Motivation: Definition, Theories, Importance.

  • Post last modified:12 May 2023
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What is Motivation?

A general inspirational process which gets the members of the team to pull their weight effectively, to give their loyalty to the group, to carry out properly the tasks that they accepted and generally to play an effective part in the job that the group has undertaken.

Thus, the basis of motivation may be basic needs like hunger and thirst or may be social and psychological needs of belonging ness and achievement, self-development, etc.

Directing to Motivate Factory Workers


“A general inspirational process which gets the members of the team to pull their weight effectively, to give their loyalty to the group, to carry out properly the tasks that they accepted and generally to play an effective part in the job that the group has undertaken.”Breech

Any emotion or desire which so conditions ones will that the individual is propelled in to action.”Stanley Vence. “The complex of forces starting and keeping a person at work in an organization”: Robert’s

Nature of Motivation

On the basis of the above definitions, the following observations can be made regarding motivation:

  • Motivation is an inner psychological force, which activates and compels the person to behave in a particular manner.
  • Motivation process is influenced by personality traits learning abilities, perception and competence of an individual.
  • Highly motivated employee works more efficiently and his level of production lends to be higher than others.
  • Motivation originates from the wants of an individual. It is a tension of lacking something in his mind, which forces him to work more efficiently.
  • Motivation originates from the wants of an individual. It is a tension of lacking something in his mind, which forces him to work more efficiently.
  • Motivation also plays a crucial role in determining the level of performance. Highly motivated employee will get higher satisfaction, which may lead to higher efficiency.
  • Motivating force and its degree may differ from individual to individual depending on his personality, needs, competence and other factors.
  • The process of motivation helps the manager in analyzing and understanding human behavior and finding out that how an individual can be inspired to produce desirable working behavior.
  • The process of motivation contributes to and boosts up the morale of the employees. Further, high degree of motivation may lead to high morale.

Theories of Motivation

No organization can succeed without highly motivated and committed team of employees. It is only through them that all other physical resources, like land, building capital, machine, etc. are going to be used for the accomplishment of predetermined goals.

Due to the enormous effect of motivational factors on the working behavior and level of performance of the employee, lot of research work has been done and because of that, many theories of motivation have been developed.

Few important and well-known theories are explained below:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory

This theory of motivation has received more attention from the managers than any other theory. Abraham Ma slow, an eminent US psychologist, has classified human needs in a logical convenient way that has an important implication for managers. In this theory, he has pointed out and explained how needs influence human behavior.

Ma-slow viewed human motivation as a hierarchy of five needs ranging from most basic physiological needs to the highest needs for self-actualization.

Motivation -Maslow’s Need Hierarch
Maslow’s Need Hierarch

Physiological needs

These are most basic needs including food, shelter, and clothing. These needs are most powerful motivators, as individual cannot survive without them. Physiological needs must be satisfied to some level or these should be partially satisfied, before the individual moves to satisfy other higher category needs. Mas low observed that man lives by bread alone, when there is no bread.

Safety needs

After the satisfaction of physical needs to a relative extent, one feels concerned about safety from future uncertainty, enemies and other threats. These are essentially needs of self-preservation. At this stage, an individual begins to think for future and makes efforts to provide for rainy days.

It is concluded by Maslow that, employees need sufficient wage to feed, to take shelter, to protect them and their families and a safe working environment before attempting to satisfy other needs of the higher order.

Social needs

After having secured satisfaction for physical needs and safety and protection for future, one focuses next on satisfying needs of love and affection, which are known as social needs. Social needs include the need to love and be loved and the need to belong and be identified with a group.

Though this needs in strongly felt by an individual is respect of family, it also affects work environment. As for the first two levels of need, relative satisfaction of social needs gives rise to next higher-level need.

Esteem needs

Employees in the organization who perceive themselves as worthwhile are said to have esteem needs. Self-respect is a key to such needs. Much of our self-respect comes from being accepted and respected by others but esteem needs will emerge only when other lower category of needs are satisfied to a relative extent.

Esteem needs include need for self-respect and appreciation from others, status and prestige in the society, etc.

Self-actualization needs

At the top of Maslow?s hierarchy of needs, there lies the need of self-actualisation. It is an open-ended need, be- 169 cause it relates to the need to become more and more what one is to become everything that one is capable of becoming. It includes need for realisation one?sfull potentials of development, maturity and autonomy.

On the relative satisfaction of this need, an individual becomes growth-oriented. Self-directed, detached and creative but in organization he hardly achieves self-realisation. However, the creativity of an individual in producing new and practical ideas, in bringing about productivity and innovation and in reducing cost that might satisfy some of the needs of self-actualisation.

Limitations and Criticism

Though Maslow’s hierarchy makes sense intuitively, little evidence supports its strict hierarchy. Actually, recent research challenges the order that the needs are imposed by Maslow’s pyramid. As an example, in some cultures, social needs are placed more fundamentally than any others. Further, Maslow’s hierarchy fails to explain the “starving artist” scenario, in which the aesthetic neglects their physical needs to pursuit of aesthetic or spiritual goals.

