Classical Motivation Theories - Similarities and Differences between them

Bachelor Thesis, 2006

49 Pages, Grade: B+



List of Figures

1. Introduction

2. Methodology
Secondary Data Collection
Primary Data Collection

3. What is motivation?

4. Why is motivation so important in management?

5. Motivation theories
5.1 Abraham Maslow - Hierarchy of human needs
5.2 Frederick Herzberg - Two factor theory
5.3 Clayton P. Alderfer - ERG-theory

6. Similarities and differences between the motivation theories

7. Conclusion


List of Figures

Figure 1: The basic motivation process (Hodgetts and Luthans, 1997, p. 332)

Figure 2: Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs (Weightman, 1999, p. 39)

Figure 3: Meaning of the hierarchy of human needs at the workplace (Steers and Porter 1991, p. 3)

Figure 4: Motivation-hygiene theory

Figure 5: Herzberg’s two factor theory (Hodgetts and Luthans, 1997, p. 340)

Figure 6: Own illustration: Motivators and hygiene factors depending on job satisfaction and dissatisfaction

Figure 7: Motivators and Hygiene factors with its dedicated opposites (Neuberger, 1974)

Figure 8: Alderfer’s ERG-theory

Figure 9: Own illustration: Comparison of Maslow and Alderfer

Figure 10: Classification of needs (Rosenstiel, 1992, p. 371)

Figure 11: Theories of motivation, (Luthans, 1989, p. 239, slightly changed)

Figure 12: Relationship between Maslow and Herzberg (Hodgetts and Luthans, 1997, p. 340)

1. Introduction

“We always do what we MOST WANT to do, whether or not we like what we are doing at each instant of our lives. Wanting and liking many times are not the same thing. Many people have done what they say they didn’t want to do at a particular moment. And that may be true until one looks deeper into the motivation behind the doing. What they are really saying is the price they will have to pay or the consequences they will have to endure, for not doing that something may be too high or onerous for them not to do it. Such as going to work. Many people say they don’t want to go to work and yet they do. Which means they don’t want to risk losing their jobs and the negative hurting emotions associated with not having a job. It has been estimated about 90% to 95% of all people work at jobs which are unfulfilling and which they dislike and would leave in a minute if they only knew what they really wanted to do.” Sidney Madwed

( accessed on 15.02.2006)

The quotation defines that nowadays motivation should be an indispensable part of every company. It is a complex and difficult topic and therefore management also has to take historical theories into account. Furthermore, it has to be figured out what employees designate as attractive for defining an effective motivation programme within the organisation.

This dissertation will critically evaluate what motivation is and illustrate the different kinds of motivation theories of Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg and Clayton P. Alderfer by explaining the key concepts for managing and motivating people. Due to the fact that motivation, especially employee motivation, is such a broad topic the dissertation will put a specific focus on the similarities and differences between the classical motivation theories.

2. Methodology

This dissertation was first of all intended to evaluate the similarities and differences between classical motivation theories.

It was the researcher’s intention to concentrate particularly on the work of Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg and Clayton P. Alderfer as the motivation theories which have been established by them are the most famous ones.

Secondary Data Collection

Research was initiated by reading books, journals as well as newspaper articles in order to obtain a theoretical framework for the research topic.

Furthermore, relevant books and electronic resources, for example Internet articles and journals were used to gather information and to broaden the range of secondary research.

Primary Data Collection

A primary research of this topic would not have been possible due to the required time to elaborate and carry out a meaningful survey. Furthermore,

primary data research such as questionnaires or interviews would not have been sufficiently representative for the intended purpose.

3. What is motivation?

Motivation is a psychological process and it can be explained as the willingness of individuals to do something for satisfying a need. A need is a psychological or physiological deficiency, which makes the attainment of specific outcomes attractive. Unsatisfied needs lead to drives which generate a search for particular goals. If these goals are attained the need will be satisfied. (Robbins and Coulter, 2002) In everyday life, people ask themselves the question why they do some things or why not. In response, individuals try to find a motive which justifies the behaviour. Motives form the basis of needs. Therefore, it can be said that people seek for solutions in order to solve deficiency which means that motives are activated. These incentives may derive from us or they can come from other persons. Motivation is divided in two different types. The first one is called intrinsic motivation which means that people engage in an activity for its own sake, for example pursuit of responsible activities or personal development potentialities. Extrinsic motivation is used by a third party, for example supervisors or managers to motivate employees with either tangible rewards (payments, promotions, punishments) or intangible rewards (praise, public commendation). (Steers, Porter and Bigley, 1996)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The basic motivation process (Hodgetts and Luthans, 1997, p. 332)

There are a lot more definitions of motivation but all have in common that motivation is a psychological process influencing internal motives which direct behaviour of a person and force him to activity with the intention to reach some objectives. Most psychologists believe that motivation is ultimately derived from a tension that results when one or more of people‘s important needs are unsatisfied. Therefore, a person who is hungry is motivated to find food or a person who needs security is motivated to find it. Another important point called behaviourism has to be taken into consideration concerning motivation. Behaviourism has its roots in 1953 when B. F. Skinner explored that people learn through their experiences and that these affect who and what they become. (Weightman,1999) Furthermore, he stated that people will most likely engage in desired behaviours if they are positively reinforced for doing so and rewards are most effective if they immediately follow the desired response. Skinner was also mainly responsible for the development of the philosophy of neo behaviourism and for the further progression of applied behaviour analysis, a branch of psychology which aims to develop a unified framework for animal and human behaviour based on principles of learning. The psychologist did not support the use of punishment because in his opinion it is an ineffective way of controlling behaviour and that a behaviour that is not rewarded or is punished is less likely to be repeated. (Skinner, 1974) It is said that the exploration of the emotional and motivational life of the mind is one of the greatest achievements in history of human thought. Furthermore, psychological motivation defines that individuals tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain which means that people want to maximise positive results and minimise the negative ones. Therefore, motivation energises, directs and sustains behaviour.

