Early theories of Motivation

Motivation is one of the most frequently researched topics in OB. One reason for its popularity is revealed in a recent Gallup Poll, which found that a majority of US employees 55 percent to be exact have no enthusiasm for their work. Clearly, this suggests a problem at least in the United States. The good news is that all this research provides us with considerable insights into how to improve motivation.

Defining Motivation:

Many people incorrectly view motivation as a personal trait that is, some have it and others don’t. In practice inexperienced managers often label employees who seem to lack motivation as lazy. Such a label assumes that an individual is always lazy or is lacking in motivation. knowledge of motivation tells us that this just isn’t true. Think about Kim Jong II. The man is highly motivated, just motivated in the same direction as you and me. The question, then, is not usually whether someone is motivated, but what are they motivated by?

What we know is that motivation is the result of the interaction of the individual and the situation. Certainly, individuals differ in their basic motivational drive. But the same student who finds it difficult to read a text book for more than 20 minutes may devour a Harry Potter book in one day. For this student, the change in motivation is driven by the situation varies both between individuals and within individuals at different times.

Motivation can be defined as the processes that account for an individual’s intensity, direction, and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal. While general motivation is concerned with effort toward any goal, it can be narrowed to the focus of organizational goals in order to reflect singular interest in work related behavior.

The three key elements in our definition are intensity, direction, and persistence. Intensity is concerned with how a person tries. This is the element most of us focus on when we talk about motivation. However, high intensity is unlikely to lead to favorable job-performance outcomes unless the effort is channeled in a direction that benefits the organizations. Therefore, we have to consider the quality of effort as well as its intensity. Effort that is directed toward, and consistent with, the organization’s goals is the kind of effort that we should be seeking. Finally, motivation has a persistence dimension. This is a measure of how long a person can maintain effort. Motivated individuals stay with a task long enough to achieve their goal.

The 1950s were a fruitful period in the development of motivation concepts. Three specific theories were formulated during this period, which although heavily attacked and now questionable in terms of validity, are probably still the best known explanations for employee motivation. One should know the early theories of motivation for at least two reasons (1) They represent a foundation from which contemporary theories have grown, and (2) practicing managers still regularly use these theories and their terminology in explaining employee motivation.

it is probably safe to say that the most well known theory of motivation is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He hypothesized that within every human being there exists a hierarchy five needs. These needs are:

1. Physiological: Includes hunger, thirst, shelter, sex, and other bodily needs.
2. Safety: Includes security and protection from physical and emotional harm
3. Social: Includes affection, belongingness, acceptance, and friendship.
4. Esteem: Includes internal esteem factors such as self respect, autonomy, and achievement; and eternal esteem factors such as status, recognition and attention.
5. Self actualization: The drive to become what one is capable of becoming; including growth; achieving one’s potential and self fulfillment.

As each of these needs becomes substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant. The individuals move up the steps of the hierarchy. From the standpoint of motivation, the theory would say that although no need is ever fully gratified substantially satisfied need no longer motivates. So if you want to motivate someone, you need to understand what level of the hierarchy that person is currently on and focus on satisfying the needs at or above that level.

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