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Theories of Employee Motivation

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1.0 Need Theory

1.1 Introduction

Need theories see motivation arising from individual needs or desires for things. These needs and desires can change over time and are different across individuals.

There are three popular perspectives on Need theory:
• Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
• Alderfer’s ERG Theory
• Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

This lesson briefly highlights the distinctions of each perspective.

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1.2 Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow proposes that motivation can be represented as a hierarchy of needs. As lower-level needs are satisfied, workers are likely to be motivated by higher-level needs. Maslow argues that there are five categories of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and actualization. [pic]

• Physiological needs - basic biological needs for things such as food, water, and sex

• Safety needs - need for safety and a safe physical environment (e.g., shelter, a safe workplace)

• Love needs - need for friendship and partnership

• Esteem needs - need for self-respect and for the respect of others

• Self-actualization needs - need for self-improvement, fulfillment of personal life goals and of one’_ potential

Tension-reduction - According to Maslow’s tension-reduction hypothesis, an unmet need creates a tension to meet that need. For example, if you need food, you feel tension until the need is met. Maslow believed that needs were arranged hierarchically such that lower, more basic needs must be met before higher needs become the point of focus.

1.3 ERG Theory

Alderfer’s ERG Theory suggests that there are three classes of needs, not five as Maslow suggests: existence, relatedness, and growth. Another distinction is that Alderfer proposes that when low-level (existence) needs are not met, they grow. For example, when you are hungry and do not eat, your hunger grows. On the other hand, higher-level (relatedness and growth) needs grow when they are met. For example, as you become more productive, your need to be productive may grow.

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• Existence needs - need for concrete, tangible things like food, water, and material possessions

• Relatedness needs - social needs and the need to have relationships with other people (e.g., family, co-workers, and supervisors)

• Growth needs - need for self-improvement or personal growth, expression of creativity and productivity

Frustration-regression - According to Alderfer’s frustration-regression hypothesis, when we have trouble meeting a particular need, we regress to meet needs at a lower level. When we are having trouble meeting growth needs, we are more motivated by relatedness needs. When we are having trouble meeting relatedness needs, we are motivated by existence needs.

1.4 Two-Factor Theory

In his Two-Factor Theory of motivation, Frederick Herzberg argues that there are two types of factors involved in motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.

• Extrinsic (or hygiene) factors include tangible outcomes and things that focus on workers’ physical well-being such as pay and benefits, organizational policies, quality of supervision, job security, job safety, administrative practices, and physical work conditions.

• Intrinsic factors include intangible outcomes such as recognition, responsibility, and respect.

1.5 Motivator factors

Motivator factors - Workers are satisfied and motivated when they are happy with the intrinsic factors (e.g., levels of responsibility and respect at work), which is why intrinsic factors are also called motivator factors. When workers are not happy with intrinsic factors, argues Herzberg, they are not satisfied. However, when they feel respected and enjoy the responsibility, they are more likely to be truly satisfied with their jobs. This suggests that we should focus our attention on intrinsic factors if we want to...
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