“Employee Recognition in Relation to Motivation Theories”

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Employee motivation is a topic widely researched noting numerous motivational theories and concepts. Similarly there has been much discussion on the many factors that influence an employee’s level of motivation. Those factors include monetary rewards, employee involvement, training & development, employee recognition programs, etc. This paper will discuss review motivational theories developed based on the concept of “needs” and other motivational philosophies, as well as discuss the correlation between the motivational theories and employee recognition.

The term “motivation”, which is defined using various terminologies, is often used to describe different types of behavior. Motivation is the “internal state or the condition that activates behavior and gives it direction; the desire or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior, or the influence of needs and desires on the intensity and direction of behavior”. (Huitt, 2001) Motivation is specific to an individual’s make-up, their personal interests, wants and desires, or need to fulfill a goal. Several factors influence an employee’s level of motivation: pay, opportunity for advancement, growth and development, job security, honesty and integrity, working conditions, reward and recognition. Employee recognition is often praised at a “successful motivator”. To understand what factors influence motivation we need to understand the research and theories developed to define and explain motivation. Discussion

Motivational theories dating back to the early 1950’s “provide a foundation to today’s motivational concepts”. (Robbins, 2005) Abraham Maslow introduced the “hierarchy of needs” theory suggesting that needs are a physiological or psychological deficiency that a person feels the urge to satisfy. Maslow’s theory proposes that individuals are motivated by multiple needs and that these needs are present in a “hierarchical” order. Maslow’s theory was that an unsatisfied need influences an individual’s behaviour and once the need is satisfied it is no longer a motivator.

The model of needs was developed using five levels of human needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self actualization. Physiological and safety levels were described as the lower levels of the model following the idea that these needs are satisfied externally. To satisfy the lower level needs of hunger, shelter, security is accomplished by things such as pay, medical benefits, or tenure. The “higher-order needs which are met internally include social, esteem, and self actualization. The concept is that an individual works through each level of the model one by one. Each level must be satisfied before moving on to the next level eventually attaining self-actualization. Self-actualization is the point in which one has reached their maximum potential. (Robbins, 171)

Douglas McGregor had opposing theories “Theory X and Theory Y” to explain an individual’s behaviour in work and organizational life. McGregor theorized that “management involved more than simply giving orders and coercing obedience; it was a careful balancing of needs of the organization with the needs of individuals”.(Bobic, & Davis, 2003) McGregor followed Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” philosophy to describe human needs and to support the belief that an individual’s need is satisfied through work. Studying how managers interacted with employees, McGregor identified a set of beliefs managers used to assess employees. The assumptions identified in Theory X are based on the lower level needs (physiological, safety) on the hierarchy model. This portrayed a somewhat negative viewpoint using the assumption “that most people will avoid work because they don’t like it and must be persuaded to put forth significant effort. The individuals in this category are not interested in being “self-led”, do not care to take on responsibility as they are content following directions.” (Robbins, 2005) In...
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