Motivation is a set of energetic forces, originating both from within and outside the individual that initiate behavior and determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration.


The motivational process.

  • Human motivation is a complex process that begins with human needs. (Needs are drives or forces that initiate behaviour).
  • When needs become very strong people engage in efforts to fulfill these needs. As a result of such efforts people experience various levels of need satisfaction. The extent to which people find their needs satisfied serves to influence the future choices to satisfy the same or similar need. The diagram illustrates:-



 10.2.   Individual process.











  • The motivational process is a dynamic one. An individual has at any time several needs to satisfy and one can be at different positions in the cycle for each need. Satisfaction of the needs also takes different time frame but at any rate the starting point is always needs.
  • Motivation is a complex problem in organizations because the needs, wants and desires of each employee differ. Each employee is unique in his/her biological and psychological make up.
  • Motivation is further complicated by the fact that it is not exactly clear who is responsible for employee motivation i.e. whether the manager or the employee himself (is the individual expected to provide his own motivation or is motivation a function of management?).
  • Motivation can either be external or internal.
  • External motivation emanates from management and employees react either positively or negatively to what their managers do. Managers must therefore use external motivation that generates positive responses from employees.
  • Internal motivation originates from within the individual as he tries to satisfy his needs. It may be caused by factors within the individual e.g. personality factors or factors that are under the control of management e.g. job context (salaries, policies, and working conditions) and job content (recognition, advancement, status and responsibility).
  • Persons find that organizations allow them to achieve goals that they cannot achieve alone. This may imply a large degree of self motivation or internal motivation on the part of each individual. Many people however do not realize that by working toward the organizational goals they are also achieving their own individual goals. Such people are rarely self motivated enough to share in organizational goals and usually want jobs with salaries that can pay bills. For such people management must provide external motivation in order to encourage them to work towards organizational goals.


Theories of motivation.


Motivation theories are divided into two main categories:-

  1. Content theories.
  2. Process theories.


Content theories attempts to explain the specific things that actually motivate an individual at work. They are concerned mainly with identifying people’s needs, their relative strengths and the goals people pursue in order to satisfy these needs. Their main focus is on what motivates. Included here are Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory, Alderfer’s modified Need Hierarchy and McClellands achievement motivation.

Process theories concern themselves with identification of the dynamic variables that make up motivation. Mainly process theories focus on how behaviour is initiated, directed and sustained. They include expectancy-based models of Vroom and Porter, and Lawler and Adam’s equity theory.



Content theories.


Herzberg’s two factor theory.

  • The two factor theory was developed by Fredrick Herzberg from his study of 200 accountants and engineers. It is also known as the hygiene theory. It is a theory of external motivation because the manager controls the factors that produce job satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
  • Prior to Herzberg’s study it was generally believed that employee satisfaction and dissatisfaction and hence motivation or lack of it were two opposite ends of the same continuum (scale) i.e. people were either satisfied with their jobs or they were dissatisfied or something in between. Herzberg’s study however showed that this was not the case. He found out that satisfaction was influenced by one set of factors while dissatisfaction was influenced by another set (hence the two factor theory) factors which influenced dissatisfaction he called dissatisfies (hygiene or maintenance factors). These included company policy, administration, and supervision, working conditions, salary, status, job security and interpersonal relations. If these factors are present in high quality and quantity, people are simply not dissatisfied but not necessarily satisfied. So presence of these factors does not motivate in the sense of yielding satisfaction. When these factors were absent or deficient people were dissatisfied yet when they were present people were not necessarily satisfied-instead they were simply not dissatisfied.
  • Factors which affected satisfaction, he called satisfier or motivators. Included here were achievement, recognition, responsibility, growth and advancement. When these factors fell below an acceptable level, they contributed very little to job dissatisfaction but they did prevent satisfaction i.e. when they were present employees tended to be satisfied but when they were deficient employees were merely not satisfied but were not necessarily dissatisfied. If a job does not offer employee advancement, challenging work, responsibility and recognition, he/she will not necessarily be dissatisfied with it but neither will he derive any satisfaction from it.
  • This theory has a clear message for managers in tying to motivate employee. The first step should be to eliminate dissatisfaction by ensuring that pay, working conditions, company policies are reasonable. But pay and those other improvements will not lead to motivation, so the next step would be for managers to enhance motivation by improving factors that cause satisfaction. So managers should ensure there are opportunity for advancement, achievement, authority, status and recognition. From the theory it can be concluded that:-
  1. The factors that cause job satisfaction are separate and distinct from the factors that cause job dissatisfaction.
  2. The opposite of job satisfaction is not job satisfaction and not dissatisfaction.
  3. The opposite of job dissatisfaction is not dissatisfaction, and not satisfaction.
  4. The applicability of this theory has been questioned and it must be approached with caution and not treated as a solution to motivational problems.


