Is it important for a manager to consider Equity Theory when striving to improve an employee’s job satisfaction and motivation?
Understanding what motivated employees and how they were motivated was the focus of many researchers following the publication of the Hawthorne Study results (Terpstra, 1979). Five major approaches that have led to our understanding of motivation are Maslow's need-hierarchy theory, Herzberg's two- factor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory. John Stacey Adams' Equity Motivation Theory allows you to put workplace psychology into action and increase your own or your team's motivation. Adams' equity theory builds on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg's Two Factor Theory, and was first presented in 1963. (Adams, 1965) Adams’ Equity Theory calls for a fair balance to be struck between an employee’s inputs (hard work, skill level, tolerance, enthusiasm, etc.) and an employee’s outputs (salary, benefits, intangibles such as recognition, etc.). According to the theory, finding this fair balance serves to ensure a strong and productive relationship is achieved with the employee, with the overall result being contented, motivated employees. John Stacey Adams, a workplace and behavioral psychologist, put forward his Equity Theory on job motivation in 1963. There are similarities in the simpler theories of Maslow, Herzberg and other pioneers of workplace psychology, in that the theory acknowledges the subtle and variable factors affect each individual's assessment and perception of their relationship with their work and thereby their employer. The theory is built-on the belief that employees become de-motivated, both in relation to their job and their employer, if they feel as though their inputs are greater than the outputs. Employees can be expected to respond to this in different ways, including de-motivation (generally to the extent the employee perceives the disparity between the inputs and the outputs exist), reduced effort, becoming disgruntled, or, in more extreme cases, perhaps even disruptive. (Adams, 1965) However, awareness and cognizance of the wider situation and comparison feature more strongly in Equity Theory than in many other earlier motivational models. Therefore, the equity theory model extends beyond the individual self and incorporates influence and comparison of other people's situations. For example; colleagues and friends in forming a comparative view and awareness of equity, which commonly manifests as a sense of what is fair. In other words, when people feel fairly or advantageously treated they are more likely to be motivated; when they feel unfairly treated they are highly prone to feelings of disaffection and de-motivation. The way that people measure this sense of fairness is at the heart of Equity Theory. In terms of how the theory applies to work and management, we each seek a fair balance between what we put into our job and what we get out of it. But how do we decide what is a fair balance? The answer lies in Equity Theory. Importantly we arrive at our measure of fairness by comparing our balance of effort and reward, and other factors of give and take (the ratio of input and output) with the balance or ratio enjoyed by other people, whom we deem to be relevant reference points or examples. This means that Equity does not depend on our input-to-output ratio alone; it depends on our comparison between our ratio and the ratio of others. Adams called personal efforts and rewards and other similar 'give and take' issues at work respectively 'inputs' and 'outputs'. Inputs are logically what we give or put into our work. Outputs are everything we take out in return. Equity and thereby the motivational situation we might seek to assess using the model, is not dependent on the extent to which a person believes reward exceeds effort nor even necessarily on the belief that reward exceeds effort at all. Rather,...
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