The expectancy theory of motivation which describes how individuals make decisions regarding behavioural alternatives has also become a commonly used theory. It defines that people have different set of goals and that they can be motivated if they believe that there is a positive connection between efforts and performance, that the performance will result in a good remuneration, that this remuneration will satisfy a special need and that the wish to satisfy this need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile. (Vroom, 1964) While other theories of motivation provide a theoretical framework for thinking and understanding what motivates people in the workplace and everyday life, the expectancy theory deals with practical solutions concerning diagnosing and solving individuals’ motivation problems.

Concerning the expectancy theory, motivation is a combination of valence, instrumentality and expectancy. Like mentioned above, motivating people by showing them worthwhile outcomes and then supporting them to reach these goals or desires helps people or employees to act in a way that provides pleasure and avoids pain. (Green, 1992)

In addition, humans are motivated by many things, for example psychological needs, emotions, hurts, impulses, fears, rewards such as money, friendship or status, wishes, intentions, values, self-satisfaction, interests, pleasure, dislikes, goals, ambitions and so on. An employee who is motivated works better than one without motivation. It is also known that people are ready to work harder if they see that their work is rewarded. Therefore, managers must know how to motivate their employees in order to complete tasks and achieve the goals of the company by applying motivation theories. There are many different approaches of motivation. The work of three well-known psychologists called Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg and Clayton P. Altderfer is closely associated with human needs and motivation and helps to create better living and working conditions.

4. Why is motivation so important in management?

“The only way to get people to like working hard is to motivate them. Today, people must understand why they're working hard. Every individual in an organization is motivated by something different.” Rick Pitino

( accessed on 25.02.2006) Motivation is closely linked to the performance of human resources in modern organisations but it must be remembered that although the motivation process may be the same across cultures, the content of what motivates people is often different. In modern management there is a multitude of concepts which aim at the attitudes of employees and managers. These concepts not only provide motivation in the sense of increasing performance but also the loyalty and commitment of employees to the organisation. Most of the modern concepts concerning human resource management are founded on motivational basics. In today’s economic situation the survival and the success of an organisation depend on efficiency and innovative ability. Therefore, the employee is the most crucial source because if he is able to identify himself with the aims and objectives of the company, productivity and innovation will be increased.

Motivation theories concerning management also have a historical context. One theory that some companies used was the scientific approach which was put forward by Frederick Taylor, an American engineer. It was mainly applied in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, during the time of industrialisation and increasing mass production.

Taylor developed his theory while he was working his way up from a labourer to a manager. The theory comprises that man is a rational economic animal concerned with maximising the economic gain. The model also assumes that human beings are simply motivated by monetary incentives and that they have no interest in the contents and tasks of their activity. For that reason, Taylor concluded that to increase production, managers must take control of the work processes which means that the workers had an influence on the execution of their work but had no possibility to make decisions. (Taylor, 1947) The basic principle that is underlying his approach is that if people study what happens when they change different variables in a situation this will tell them how to organise the workforce in the best way. Scientific Management exists of different techniques that are also used today called:

- “Scientific method of doing work”
- “Planning tasks”
- “Standardization”
- “Specialisation and division or work”
- “Time and motion studies”

( accessed on 25.02.2006)

Nevertheless, nowadays companies try to move away from scientific management but it is still applicable in menial industries such as assembly lines and fast-food restaurants. The principles are often used when managers analyse the basic work tasks that must be performed when they hire the best suitable workers for a job or when managers use time-and-motion studies to eliminate wasted motions. (Robbins and Coulter, 2002)

In some respect, it is obvious that Taylor’s theory is out of date due to the fact that people do not just work for money. They also work for socialisation and factors like earning respect from fellow employees or managers.

The Human Relations Model which was created by Elton Mayo is also very significant concerning motivation in management. He believed that workers could be motivated by acknowleding their social needs. Moreover, making the employees feel important would improve the conditions at work. The model named “Hawthorne effect” was created in order to push foward the start of Human Relations Movement in management and organisational thinking. With the help of his experiments, Mayo wanted to show the limits of precision of Taylor by discovering the effect of different intensities of lighting on the production line and on the productivity of its staff. (Robbins and Coulter, 2002)

Finally, Mayo and his engineers found out that if the level of light became more intensive also the level of output increased and that employees got more motivated as soon as they noticed that they got more attention than before. As a result, employees were given more freedom to make decisions on the job and greater attention was paid to informal work groups. Moreover, the results of the Hawthorne model led the researchers to question what other changes in working conditions could improve the output. It is outlined that being part of a group or having a certain status within it often means more to an employee than pay or better working conditions. As a conclusion, Mayo noticed that production was increased without motivating employees by rewards and remuneration, which had been taken into consideration by Taylor. Furthermore, he saw that employees began to enjoy their tasks and that social relationships outside work became more and more important.

( accessed on 02.03.2006)


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Classical Motivation Theories - Similarities and Differences between them
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Stefanie Hoffmann (Author), 2006, Classical Motivation Theories - Similarities and Differences between them, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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