Abraham Maslow’s need hierarchy.

  •  Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs theory of motivation based on the ideas that human need can be arranged in order of importance from the most basic. Once a need is fairly well satisfied it no longer motivates behaviour and man is then motivated by next higher level of needs. Maslow divided human needs into five levels:-


     (a)Physiological needs.

  • These are the most basic human need for sustaining life e.g. food, air, shelter and clothing. These needs have certain characteristics:-
    1. They are relatively independent of each other.
    2. They can be identified with specific location of the body.
  • To remain satisfied, they must be met repeatedly within a short time.
  1. Unless these needs are satisfied to the degree necessary to sustain life other needs will not motivate people.


b) Safety or security needs.

    • These needs are expressed as desire for protection against danger, threat or deprivation. The desire may be economic, physical or for social safety. Employees may for example desire economic security, orderly working relationships etc.


c) Social needs.

  • These include need for belonging, love, acceptance, friendship, association and need to give and receive love. Man being a social being will aspire for a place in his/her own group and will strive to achieve it.
  • Some managers who fear informal organizations may attempt to direct and control employee relationship in ways that frustrate their natural grouping and employees may react by being antagonistic, hostile and uncooperative.


(d) Esteem needs (EGO).

  • According to Maslow these needs do not become motivators until the lower level needs have been reasonably satisfied. These needs are rarely completely satisfied. Once these needs become important to an individual he will continually seek satisfaction of them. The typical industrial organization offers only limited opportunity for the satisfaction of these needs at the lower level of employment. Esteem needs consist of both self-esteem and esteem by others. Self-esteem needs include achievement, self confidence, self respect, competence, independence and freedom. Satisfaction of these needs leads to feelings of worth, power, prestige, status, capability, strength and feelings of being useful and necessary in the world. Frustrating these needs may lead to feelings of inferiority, weakness and helplessness.


(e) Self actualization needs.

  • These needs according to Maslow emerge after all other needs have been satisfied. Self actualization needs include the realization of one’s potentialities, self fulfillment, self development and creativeness.
  • The form these needs take varies from person to person just as human personalities vary. Self actualization can be satisfied through any of these ways, athletics, politics, academics, family, religion, hobbies or business.
  • A creative state is involved since creativity is realizing one’s own potential to the fullest degree whatever it may be. It is a feeling of accomplishment and attainment and being satisfied with one self.
  • NOTE: Man is forever wanting, so all needs are never fully satisfied once the importance of a need diminishes another need emerges to replace the already satisfied ones.
  • The process of need satisfaction never ending and it serves to continually motivate people to achieve their needs.
  • The needs are interdependent and overlapping since one need does not disappear when another need emerges.
  • Maslow’s theory applies only to a typical healthy person. In most rich and developed countries or among the rich of society physiological and safety needs may not be motivators but for poorly paid low class workers and in poor economies physiological needs are strong motivators- for example in regions hit by famine and /or epidemics physiological needs may remain the only motivation of behaviour.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy theory has general and not specific application. One may deny himself one need so as to satisfy another much better e.g. a student who denies himself sleep and social interaction inorder to attain higher grades in examination or a father may deny himself social needs by working on two jobs inorder to be able to send his children to school.
  • Need theory claims that money can satisfy some needs but contends that the worker is motivated primarily by intrinsic rewards which are provided by the worker himself.
  • Maslow’s theory is important to managers because it spells out the needs that people have. When managers know what people need they can know how to help them satisfy these needs. Knowledge of each category of needs can help management in making management decisions especially those regarding employees. The decisions made by management must show concern for people’s needs. Management can for example meet people’s esteem needs by providing them with opportunities for advancement.
  • It must however be realized that needs even the basic ones like clothing and shelter are elastic. It’s hard to identify how much is enough. Research has also shown that even the lowliest employee has needs for esteem and self actualization. In practice therefore managers must take a situational or contingency approach to the application of Maslow’s theory. What needs they appeal to will depend on personality, wants, desires and interests of individuals.


