The “Reinforcement theory” focuses on the relationship between behaviour and its consequences.
The interest here is to manipulate consequences in order to change any undesirable behaviours into desirable ones. These theories are described in greater detail. The Content Theories of Work Motivation:The content theories have been developed to explain the nature of motivation in terms of types of needs that people experience. They attempt to focus on factors within a person that initiate and direct a certain type of behaviour or check certain other type of behaviour. The basic idea underlying content theories is that people have certain fundamental needs, both physiological as well as psychological in nature and that they are motivated to engage in activities that would satisfy these needs.
Thus the nature of the needs establishes the nature of motivation that results in a specific behaviour aimed at reaching the goal of satisfying such needs. The most popular of the content theories of motivation for the workplace are: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory, Alderfer’s ERG theory, and McClelland’s Socially Acquired Need theory.
1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory:
Maslow’s ‘needs hierarchy theory” is probably the most popular content theory of motivation.
Abraham Maslow suggested that people have a complex set of exceptionally strong needs and the behaviour of individuals at a given moment is usually determined by their strongest need. He developed his model of human motivation in 1943, based upon his own clinical experience and formulated his theory of hierarchical needs by asking the same question “What is it that makes people behave the way they do ?” and made a list of answers from which he developed a pattern. His theory is based upon two assumptions. First that human beings have many needs that are different in nature ranging from the biological needs at the lower level which is the level of survival to psychological needs at the upper extreme which is the level of growth. The second assumption is that these needs occur in an order of hierarchy so that lower level needs must be satisfied before the higher level needs arise or become motivators. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader once remarked that “even God cannot talk to a hungry man except in terms of food.
” Similarly, there is a quotation from the holy Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scriptures of the Sikhs, where a holy man says to God: “Take your rosary beads away. I cannot worship and meditate on you when I am hungry.” This means that if the people’s basic needs which are biological in nature are unsatisfied, then their total attention will be focussed upon these needs and it will be difficult to communicate with them on other matters. The Maslow’s model is primarily based upon people’s inner states as a basis for motivation and the environmental conditions do not play any significant role. Maslow postulates five needs arranged in successive levels.
These needs continue to change, resulting in changes in goals and activities. These five needs are arranged in the form of a pyramid as shown: The first three level needs at the bottom of the pyramid are known as “deficiency” needs because they must be satisfied in order to ensure the individual’s very existence and security and make him fundamentally comfortable. The top two sets of needs are classified as “growth” needs because they are concerned with personal growth, development and full realization of one’s potential.
These needs are explained in more detail as follows: a. Physiological needs: These needs form the foundation of hierarchy and tend to have the highest strength in terms of motivation. These are primarily the needs arising out of physiological or biological tension. They are there to sustain life itself and include the basic needs for food, water, shelter and sex. Sexual need and desire is not to be confused with love which is at the third level.
Once these basic needs are satisfied to the degree needed for sufficient and comfortable operation of the body, then the other higher level needs become important and start acting as motivators. b. Security and safety needs: These are the needs for self-preservation as against physiological needs which are for survival. These needs include those of security, stability, freedom from anxiety and a structured and ordered environment. These safety and security needs are really provisions against deprivation of satisfaction of physiological needs in the future. It also involves a sense of protection against threats and danger of losing the job in the future.
In a civilized society such as ours, a person is usually protected from threats of violence or extremes in climate, or fear of material safety, so that the safety and security needs dwell upon economic and job security, life and medical insurance and other protective measures to safeguard the satisfaction of physiological needs in the future which may be unpredictable. c. Love and social needs: After the needs of the body and security are taken care of, a sense of belonging and acceptance becomes prominent in motivating behaviour. These needs include the needs for love, friendship, affection and social interaction. We look for an environment where we are understood, respected and wanted. That is one reason for social “polarization”, where people of similar backgrounds and beliefs tend to group together. d. Esteem needs: These refer to a person’s need to develop self-respect and to gain recognition and approval from others which would induce a feeling of self-worth and self-confidence in the individual.
