UGC NET Study Notes on Theories of Motivation – Content Theories

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 14th, 2023

Overview of Motivation

  • Motivation is defined as the drive which can be financial rewards or non-financial inner desire and which motivates people to do things.
  • Motivation has specific importance in regard to the workplace and performance of employees as it is witnessed that higher motivation among employees leads to higher performance.
  • Several theorists have propounded theories regarding factors behind motivation. On the basis of various variables of motivation stated by many theorists, it is divided into two:– Process and Content Theories. Process theories will be discussed in the next article.
  • The main focus of content theories is on the people’s needs and desires, and the way they opt, in order to satisfy these needs. The process theories, on the other hand, explore how behaviour is initiated, directed, caused or sustained by the motivational factors.

Content Theories of Motivation

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs Theory:
  • Maslow was of the view that within every individual, there exists a hierarchy of five needs and that each level of need must be satisfied before an individual pursues the next higher level of need (Maslow, 1943).
  • He proposed that humans are motivated by numerous needs which are arranged in the form of a pyramid in ascending order. Those needs are:
    • Physiological needs– These are the most powerful yet basic needs of an individual. These include hunger, thirst, shelter and the like. In an organisation, these are visible in the desire of employees for pleasant working conditions and fair remuneration.
    • Safety/Security needs– After satisfying the above needs, safety needs dominate human behaviour. In an organisational setting, safety needs include jobs which include personal safety, insurance fringe benefits and job security.
    • Social needs– These needs are very essential for work-life as it affects work behaviour if not fulfilled on time. In the organisation workplace, employees desire for healthy relationships with colleagues and superiors and active participation in groups is a part of social needs.
    • Self-esteem needs– These are related to self-confidence, power and self-control. In an organisation, these are reflected in the need for recognition by others, taking responsibility, appreciation, and respect in the organisation.
    • Self-actualisation needs– It is also called growth need, for realizing one’s own potential for self-development. In an organisation, these needs are achieved by getting opportunities for growth, advancement and achievement.
  • Maslow referred the highest level need of the Pyramid i.e., self-actualization as the “Growth need” and the lower level needs are considered as ‘Deficiency needs’.
  • Maslow suggested that a considerably satisfied need has no power to motivate a person, it is the unfulfilled need in the hierarchy that motivates behaviour.
  1. Mc Gregor’s Theory X and Y
  • This theory is based on assumptions, generalisations and hypothesis about human behaviour towards the workplace and organisation, following which Mc Gregor adopted two approaches which manager chose according to the suitable conditions:
  • Theory X (Dominant management approach): Application of this approach leads to misunderstanding the actual needs of employees and creating self-fulfilling results.
    • Every employee has an inherent dislike for work and avoids it if possible
    • Employees must be coerced, controlled, directed and threatened with punishment to perform optimally and achieve organisational objectives
    • Employees prefer to be directed for performing tasks, deter from responsibility, have little ambition and want security.
  • Theory Y (Employee centred approach): Application of this approach helps to meet the needs of not only the organisation but also of the employee, resulting in motivated employees, growth opportunities and participation opportunities.
    • Employees take work as natural as play and rest.
    • People exercise self-direction and self-control towards the achievement of objectives.
    • Commitment to objectives and responsibilities.
    • Innovative problem-solving
    • Need for self-actualisation and self-esteem.
  1. ERG Theory
  • Clayton Alderfer revised Maslow’s theory and categorised needs into three categories as Existence needs, Relatedness needs and Growth needs.
  • ERG Theory is a more realistic approach. Alderfer formulated two principles:
    • Satisfaction-progression principle- Individuals can fulfil a couple of needs at the same time. Once a need is satisfied, it leads to the development of other needs.
    • Frustration-Regression Principle- When a person can not satisfy a higher level of needs, out of frustration, he regresses to satisfy the lower level needs. Managers deliver motivators to compensate for frustration.
  • Existence needs- Existence needs are a lower level of Maslow’s needs and are concerned about physiological existence and security needs. These needs are satisfied through remuneration, fringe benefits, a healthy working environment and job security.
  • Relatedness needs- It covers the social needs of Maslow and involves relationship and interactions with other people and related variables such as emotional support, recognition and belongingness.
  • Growth needs- These needs involve a higher level of Maslow’s needs and are related to the achievement of an individual’s potential. A job can satisfy growth needs if it involves a challenge, self-direction and creativity.
  1. Mc Clelland’s need theory
  • McClelland conducted the Thematic Apperception Test, based on which he suggests that needs are overpowered through self-concept, social norms, and past experience.
  • According to this theory, needs can be learned. The Three primary needs in this theory are:
    • Need for Power- people possessing these needs have leadership quality, power of influencing and controlling others.
    • Need for Achievement- people possessing these needs are keen to take risks, challenging tasks and have the desire to excel.
    • Need for Affiliation- people who possess these needs desire for close interpersonal relations, enjoy a sense of intimacy and avoid being rejected.
  • High-level managers generally possess a need for achievement and power, therefore, employees with a high desire to succeed are supposed to be highly motivated unlike employees with a low desire to succeed.
  1. Herzberg Two Factor Theory
  • On the basis of research conducted by Fredrick Herzberg, by conducting interviews from employees regarding job conditions he concluded two categories of needs, independent of each other.
  • This theory differentiates between factors that satisfy and factors that dissatisfy employees.
  • As per this theory, the opposite of ‘satisfaction’ is ‘no satisfaction’ and the opposite of ‘dissatisfaction’ is ‘no dissatisfaction’.
  • Hygiene factors- Hygiene factors refer to those job factors which are important for the existence of motivation at the workplace. If these factors are not present in the workplace, they lead to dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors allow a minimum level of productivity out of employees so, they are also called maintenance factors. These include company policy and administration, supervision, salary, relationships with superior and supervisor and working conditions.
  • Motivational factors- These factors act as motivators for satisfying employees, the absence of which will not have an impact on satisfaction level. These factors are intrinsic to the job, and related to growth needs, therefore, also called as Motivators and include achievement, recognition, responsibility, growth etc.

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