Motivation relates to the drive that influences what people do, how much effort they contribute and the length of time they keep trying. Motivation influences performance in the workplace and organisations strive to motivate workers in order to encourage the highest level of performance and productivity. A number of theorists have investigated motivation in the workplace and proposed contrasting theories. The following essay examines whether money is the greatest motivator for workers or whether there are other factors, which can be more influential.
Performance at work can be affected by equipment, ability, training and relationships, but motivation is a key factor which can be the most difficult to manage. This is mainly due to variance of different motivators for different people.
McGregor and Cutcher-Gershenfeld (2005) describe Theory X and Theory Y and Schein (1988) designed the Social approach. Theory X takes the view that the worker is unreliable, and wants to do as little as possible, therefore needing close supervision, incentives and discipline. For example, Taylor’s Theory of Scientific Management proposed that workers are motivated by their desire for money. Taylor argued that workers need close supervision but if jobs are broken down into a number of smaller tasks and given sufficient tools, they will work harder. Taylor’s theory was hugely influential and was adopted by Henry Ford who instigated an era of mass production when he began to make Ford cars.
Theory Y is the view that workers want to do the job. They will respond easily to change and aim to do their best for the good of the organisation. This suggests that workers have a personal interest in their work and care about more than money. The social theory (Schein, 1988) is that people develop meaningful relationships in the workplace. It proposed that workers respond to the wants of those around them because the relationships built with their colleagues help provide a sense of belonging and purpose within the organisation. These approaches each have some validity but none could solely be used in organisations, as they cannot suit everyone in the organisation all of the time.
There are two main schools of thought in relation to motivational theories at work. They are Content and Process theories. Content theories evaluate the specific reasons why people work. Process theories consider how people think and how their thoughts influence behaviour in the workplace.
The Content Theories analysed for the purpose of this essay include Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, ERG Theory and the Two-Factor Theory. Maslow (1954), cited by Arnold, Cooper and Robertson (1998), identified the needs which motivate people as physiological needs, followed by security, social, self-esteem and finally, self-actualisation. This is a hierarchical structure in which satisfaction of a lower need leads to the dominance of needs on the next level. This continues until self-actualisation is reached. Self-actualisation refers to fulfilment and recognition once all other needs have been met. Therefore, this is a set structure and one level must be achieved before progressing to the next.
Alderfer (1972), cited by Arnold et al (1998), proposed a similar, alternate theory on Existence, Relatedness and Growth (ERG). Instead, the needs identified by Maslow were all grouped together into three categories. This model is more fluid than Maslow’s as it is not set out as a hierarchy, therefore, different levels can be achieved at different times. It would not matter which of the stages a person was at, they could still regress or even achieve different needs simultaneously.
There are some criticisms on need theories such as these. Wahba and Bridwell (1976), cited by Muchinsky (2005), argued that the theory was vague and did not account for individual...