It is an urge for achievement, prestige, status and power. Self-respect is the internal recognition. Respect from others is the external recognition, as well as an acceptance and appreciation of one’s individuality and his contribution. This internal and external respect would result in self- confidence, independence, status, reputation and prestige. People then would begin to feel that they are useful and have some positive effect on their surrounding environment. e. Self-actualization needs: This last need, at the top of the hierarchy is the need to develop fully and to realize one’s capacities and potentialities to the fullest extent possible, whatever these capacities and potentialities may be. This need is activated as a motivator when all other needs have been reasonably fulfilled.
At this level, a person seeks challenging work assignments that allow for creativity and opportunities for personal growth and advancement. This need is for soul searching and is inner oriented. A self-actualized person is creative, independent, content, and has a good perception of reality and he is constantly striving to realize his full potential. Thus, “what a man can be must be.” Maslow’s model is a general model in which all needs interact with each other to some degree. Needs are not necessarily linear nor is the order of needs so rigid. The relative dominance of many needs is variable and is continuously shifting.
For example, a self-actualized person may shift his priority to social needs and love needs instead of prestige and status, if suddenly there occurs a vacuum due to loss of a loved one. Similarly, a person may not go to the higher needs even when his lower level needs are satisfied. It is also likely that a well-prepared elite person may decide to join a commune where there is overwhelming emphasis on love and affection rather than climb the corporate leader.
Maslow’s theory made management aware that people are motivated by a wide variety of needs and that management must provide an opportunity for the employees to satisfy these needs through creating a physical and conceptual work environment so that they will be motivated to do their best to achieve organizational goals.
2. Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory:
Fredrick Herzberg and his associates developed the two-factor theory in the late 1950s and early 1960s As a part of a study of job satisfaction, Herzberg and his colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with over 200 engineers and accountants in the Pittsburgh area. The researchers felt that a person’s relation to his work is a basic one and that his attitude towards work would determine his organization related behaviour. The respondents were required to describe in detail the type of environment in which they felt exceptionally good about their jobs and the type of environment in which they felt uncomfortable with their work. Their responses were used to isolate those factors and conditions that produce satisfaction with the job and those factors which produce dissatisfaction.
Herzberg named the factors that tend to be consistently related to job satisfaction as motivational factors and factors related to job dissatisfaction as maintenance or hygiene factors. Hygiene factors: The world hygiene is taken from the medical field where it means taking steps to maintain your health but not necessarily improve it. Hygiene factors do not motivate people. They simply prevent dissatisfaction and maintain status quo. They produce no growth but prevent loss. The absence of these factors leads to job dissatisfaction. The elimination of dissatisfaction does not mean satisfaction and these factors simply maintain a “zero level of motivation”.
For example, if a person indicated “low pay” as a cause of dissatisfaction that would not necessarily identify “high pay” as– a cause of satisfaction. Some of the hygiene factors are: a. Wages, salary and other types of employee benefits. b. Company policies and administrative rules that govern the working environment.
c. Interpersonal relations with peers, supervisors and subordinates. Cordial relations with all will prevent frustration and dissatisfaction. d. Working conditions and job security. The job security may be in the form of tenure or it could be supported by a strong union.
e. Supervisor’s technical competence as well as the quality of his supervision. If the supervisor is knowledgeable about the work and is patient with his subordinates and explains and guides them well, then the subordinates would not be dissatisfied in this respect. All the hygiene factors are designed to avoid damage to efficiency or morale and these are not expected to stimulate positive growth. Motivational factors: These factors are related to the nature of work (job content) and are intrinsic to the job itself. These factors have a positive influence on morale, satisfaction, efficiency and higher productivity. Some of these factors are: i.
The Job itself: To be motivated, people must like and enjoy their jobs. They become highly committed to goal achievement and do not mind working late hours in order to do what is to be done. Their morale is high as evidenced by lack of absenteeism and tardiness. ii. Recognition: Proper recognition of an employee’s contribution by the management is highly morale boosting. It gives the worker a feeling of worth and self esteem.
It is human nature to be happy when appreciated. Thus, such recognition is highly motivational. iii. Achievement: A goal achievement gives a great feeling of accomplishment. The goal must be challenging, requiring initiative and creativity. An assembly line worker finishing his routine work hardly gets the feeling of achievement. iv.
