene and motivator factor (Tosi, Mero & Rizzo, 2000). Hygiene factors are aspects to avoid unpleasantness while working but do not guarantee satisfaction (Tosi, Mero & Rizzo, 2000).

This includes good working condition, feelings of job security, quality relationship with supervisor and colleagues, company policy, salary and etcetera. Meanwhile, motivator factors will lead to personal growth as well as job satisfaction (Schermerhorn, 2011). These factors are important in order to motivate employees to work harder and increase productivity. Components such as gaining recognition, opportunity for promotion, given more responsibility and stimulating work, just to name a few, will motivate workers to improve their performances.

Herzberg’s two factor theory is similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in terms of acknowledging the necessity to fulfill the requisites so that, motivation can occur. However, Herzberg argues that only the highest level of Maslow’s pyramid, self-actualization, can lead to motivation (Schermerhorn, 2011). The lower needs will only cause dissatisfaction if they are not fulfilled. Adam’s equity theory This motivational theory is named after John Stacey Adam. The equity theory states that there should be an equal balance between an employee’s output and input in order to create motivation, satisfaction and productivity (Miner, 2007).

An employee’s input is what and how much they put into the work (Miner, 2007). This includes variants such as effort, loyalty, hard work, commitment, flexibility, trust in superiors and personal sacrifice. Meanwhile, an employee’s output is what he or she gets back in return (Jones, Steffy & Bray, 1991). Determinants like financial rewards, recognition, a sense of achievement, praise and job security will be taken into consideration. There is a similarity between Adam’s equity theory with models that are proposed by Maslow and Herzberg.

He agrees that subtle factors can affect the perception of an individual towards his or her work. However, the equity theory model is more fluid and thus, creates awareness as well as understanding to better handle wider situations from humans’ multi-faceted behavior (Jones, Steffy & Bray, 1991). Application of motivational theories by managers in the workplace Motivation plays a crucial role in any organizations in terms of increasing productivity. The effectiveness of a company is highly dependent on their employees’ desire to strive for success. On the other hand, demotivated workers can cause several problems.

One of them is the involuntary absenteeism in the workplace. This is an indicator of low performance as workers are unable to complete their duty or obligation to their fullest. Another issue with demotivated workers is disengagement. Disengaged employees are not interested or have no passion in their jobs anymore. This feeling will reflect on their poor work performances. This section discusses the application of motivational theories that have been mentioned above by managers to solve the aforesaid problems in the workplace. There are many factors that can contribute to the demotivation of employees.

Mainly, this is caused by the feeling of dissatisfaction with their work. One way managers can motivate their workers is through the creation of incentives such as gift cards, giving recognition and orchestrating friendly competitions (Landy & Conte, 2007). Based on Maslow’s motivational model, managers can offer different incentives to help employees to fulfill each need. Therefore, managers should also be aware that each employee is motivated in different ways and requires different incentive plans that cater to their needs (Landy & Conte, 2007).

Besides that, employees do not move up the hierarchy at the same time and on the same pace. Apart from that, managers can try to motivate their employees by practicing Herzberg’s motivational theory. Adopting a more democratic approach can actually help to curb problems such as absenteeism and disengagement as employees have a positive view about their jobs (Lussier & Achua, 2009). One way is to give the workers a variety of tasks to perform. This will make the job seems more interesting and less mundane.

Managers should also not be fraid to challenge their employees with more complex tasks. This can be stimulating and create a sense of accomplishment when employees are able to complete them. Besides that, managers can consider giving their workers more power when it comes to making decisions about their jobs. If a manager practices the ERG theory, he or she will come up with plans that concentrate on the various needs of the employees at one time in order to motivate them (Lussier & Achua, 2009). The frustration-regression step should also be taken into serious consideration (Landy & Conte, 2007).

Therefore, an employee should not be blamed when he or she takes a step backward in their job performance because the environment does not allow him or her to have the opportunity to grow personally and advance to a higher status. It is important for managers to take care of this situation as soon as possible because frustrated employees who are not satisfied with their jobs will lead to demotivation after a prolong period of time. This is when employees have the tendency to be absent or disengage from their work.

Finally, managers who like to apply Adam’s equity theory in order to motivate their employees should be aware that there must be a fair return to compensate for the work done by their employees (Lussier & Achua, 2009). However, this can be rather confusing as each employee has different notions on what constitutes a fair deal as it is often injected with personal values by the workers (Landy & Conte, 2007). For example, a single working mother may accept a lower salary to trade for shorter working hours so that, she can spend more time with her family will consider this to be fair.

Besides that, an overly generous manager who pays excessively to his or her employees can also create an imbalance in the input and output scale. An overpaid employee has the tendency to decrease their productivity and feel demotivated. Conclusion This paper has looked at four different motivational theories. They are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Aldefer’s ERG theory, Herzberg’s two factor theory and Adam’s equity theory. Besides that, a brief discussion on the imilarities and differences of these motivational models are also included in this paper. A thorough understanding in this area is crucial for managers in handling demotivated employees. Effective application of motivational theories will solve various problems such absenteeism and employee disengagement. Employees who are satisfied and motivated can increase the productivity of their companies. In a nutshell, managers who can create a motivated working environment by making use of the study in human nature will be able to reap the benefits.


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