Theories of Motivation - 17693

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Theories of Motivation

Theories of motivation are useful in explaining what motivates people in organizations to change. 

For this assignment, you will apply theories of motivation to a specific organization.

To prepare for this Application Assignment:

  • Reflect on the following scenario.

Case Study: The Harried Manager

Susan Smith is the Senior Director of Human Resources for the Happy Patient Health Care System. Running late as usual, she rushes into the office at 8:55 a.m. after a hectic morning of dealing with small and large family crises with her children and spouse. She sighs as she looks at her calendar and sees back-to-back appointments all day; so much for trying to get to the project she has been working on for the CEO that is due at the end of the week. Thinking about the late nights she will have to put in, she sighs again. 

As she rushes to her 9:00 a.m. meeting with her staff, she thinks about why some of her staff members are so resistant to the new HR information system that is being planned for implementation. They are just so old school, she thinks as she sighs again. 

Next on the schedule is a meeting with the finance people about raises for the health system employees. The controller insists that there isn’t enough money to give everyone a raise. He asserts that, given the limited amount available, the best approach is to increase the starting rate to remain competitive in the marketplace and give raises to the newer employees in the hope that they won’t leave. “After all, we need to keep them for the future,” he says. 

Susan is concerned about the impact this increase will have on morale. As the day progresses, Susan begins to dwell on a performance evaluation she has to give to her administrative assistant in the late afternoon. Grace is a loyal, longtime employee, but she is very slow and meticulous in her work. At times, this behavior has created delays in finishing projects and completing reports, causing Susan to work late to meet deadlines. My family is starting to rebel about the late hours I spend here, she thought. I need to find a better way….

To complete this Application Assignment, write a 2- to 3-page paper that applies each of the theories of motivation to the situation. Include the following in your response:

  • What level(s) of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the person exhibiting? Suggest two and please explain.
  • Which factors of dissatisfaction or satisfaction are present in the scenario (Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation)? 
  • Which type of motivation, intrinsic or extrinsic, is the person exhibiting? Please explain (Edward Deci’s Theory of Motivation).
  • Based on the scenario, provide one example of the equity theory of motivation. Please explain how your example relates to the theory.
  • Do you think that the goal-setting theory applies to any of the interactions in the scenario? Explain your answer.
  • Describe a situation in the scenario that applies to McClelland’s Theory of Needs.

In your response, be sure to describe how each of the theories could have explained the motivation. 

Keep in mind that you may have to do some additional research on the theories to complete this assignment.



Hierarchy of Needs Theory

 It’s probably safe to say the best- known theory of motivation is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. 4 Maslow hypothesized that within every human being, there exists a hierarchy of five needs:

 1. Physiological. Includes hunger, thirst, shelter, sex, and other bodily needs.

 2. Safety. Security and protection from physical and emotional harm.

 3. Social. Affection, belongingness, acceptance, and friendship.

4. Esteem. Internal factors such as self- respect, autonomy, and achievement, and external factors such as status, recognition, and attention.

 5. Self- actualization. Drive to become what we are capable of becoming; includes growth, achieving our potential, and self- fulfillment.

 Although no need is ever fully gratified, a substantially satisfied need no longer motivates. Thus as each of these needs becomes substantially satisfied, the next one becomes dominant. In terms of Exhibit 6.1, we move up the steps of the hierarchy. So if you want to motivate someone, according to Maslow, you need to understand what level of the hierarchy that person is currently on and focus on satisfying the needs at or above that level. Maslow separated the five needs into higher and lower orders. Physiological and safety needs were lower- order needs and social, esteem, and self- actualization were higher- order needs. The difference is that higher- order needs are satisfied internally (within the person), whereas lower- order needs are predominantly satisfied externally (by things such as pay, union contracts, and tenure).

Maslow’s needs theory has received wide recognition, particularly among practicing managers. It is intuitively logical and easy to understand. Unfortunately, however, research does not validate it. Maslow provided no empirical substantiation, and several studies that sought to validate the theory found no support for it. 5 There is little evidence that need structures are organized along the dimensions proposed by Maslow, that unsatisfied needs motivate, or that a satisfied need activates movement to a new need level. 6 But old theories, especially intuitively logical ones, apparently die hard.

Theory X and Theory Y

 Douglas McGregor proposed two distinct views of human beings: one basically negative, labeled Theory X, and the other basically positive, labeled Theory Y. 7 After viewing the way in which managers dealt with employees, McGregor concluded that managers’ views of the nature of human beings are based on a certain grouping of assumptions, and that managers tend to mold their behavior toward employees according to these assumptions.

 Under Theory X, managers believe employees inherently dislike work and must therefore be directed or even coerced into performing it.

Under Theory Y, in contrast, managers assume employees can view work as being as natural as rest or play, and therefore the average person can learn to accept, and even seek, responsibility. To understand Theory X and Theory Y more fully, think in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy. Theory Y assumes higher- order needs dominate individuals. McGregor himself held to the belief that Theory Y assumptions were more valid than Theory X. Therefore, he proposed such ideas as participative decision making, responsible and challenging jobs, and good group relations as approaches to maximize an employee’s job motivation. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to confirm that either set of assumptions is valid, or that accepting Theory Y assumptions and altering our actions accordingly will lead to more motivated workers. OB theories need empirical support before we can accept them.

Theory X and Theory Y lack such support as much as the hierarchy of needs theories.

Two- Factor Theory Psychologist Frederick Herzberg proposed the two- factor theory— also called motivation- hygiene theory. 8 Believing an individual’s relationship to work are basic and that attitude toward work can very well determine success or failure, Herzberg investigated-ed the question “What do people want from their jobs?” He asked people to describe, in detail, situations in which they felt exceptionally good or bad about their jobs. He then tabulated and categorized the responses.