Responsibility: It is an obligation on the part of the employees to carry out the assigned duties satisfactorily. The higher the level of these duties the more responsible the worker would feel and more motivated he would be. It is a good feeling to know that you are considered a person of integrity and intelligence to be given a higher responsibility. It is a motivational factor that helps growth. v. Growth and advancement: These factors are all inter-related and are positively related to motivation. Job promotion, higher responsibility, participation in central decision making and executive benefits are all signs of growth and advancement and add to dedication and commitment of employees. Herzberg’s two-factor model is tied in with Maslow’s basic model in that Maslow is helpful in identifying needs and Herzberg provides us with directions and incentives that tend to satisfy these needs.
Also, the hygiene factors in Herzberg’s model satisfy the first three levels of Maslow’s model of needs hierarchy and the motivational factors satisfy the last two higher level needs as shown below:
3. ERG Theory:
The ERG need theory, developed by Clayton Alderfer, is a refinement of Maslow’s needs hierarchy. Instead of Maslow’s five needs, ERG theory condenses these five needs into three needs. These three needs are those of Existence, Relatedness and Growth. The letters E, R and G are the initials of these needs. a. Existence needs: These needs are roughly comparable to the physiological and safety needs of Maslow’s model and are satisfied primarily by material incentives. These needs include the needs for sustenance, shelter and physical and psychological safety from threats to people’s existence and well being.
b. Relatedness needs: These needs roughly correspond to social and esteem needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. These needs are satisfied by personal relationships and social interaction with others. It involves open communication and honest exchange of thoughts with other organizational members. c. Growth needs: These are the needs to develop and grow and reach the full potential that a person is capable of reaching. They are similar to Maslow’s self-actualization needs.
These needs are fulfilled by strong personal involvement in the organizational environment. A rough similarity between ERG theory and Maslow’s theory is shown below: The three needs in ERG theory are in a flexible hierarchical order, unlike Maslow’s strict hierarchical order. Also, ERG theory proposes that people may be motivated by more than one kind of need at the same time.
While Maslow proposes that in the hierarchy of needs, a person will satisfy the lower level needs before he moves up to the next level and will stay at that level until the need at this level is satisfied, ERG theory suggests that if a person is frustrated in satisfying his needs at a given level, he will move back to the lower level needs. For example, assume that a manager’s existence needs are fully satisfied and he looks for more challenging tasks to satisfy his self-esteem needs. If his efforts are frustrated in seeking or meeting these challenges then he will move back to existence needs and may seek more material benefits.
4) McClelland’s Theory of Needs:
McClelland has proposed a theory of motivation, which he believes is rooted in culture; that is, needs are acquired on the basis of our life experiences. Hence, his theory is also known as “Socially Acquired Needs Theory.” He concluded that the most prominent needs are the needs for achievement, affiliation and power. The primary motive is the achievement motive and is defined as a “desire to succeed in competitive situations based upon an established or perceived standard of excellence.
” Individuals with a strong need for achievement (known as n Ach), ask for, accept and perform well in challenging tasks which require creativity, ingenuity and hard work. They are constantly pre-occupied with a desire for improvement and look for situations in which successful outcomes can be directly correlated with their efforts so that they can claim credit for success. They take moderate and calculated risks and prefer to get quick and precise feedback on their performance.
They set more difficult but achievable goals for themselves because success with easily achievable goals hardly provides them with any sense of achievement. They derive greater pleasure and excitement from solving a complex problem than from financial incentives or simple praise. The need for affiliation (n Aff) is related to social needs and reflects a desire for friendly and warm relationship with others.
Individuals tend to seek affiliation with others who have similar beliefs, backgrounds and outlook on life. Individuals with a high “n Aff” tend to get involved in jobs that require a high amount of interpersonal interaction and relations such as jobs in teaching and public relations. Similarly, nurses, social workers and clergy are examples where high “n Aff is an attribute. The need for power (n Pow) is the desire to affect and control the behaviour of other people and to manipulate the surroundings.
Power motivation when applied positively results in successful leaders and managers who prefer democratic style of leadership. Power motivation, applied negatively tends to create arrogant autocratic leadership. Executives, political leaders and military officers are examples of positions where high “n Pow” is usually an asset.