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Theories of Motivation Essay

Ask any person who is successful in whatever he or she is doing what motivates him/her, and very likely the answer will be “goals”. Goal Setting is extremely important to motivation and success. So what motivates you? Why are you in college? If you are in college because that’s what your parents want, you may find it difficult to motivate yourself. Sure, it’s possible to succeed with someone else providing the motivation for you. (“If you graduate from college, I’ll give you a car!” or worse “If you don’t graduate from college, you won’t get a car.”) But motivation that comes from within really makes the difference. Theories have been developed over the years as to what motivates us and those theories are what I intend to discuss.

Compare and Contrast of Motivational Theories

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow showed little interest in animal or laboratory studies of human behavior. He chose instead to collect data for his theories by studying outstanding individuals. His studies led him to believe that people have certain needs, which are unchanging and genetic in origin. These needs are the same in all cultures and are both physiological and psychological. Maslow described these needs as being hierarchal in nature, meaning that some needs are more basic or more powerful than others and as these needs are satisfied, other higher needs emerge.

(“Abraham H. Maslow’s”, 2001)

Herzberg Hygiene Theory

Herzberg found that the factors causing job satisfaction (and presumably motivation) were different from those causing job dissatisfaction. He developed the motivation-hygiene theory to explain these results. He called the satisfiers motivators and the dissatisfiers hygiene factors, using the term “hygiene” in the sense that they are considered maintenance factors that are necessary to avoid dissatisfaction but that by themselves do not provide satisfaction. Herzberg described motivators as: growth, esteem, recognition, responsibility, advancement and personal goals. Hygienes are: job security, working conditions, company policies, co-worker relations and supervision relations. (McShane & Von Glinow, 2003)

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

People who espouse Theory X would believe that the average human being dislikes (all) work and will avoid it if they can; that because of this, people must be coerced to put in the required effort, offered inducements and threatened with punishment. Theory X goes on to hold that the average human being seeks to avoid responsibility, is not ambitious and seeks security before advancement.

People who hold to Theory Y, on the other hand, believe that for most people work is as natural as play; that people have capacity for self-control: that motivation also arises from the higher order needs such as self-esteem and achievement and that people, if properly managed, will be more than willing to take on responsibility. Finally, theory Y holds that people can be creative and team spirited and that few organizations make use of the abilities that people have.


Maslow’s theory and Herzberg’s Hygiene theory differ due to peoples needs not changing over time in Herzberg’s theory. They all three resemble each other in that Maslow’s physiological, safety abd social needs; Herzberg’s hygiene factors and all of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y factors are satisfied through conditions of employment and the workplace.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y are two distinct types of people where the other two individualize all of the theory factors. Maslow’s is a hierarchy that when one need is fulfilled others kick in. Herzberg outlines factors that need to be maintained on a constant basis rather than a hierarchy of one achievement to the next.

All of the theories have validity, but I find that Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory is what I see most at my work or in my field. It is especially noticed when I look at the dissatisfaction and then look at the hygiene factors and see such a resemblance.

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