Alderfer’s modified need hierarchy model (erg theory).

  •  Alderfer gives a variation of Maslow’s need theory and referred to his version as the ERG model of motivation. Alderfer condenses Maslow’s five levels of needs into three levels based on the conference of existence, relatedness and growth.
  • Existence needs are concerned with sustaining human existence and survival and cover Maslow’s physiological and safety needs. They include all the various forms of material desires such as food, water, pay and good working conditions.
  • Relatedness needs are concerned with relationships to the social environment and cover love, belonging, affiliation and meaningful interpersonal relationship of a safety or esteem nature.
  • Growth needs are concerned with the development of potential and esteem and self actualization.

NOTE:  The difference between Alderfer’s and Maslow’s theory is deeper than just in the number of levels:

–Alderfer does not exactly see the needs as a hierarchy but he finds that one class of needs might remain strong. Whether or not another class has been satisfied. But ideally he (like Maslow) suggests that individuals progress from existence needs to relatedness, to growth needs as the lower level need become satisfied.

–He suggests that more than one need (level) may be activated at the same time.

–He also suggests (unlike Maslow) that individual do progress down the hierarchy e.g. for a person who has been continually frustrated in attempting to satisfy growth needs, relatedness needs may assume most importance.

Alderfer had certain propositions:

  • The less existence needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired (like Maslow).
  • The less relatedness needs are satisfied, the more existence needs will be desired (disagrees with Maslow).
  • The less relatedness needs are satisfied, the more they will be desired (agrees with Maslow).
  • The less growth needs are satisfied, the more relatedness needs will be desired (unlike Maslow).
  • By simplifying the class of needs Alderfer is subject to less misunderstanding. The results of Alderfer work suggest that lower level needs do not need to be satisfied before higher level needs emerge as motivators (unlike maslow). His theory however agrees with Maslow in as far as lower needs decreases in strength as they become satisfied


McGregor theory X and theory Y.

 McGregor idenfied two styles of managing.

Theory X –autocratic management

Theory Y – participative management.


Theory X assumes the following: 

  • The average person dislikes work and will try to avoid it.
  • Because people dislike work, they must be coerced through threat and punishment if they have to contribute to organizational objectives.
  • Above all people want security they prefer to be led and avoid responsibility.


Theory Y assumes: 

  • Work is as normal as play.
  • Threat of punishment is only one way to make people work.
  • Committed people are self motivated and self directed.
  • Under the right conditions the average person will seek and like responsibility.
  • The ability to think creatively, to innovate and solve problems are widely distributed among people.
  • McGregor felt that theory X assumptions were in most industrial organization but were inadequate for the full utilization of each worker’s potential. Theory X advocates for external motivation mainly through threat or punishment.
  • Theory Y looks at employees as self fulfilling and highly internally motivated. With the proper environment i.e. one which employees can best achieve their own goals by committing themselves to the organizational goals, employees will exercise a large degree of internal motivation.
  • The heavy emphasis on internal motivation (Y) implies that all employees will be motivated by self esteem and self actualization needs while on the job. This is not always so-some people are uncomfortable with too much freedom.
  • Managers must remember that each employee is unique and should be understood and treated as such. Therefore external motivation should be flexible enough to accommodate each unique person in the organization. People should not be forced to fit into rigid theory or into one manager’s view point.


McClelland-need based motivation.

  • He said human being have three basic needs (motivational) power, affiliation and achievement.
  • Power is shown in strong desire to alter the course of events.
  • Affiliation is need for friendship, love and group approval.
  • Achievement is shown by desire to succeed not to fail.
  • He found out that scientist, business men and professionals have above average desire for achievement motivation. He suggested that a person with achievement motivation possesses certain characteristics.
  • He prefers tasks in which he can take personal responsibility for the outcome.
  • He sets moderate goals and takes calculated risks.
  • Wants precise feedback concerning his successes or failures.
  • He prefers co-workers who are competent despite his personal feelings about them. McClelland’s theory is important to the study of motivation because he maintains that the achievements motivate can be taught. He indicates that the achievement motivate can be acquired through training by teaching person to think and behave in terms of achievement motive.


