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Rose O’Neal Greenhow sample essay

Why is it important to read this essay? It is because study of motivation is the study of human energy to satisfy their needs and how they make choices to achieve their goals, but also – their effort at work. Motivation is at the heart of every organization. Understanding motivation is an important knowledge which first, enables managers and business owners to maintain high performance at work. Second, helps managers to maintain good relationships with their employees.

Third, businesses get good reputation by the friendly disposition of staff, their wakefulness, attitude, how they look and the way they do their job, if motivated properly. And finally, motivation is important to keep company’s costs low and stay competitive. There are many theories on motivation. We can divide them into content and process theories. The major influential names in business management motivation theories are A. H. Maslow, F. I. Herzberg, J. Stacy Adams, E. C. Tolman, E. A Locke, C. P. Alderfer and D. M. McGregor.

Where Tolman focuses on expectancy theory and Alderfer on his ERG (Existence, Relatedness and Growth) theory, this work focuses on Maslow’s, Herzberg’s, Adams’ and Locke’s theories, introducing, comparing and contrasting two content and two process theories. One of the most known psychologists interested in motivation was A. H. Maslow – author of a content theory which indicates we have nine innate needs or motives: physiological needs, then safety, social, esteem and finally self-actualization needs. He claimed one cannot be, for example, satisfied socially if his safety needs are not met, what suggests a hierarchy system he built on.

It is important to mention that E. Mayo – the founder of Human Relations Movement – writes about the importance of work in collaboration; in group, and that it should not occur by accident, but should be planned and developed. Individuals cannot be treated in isolation – but as members of a group, often informal. In the context of Maslow’s theory we can find similar assumptions but he is also “seeking to explain the dynamic basis of personality” Another content theory discussed in this essay is F. Herzberg’s theory. To understand its principals F. W. Taylor’s theory on job design has to be introduced.

It is basically focused on logical and efficient ways to specialize workers quickly in small tasks to lower their pay and achieve controlled performance. From this concept an antidote to repetitive work derived. F. Herzberg’s theory is “that employees will be motivated by jobs that enhance their feelings of self-worth” . His concept of job enrichment as a replacement to Taylor’s ‘task fragmentation’ theory is still very important in today’s management and widely publicised. It elaborates on two sets of factors: motivator factors (satisfiers – achievement, growth, recognition…

) and hygiene factors (dissatisfiers – pay, status, security… ). There are several advantages of implementing his theory: workers understand better how “important, valuable, and worthwhile” their job is, are given autonomy and feel personally responsible for the results of their work. Other strengths are deeper insight into human’s nature, skill variety for workers and hence high satisfaction with work. From the other hand, job enrichment can be disadvantageous for someone who does not have a strong need for self-development, thus Herzberg is often criticized for his ideas.

He shows “little awareness how partial and limited a view of the world this actually is” and “that democracy, ethics and morals, in its detailed specification and meaning, are all historically and culturally relative and far from the ‘absolutes’ he seems to assume” . It is also assumed by David Knights and Hugh Wilmott, in their book, that Maslow’s theory is difficult to achieve in terms of ‘self-actualization’, if we consider day-to-day experiences in the workplace. Looking at strengths and weaknesses of motivation theories, it is important to discuss process theories.

There are many theories introduced by S. Adams, V. H. Vroom, L. W. Porter, E. E. Lawler III and E. A. Locke but one of more important ones are Locke’s goal setting theory and Adams’ equity theory. Goal setting theory relies on setting challenging aims to encourage workers to try harder. It is also important to set specific goals which precisely say what is required from workers, what helps to avoid confusion. Another feature of goal setting is participation, which leads to higher performance and knowledge of results of past performance.

Knights & Wilmott in their book say that the explanation of why some individuals perform better than others “lies in the fact that they have different performance goals” . Regrettably there are some weaknesses of goal setting like it is “rather complex and difficult to sustain” ; works well only with simple jobs (and does not with “not measurable” jobs, like teaching or nursing) and it is another control device to monitor employees performance which causes stress and creates lack of autonomy.

And lastly, but not less importantly if an employee’s goals are not coordinated with organization’s goals, the employee’s goals may come into conflict with the organization what can distract the employee from doing the actual tasks. Another theory – equity theory by S. Adams is described as: “what we perceive to be just or equitable depends on the comparisons we make with others” . Ivancevich in his book says that ‘a major determinant of an employee’s productivity and satisfaction arises from the degree of fairness (equity) or unfairness (inequity)” where equity is based on a system of inputs (attendance, effort, etc.

) and outputs (pay, services, etc. ). According to the theory, inequity occurs when employee gets paid less or more, than others who do the same job. This also includes inequity of work load, recognition, effort, ideas, contribution, etc. If inequity is stronger, employee’s motivation also gets stronger to act to resolve inequity. If equity is perceived, it seems to lead to greater job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Employees tend to compare their inputs with other significant person in an organization holding, for example the same position, getting the same wage, putting the same effort into work.

The key to understanding social comparison theories is the idea of perceived fairness, says Ivancevich . The question is: does an employee think he or she is paid fairly or unfairly? If an employee feels he e. g. puts much more effort into his work and is treated unfairly by the management, it may result in lower quality, delays, lack of communication, higher absenteeism or quitting the job. Equity theory is designed in a way which should help to avoid such situations, but it has got its weaknesses as well.

The most problematic one is that the theory’s model is very simplistic, what argues for example with psychological variables of human being which affect our perception of fairness and interaction with others. Besides this, some argue that employees may perceive inequity not only in terms of inputs and outputs but also in terms of the entire business setting. In conclusion, this essay discussed the importance of motivation at the workplace, using several motivation theories created by people passionate about human behaviour.

More specifically it looked at content theories of Maslow with his hierarchy of needs, and Hertzberg – job enrichment; but also at process theories of Locke – goal setting theory, and Adams – equity theory. Providing organizations with such powerful tools like motivation techniques, giving people more autonomy, enriching their work experience, providing them with more flexibility and giving them opportunities to acquire new skills, changes today’s picture of work and hopefully will change the work environment positively.

Motivation psychologists or theorists aim to discover, observe and learn the mysteries of human nature in order to use this knowledge to improve the quality of work and life worldwide. But what we must appreciate is that often one theory is just not enough for an organization to guarantee its workers quality jobs and relations. It is often needed to implement many different techniques – just like in life – we learn different things to make ourselves more comfortable in today’s environment.

Hopefully motivation techniques will not only be “an ideology that masks the conflicts of interest at the heart of capitalism” but something more than this. ?


1. Buchanan, D. , Huczynski, A. Organizational behavior An Introductory Text, 2004, Pearson Education Ltd, Harlow 2. Carell & Dittrich, 1978 3. Deci, E. L. , Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behaviour, 4. Ivancevich, J. M. , 2001 Human Resource Management, 2001, The McGraw-Hill Companies, New York 5. Knights, D. ,Willmott, H. 2007 Introducing organizational behavior & management, Thomson Learning, London

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