Additionally, little evidence suggests that people satisfy exclusively one motivating need at a time, other than situations where needs conflict. While scientific support fails to reinforce Maslow’s hierarchy, his theory is very popular, being the introductory motivation theory for many students and managers worldwide. To handle a number of contemporary issues in the Needs Hierarchy, Clayton Alderfer devised the ERG theory, a consistent needs based model that aligns more accurately with scientific research.

ERG Theory of Motivation

Clayton Alder fer has developed this theory on the same line as Maslow?s need hierarchy. Rather it is considered as reformulation or refinement of Maslow?s need theory. This theory states that people attempt to meet a hierarchy of existence, relatedness and growth need efforts to seek one level of needs are defeated individual would regress to lower the level of needs.

Motivation- ERG Theory
ERG Theory

Alder fer classified needs into three categories

Existence needs

including basic needs and some other factors such as fringe benefits in the work place.

Relatedness needs

are by and large resembling with social needs mainly include need for interpersonal relations; and.

Growth needs

Reflect many aspects of need of achievement and self actualization including need for personal creativity and influence. Although ERG theory is also based on need hierarchy, it differs from Maslow?s need hierarchy on two grounds. Alder fer stated that needs at more than one level may arise at a time as against the Maslows assumption that at a time only one category need arises.

Secondly, in a more significant way, Alder fer stressed that when higher category of needs are not fulfilled lower level needs will return even though they were already satisfied to a reasonable extent. In addition, Alder fer strongly felt that people move up and down the hierarchy of needs from situation to situation.

Both these theories of needs do provide useful inside into human needs, which greatly influence his working behavior. The conclusions derived from these theories may be used by the manager while thinking over and selecting suitable incentives to motivate the employees.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory was invented by Frederick Herzberg’s which is a type of motivation theory based on content motivation. It is a theory which motivates individual by means of finding and satisfying of individual requirements, desires and further works to satisfy individual expectations. According to Frederick Herzberg, who studied at clinical psychology in Pittsburgh, believed that the theory is related to work which motivates several employees. The theory was published Motivation to Work during the year 1959.

Motivation-Herzberg’s two-factor theory
Herzberg’s two-factor theory

This theory is based upon notion that motivation can be split into hygiene factors and motivation factors. He concluded that there were two types of motivation:

  • Hygiene factor
  • Motivation Factors

Hygiene factor shows dissatisfaction level which is the real creators of job satisfaction which covers:

  • Supervision
  • Interpersonal relations
  • Physical working conditions
  • Salary

Motivation Factors will cover motivation aspect in case of Job which includes:

  • Achievement
  • Advancement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility

Such factors are basically the requirements that will avoid nasty goings-on and uneasiness while motivational scale is the requirement for personal development.

Theory X and Theory Y

It is seen that a US scientist MC Gregor who invent an approach which will handle and encouraged certain assumptions which are based on human behavior. He worked on the theory of X and Y that believes on assumptions laid down by human behavior.

Though he was a great critic of classical approach of management, even then his theory X is related to philosophy of traditional management, assumptions about employees and the way to manage them. Theory Y is based on humanistic assumptions about employees and describes the approaches to manage and motivate them.

Motivation Theory X and theory Y
Theory X and theory Y

Theory X describes that

  • An average employee in the organization is lazy, dull and self-centered, resists change and does not want to share responsibility.
  • He has limited number of needs, mostly physical needs, and to some extent, security needs.
  • An average employee lacks responsibility and has little ambitions.
  • Thus, the responsibility of getting things done by others for achieving organizational goals lies on the managers and the managers must use coercive measures to control the workers and they must be threatened and punished as to get them to work.
  • To get the things done by the employees, MC Gregor suggested a rigid, bureaucratic and rule based organization..
  • Narrow span of management, one way communication, close supervision, more concentration on monetary incentives and centralization of managerial authority should be followed.
  • It was also thought necessary to guide, direct and control the employees in a strict manner.

Theory Y describes the following

  • Work is as natural as play or rest for the workers.
  • An average employee or worker likes work, and is capable of assuming responsibilities and accepting challenges.
  • This class of workers are ambitious, achievement-oriented and capable of exercising self-control.
  • They have wide range of needs, both economic and non-economic.
  • They have potentials and they can learn to assume responsibility, They have imagination and creativity that can be applied to work.
  • In view of these assumptions, the role of management is to develop potentials and help the employees to use it for achieving common objectives.
  • Organizational structure should be marked by open communication, flexibility, informal relation and de-centralization of authority.
  • The approach of management should include participate management, supportive supervisory style, self-direction and control, opportunity for creativity and in novativeness and package of both monetary and no monetary incentives.

Achievement Motivation Theory or MC Clelland’s Theory of Need

This theory has a particular reference to industrial organization, as the achievement motive has to do a lot with the success and failure of these organizations. David MC Clelland and his associates like John Atkinson and others in Harvard University, USA, have developed this theory of motivation.

The main elements of this theory are need for achievement, power and affiliation. This theory assumes that some people are much more achievement-oriented and 173 open minded than others.