Skinner-Motivation through positive reinforcement.

  •  Skinner said that all behaviour is as a result of stimulus. In management a motivational stimulus can be anything that results in change of behaviour. It can be positive such as promotion, pay rise or negative such as demotion. Stimulus that causes positive motivation are positive reinforcement and skinner emphasize positive reinforcement. Managers who follow the skinner style of management emphasize praise, encouragement and assistance in solving problems at work.


Process Theories.

The Vroom Model-a Contingency View.

Vroom looks at effective motivation as a result of three factors:


(a) The goals that a person wants to achieve.

These might include a higher salary, promotion, job security and more interesting work. Each individual may have a different arrangement of goals. Vroom lays emphasis on what goals the employee sees as important.

b) Relationship between productivity and personal goals attainment.

–Each person has a perception on how productivity is related to personal goal attainment. If a person sees high productivity as leading to achievements of personal goals, then high productivity will be desired. If not, not much value will be attached on productivity by that person. Here it is the employee perception that counts.

c) Extent to which a person can influence his/her own productivity.

–If an individual believes that there is little or nothing he can do to influence his output, then he/she may not attempt to do so.


Productivity and satisfaction-Porter & Lawler model. 

  • Basing their work on the assumption that a relationship existed between satisfaction and productivity. Lawler and porter developed their model of managerial motivation. Their model is based on the assumption that rewards causes satisfaction and that sometimes performance produces rewards. They hypothesized that satisfaction and performance are linked by rewards. They see good performance leading to rewards which lead to satisfaction. According to them, satisfaction performance leads to rewards which are either intrinsic or extrinsic.
  • Intrinsic rewards are given to the individual by himself for good performance and they include feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction of higher level needs. Extrinsic rewards are given by organization and include pay, promotions, status, job security etc. and they mainly satisfy lower level needs. This means that at times extrinsic reward are not related to performance. To be considered a reward the individual must value it positively so both the individual, worker and the organization are responsible for motivation. But despite the organizations influence the greater responsibility for motivation lies with the individual. Therefore his motivation or satisfaction depends on his performance as it is affected by the value he places on rewards, the probability that effort will result in rewards, his efforts, his abilities, his traits and his roles perception.


Motivating Factors.

  •  Despite the facts that scholars of management have not agreed fully on what motivates people, there is a general consensus that the listed factors do cause motivation.
  • Participation in planning-when employees are given a choice to plan their own work and contribute to organizational planning, the plans are more acceptable to them- after all they have taken part in making them.
  • Challenging work- when work is not challenging boredom sets in and this is likely to cause sluggishness and dissatisfaction at the place of work.
  • Recognition and status- most people want approval by peers, friends and bosses. Benefits that show status e.g. company car, credit cards, club membership may increase motivation. Recognition is shown by items distinction e.g. a key to the executive lift or washroom, carpeted offices, reserved parking etc.
  • Authority, Responsibility and Power-some people are motivated greatly by being responsible for the work of others. Many people stay in organizations with a hope of rising to upper levels. Management should therefore devise plans for advancement and growth.
  • Independence of action-being allowed to work without close supervision.
  • Security-especially financial security achieved mainly through secure and comprehensive labour contracts e.g. that involve medical covers and insurance.
  • Advancement-people could become demotivated if the organization has little room for upward mobility.
  • Personal growth- people want to grow wholesomely both in aspects related to the job like skills and those outside the job like potentials in such fields as sports.


Good working conditions.

The environment in which people operate is very important to their importance. Excessively noisy, congested, dirty or poorly arranged places may demotivate employees.



A good salary is a basic motivator. In facts for some people money could be the greatest motivational force. For example, for people who are financially hard pressed money remains the biggest motivator. However, people also look for other things in a job other than money and they may even lower paying jobs that have those other things.



  • Most of the important questions in motivation remain largely unanswered. Most of the theories seem to conflict but nevertheless they do shed light on those areas of motivation that still need extensive studies.
  • Motivation is a vital area in the study of organizations and management and it cannot be ignored even with the many unanswered questions. Employee motivation remains a complex and difficult task which is further complicated by the following factor:
  • Human nature– which is dynamic. Over time people change and their needs, wants, desires and interests also change. Their attitudes towards certain things change and what may have motivated them at one time may cease to be a motivator
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