Motivation Essay

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Describe, compare and contrast one process and one content theory of motivation. Evaluate how appropriate they are for organisations today.

Motivation is the desire or willingness of someone to do something. Craig C. Pinder (1998) defined work motivation as a “set of internal and external forces that initiate work related behaviour and determine its form, direction, intensity and duration.” Motivation plays an important role in a business environment, as employee motivation is believed to improved work performance.

Discussed in this essay are two types of motivation theories; Content theory which tries to identify specific needs that motivate people and Process theories which is based on developing models relating needs, motives and behaviour. In this essay, I aim to asses content and process theories accordingly; Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory and Stacey Adams Equity Theory; comparing these theories and highlighting any assumptions, strengths, weakness, positives and negatives individually and comparatively to be able to come to a critical conclusion as to whether these theories are suitable for organisations today.

My content theory is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, published in 1943 by Abraham Maslow. His hypothesis was that “human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies” as quoted in his publication of A Theory of Human Motivation in 1943 (p.370). In hierarchical order physiological needs which entails food, water, shelter and warmth. Safety needs refers to security, stability and freedom from fear. Social needs include the need for affection and friendships. Esteem needs refers to ego needs, recognition and respect. Finally, Self-actualisation, realisation of ones full potential ‘becoming everything that one is capable of becoming.’ “When one set of needs is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor. Thereafter the next set of needs in the hierarchy order takes places,” (Maslow, 1943) this continually occurs until the assumption of self-actualisation is satisfied, as Maslow stated, “a satisfied need is no longer a motivator.”

Equity Theory, a process theory first proposed by Stacey Adams in 1963 focuses on people’s feelings on how fairly they have been treated in comparison with the treatment received by others. It is based on exchange theory (Homans 1961) undergoing an exchange process, which involve inputs and outcomes. In ‘Social Behaviour: its Elementary Forms’ by George C. Homans he created the rule of ‘Distributive Justice’: “ a man in exchange relation with another will expect that the reward of each man be proportional to his costs… the greater the investments, the greater the profit,” (Homans 1961 p.75). Numerous business environments present inequality, however, the acknowledgement of inequality will motivate an individual to decrease or eradicate the inequality.

These two theories illustrate a relationship in terms of how they motivate individuals by fulfilling a need that affects them both mentally and physically; for example, Maslow’s theory suggests you will be motivated to the next ‘higher level’ of needs if the previous level is fulfilled satisfactorily, if this is not met, work performance will deteriorate and affect individuals mentally or physically as they cannot advance to the next level. As well as, Adams Equity Theory; Work on Walster, Berscheid and Walster, 1973 was covered by Kingsley, Catherine, Park, Hee Sun and Lee, Hye Eun (2007) where they suggested “mathematically, equity theory predicts that people will be uncomfortable in relationships in which their own ratio of inputs to outcomes is not equivalent to the other party’s ratio of inputs to outcomes”, in other words, this ‘discomfort’ can lead to further enthusiasm to reach the next goal or increase input to ultimately increase outcomes to reach satisfaction and eliminate the ‘discomfort’.

Furthermore, research has proved that both theories of Maslow and Adams can result in consequential...
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