Therefore, they get job satisfaction and derive special kind of pleasure in achieving an objective successfully or performing challenging job rather than receiving monetary and other rewards.

The balance between these drives varies from individual to individual. For example, one individual might have a strong need of affiliation while another might have a strong need for achievement.

The people with a high need of achievement would like to take responsibility for solving problems, they tend to set moderately difficult targets for themselves and take calculated task to meet these targets.

Achievement-oriented individuals seek satisfaction in doing things better and in assuming important personal responsibility for solving the problems but the people with low achievement needs tend to perform either poorly or average in the same situation.

Motivation Achievement  Theory
Achievement Motivation Theory

like the need of achievement, the need for power to control or dominate people and events is also considered one of the important motivational factors. Such individuals, if given a position marked by higher authority and power, tend to perform better as compared to other positions having less power.

Similarly, some other individual may derive satisfaction from better friendly interpersonal relations in work setting. They can be motivated by providing atmosphere of support and friendship and social affiliation. This need is more like a social need, which has been described earlier.

Importance of Motivation

Importance of motivation in management may be judged based on the following factors.

Effective use of resources

In business, all physical resources are to be used through human force. Effective and efficient use of these resources depends on the ability and reading of work force. If this work force is inspired to work efficiently, they use the resources properly and strive to yield good results.

Higher efficiency

Motivation is directly related to the level of efficiency. Highly motivated employees make full use of their energy and other abilities that raise the existing level of efficiency. They produce more as compared to other employees.

Accomplishment of organizational goals

As stated earlier, the process of motivation helps in shaping the working behavior of the employees and making it desirable for achieving objectives. Highly motivated employees would make goal directed efforts. They are more committed and cooperative for seeking organizational goals.

Reduced labor turnover and absenteeism

Highly motivated employees are the most important and valuable assets of the organization. They are more loyal and sincere therefore they remain punctual and regular in their work schedule and prefer to stay on the job for longer periods. These factors help in reducing absenteeism and labor turnover.

Healthy industrial relation

Motivation forms the base of good industrial relation. The employees who lack motivation will be unproductive and be unwilling to obey any rules. This might cause unrest amongst them. However, if they are inspired to work they will work efficiently and maintain discipline.

Improved corporate image: Motivation also helps in improving an image of organization. If employees are motivated, they produce more, they maintain self-discipline and productive internal environment in the organization, which ultimately gives better impression to the outsiders dealing with an organization and its image is enhanced.

Financial and Non-Financial Motivation

Financial motivation – means motivating employees by paying them in terms of money. Alternatively, we can say that any amount paid to an employee for motivation is financial motivation. In reality, despite the views of Herzberg that monetary methods of motivation have little value, firms still use money as a major incentive. There are a variety of payment systems that a business could use to motivate its employees:

  • Wages and Salaries
  • Piece-rate
  • Monetary Fringe Benefits
  • Performance-related pay
  • Profit-sharing
  • Share ownership

Non-Financial Motivation – is the process for retaining and developing people in organizations when times are tough. Non-financial motivation means motivating employees through non-financial means. After recruiting and training people, it is important that a company is able to retain them so that they prove beneficial for the company.

This is because these employees will have relevant experience in due course of 175 time. In order to ensure that such experienced employees continue to work for the company, they have to be motivated by means other than money.

In fact, there are many effective methods for non-financial employees’ motivation. Effective Methods for non- financial motivation are:

  • Job Enrichment
  • Fostering Teamwork
  • Empowerment
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Training
  • Semina

Positive and Negative Motivation

As we know, motivation is concerned with inspiring a person to work in order to get the best results. This can be of two types:

Positive Motivation

Motivation actually means positive motivation in real sense. Positive motivation is done by providing positive incentives to an employee. The examples of positive motivations include promotion, praise, recognition, perks and allowances.

Negative Motivation

The idea about negative motivation results from reverse incentives who involves in correcting mistakes or faults of employees. The examples of negative motivation include demotion, transfer, fines and penalties. The ultimate aim of both positive and negative motivation is to encourage an employee to perform well though their techniques are totally different.

Whereas one approaches people to work in the best possible style providing better financial and non- financial incentives, the other tries to encourage them by cutting their wages and other facilities and services with the belief that people will correct themselves and work out of fear.

Group Motivation

Group morale reflects the general esprit de corps of a collective group of personality. Group morale is everyone concern and should be taken into consideration by the management, and also continually practiced, because it is never ultimately achieved and is constantly changing.

Just as a good morale is important in the military as it improves unit cohesion, in the same way the positive group morale helps n boosting unit cohesion within a setup. Without good morale, a force will be more likely to give up and surrender.

Morale is usually assessed at a collective, rather than an individual level. Esprit de corps is considered to be an important part of a fighting unit. In the same way a good morale is needed in any organization to carry out its functions effectively in order to achieve the organizational goals.

Group motivation involves motivating a team of people to work in a particular manner so that the organizational objectives may be achieved.


What is Motivation?

A general inspirational process which gets the members of the team to pull their weight effectively, to give their loyalty to the group, to carry out properly the tasks that they accepted and generally to play an effective part in the job that the group has undertaken.

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