Herzberg concluded that the replies people gave when they felt good about their jobs differed significantly from the replies given when they felt bad. As shown in Exhibit 6.2, in-trinsic factors such as advancement, recognition, responsibility, and achievement seem re-lated to job satisfaction. Respondents who felt good about their work tended to attribute these factors to themselves. On the other hand, dissatisfied respondents tended to cite ex-trinsic factors, such as supervision, pay, company policies, and working conditions. The data suggest, said Herzberg, that the opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, as was traditionally believed. Removing dissatisfying characteristics from a job does not necessarily make the job satisfying. Herzberg proposed that his findings indicated the existence of a dual continuum: The opposite of “satisfaction” is “no satisfaction,” and the opposite of “dissatisfaction” is “no dissatisfaction.” According to Herzberg, the factors that lead to job satisfaction are separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction. Therefore, managers who seek to eliminate factors that can create job dissatisfaction may bring about peace but not necessarily motivation. They will be placating rather than motivating their workers. As a result, Herzberg characterized conditions such as quality of supervision, pay, company policies, physical working conditions, relationships with others, and job security as hygiene factors.

When they’re adequate, people will not be dissatisfied; neither will they be satisfied. If we want to motivate people on their jobs, Herzberg suggested emphasizing factors associated with the work itself or with outcomes directly derived from it, such as promotional opportunities, personal growth opportunities, recognition, responsibility, and achievement. These are the characteristics people find intrinsically rewarding. The two- factor theory has not been well supported in the literature, and it has many detractors. 9 Criticisms include the following:

1. The procedure Herzberg used is limited by its methodology. When things are going well, people tend to take credit themselves. Contrarily, they blame failure on the extrinsic environment.

2. The reliability of Herzberg’s methodology is questionable. Raters have to make interpretations, so they may contaminate the findings by interpreting one response in one manner while treating a similar response differently.

3. No overall measure of satisfaction was utilized. A person may dislike part of a job yet still think the job is acceptable overall.

4. Herzberg assumed a relationship between satisfaction and productivity, but the research methodology he used looked only at satisfaction and not at productivity.

To make such research relevant, we must assume a strong relationship between satisfaction and productivity. Regardless of the criticisms, Herzberg’s theory has been widely read, and few managers are unfamiliar with its recommendations.

McClelland’s Theory of Needs

You have one beanbag, and five targets are set up in front of you. Each target is farther away than the last and thus more difficult to hit. Target A is a cinch. It sits almost within arm’s reach. If you hit it, you get $ 2. Target B is a bit farther out, but about 80 percent of the people who try can hit it. It pays $ 4. Target C pays $ 8, and about half the people who try can hit it. Very few people can hit Target D, but the payoff is $ 16 for those who do. Finally, Target E pays $ 32, but it’s almost impossible to achieve. Which target would you try for? If you selected C, you’re likely to be a high achiever. Why? Read on.

McClelland’s theory of needs was developed by David McClelland and his associates. 10. The theory focuses on three needs, defined as follows:

• Need for achievement (nAch) is the drive to excel, to achieve in relation to a set of standards, to strive to succeed. • Need for power (nPow) is the need to make others behave in a way in which they would not have behaved otherwise.

 • Need for affiliation (nAff) is the desire for friendly and close interpersonal relationships.

 Of the three needs, McClelland and subsequent researchers focused most of their attention on nAch. High achievers perform best when they perceive their probability of success as 0.5— that is, a 50– 50 chance of success. They dislike gambling with high odds because they get no achievement satisfaction from success that comes by pure chance. Similarly, they dislike low odds (high probability of success) because then there is no challenge to their skills. They like to set goals that require stretching themselves a little.

Relying on an extensive amount of research, we can make some reasonably well-supported predictions of the relationship between achievement need and job performance. Although less research has been done on power and affiliation needs, findings are consistent there, too. First, when jobs have a high degree of personal responsibility and feedback and an intermediate degree of risk, high achievers are strongly motivated. They are successful in en-trepreneurial activities such as running their own businesses, for example, and managing self- contained units within large organizations. 11. Second, a high need to achieve does not necessarily make someone a good manager, especially in large organizations. People with a high achievement need are interested in how well they do personally and not in influencing others to do well. High- nAch salespeople do not necessarily make good sales managers, and the good general manager in a large organization does not typically have a high need to achieve. 12. Third, needs for affiliation and power tend to be closely related to managerial success. The best managers are high in their need for power and low in their need for affiliation. 13. In fact, a high power motive may be a requirement for managerial effectiveness. 14

 As you might have gathered, among the early theories of motivation McClelland’s has had the best research support. Unfortunately, it has less practical effect than the others. Because McClelland argued that the three needs are subconscious— meaning we may be high on them but not know it— measuring them is not easy. In the most common approach, a trained expert presents pictures to individuals, asks them to tell a story about each, and then scores their responses in terms of the three needs. However, the process is time consuming and expensive, and few organizations have been willing to invest time and resources in measuring McClelland’s concept.



 Early theories of motivation either have not held up under close examination or have fallen out of favor. In contrast, contemporary theories have one thing in common: Each has a reasonable degree of valid supporting documentation. This doesn’t mean they are unquestionably right. We call them “contemporary theories” because they represent the current state of thinking in explaining employee motivation.high need to achieve does not necessarily make someone a good manager, especially in large organizations. People with a high achievement need are interested in how well they do personally and not in influencing others to do well. High- nAch salespeople do not necessarily make good sales managers, and the good general manager in a large organization does not typically have a high need to achieve. 12 Third, needs for affiliation and power tend to be closely related to managerial success. The best managers are high in their need for power and low in their need for affiliation. 13 In fact, a high power motive may be a requirement for managerial effectiveness. 14.

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