Motivation Theories Are Useful In The Workplace

Motivation Theories

Throughout their studies, psychologists learn about several different motivation theories. Managers could potentially learn about these theories as well. By learning the theories, managers could become better motivators of workers, which would improve organizational outcomes.

In the workplace, employee motivation can drop. A manager that can respond to this situation will maintain the success and performance of their department. Knowing these theories can give one clues and ideas as how to best motivate the employees towards better performance, and therefore, better organizational outcomes. I will now discuss several theories of motivation, which are useful in the workplace: The Hawthorne Effect, Human Motivation Theory, Positive Reinforcement and The Hierarchy of Needs.

First, let’s talk about the “Hawthorne Effect”. The researchers varied the level of light, and looked to see if they could find some productivity relationships between the level of light and worker productivity. They tried raising the level of light, and productivity increased. They lowered the level of light back to the regular level, and productivity increased. Whatever they did, they couldn’t agree on any productivity and light relationships. When their study ended, productivity fell. The researchers summarized that the subjects of the experiment simply liked the idea of experimenters paying attention to them, and reasoned that, worker motivation improves as there are people showing an interest in what they do.

Second, let’s talk about the “Human Motivation Theory”. As part of the theory, there are three motivating drivers, one of which dominates in each of us. One, there is a need for achievement. People with a high need for achievement have a need to set and accomplish goals. Achievement oriented people are often found in technical professions. Two, there is a need for affiliation. People with a need for affiliation want to belong to a group and they favour collaboration over competition. Affiliation oriented people are often found in administrative professions. Three, there is a need for power. People with a need for power want to control and influence others and they enjoy competition, winning and status. Power oriented people are often found in leadership professions. By identifying which social motives are strong in different people, it is then possible to offer them what they need through the design of a job that matches their needs.

Third, let’s talk about Positive Reinforcement theory. In 1971, B.F. skinner showed that people would tend to repeat an act that they have previously been rewarded for. This leads us to an important idea. Based on this theory, it should be possible to control people’s future actions, by making careful and controlled responses to current actions. With positive reinforcement, desirable behaviours are reinforced. Positive reinforcement could include money, recognition, time off work, and praise. Managers should use positive reinforcement to reinforce aspects of the employee that are related to performance as well as behaviours they wish to continue.

Fourth, let’s talk about the idea of “hierarchy of needs”. Abraham Maslow believed there are five major levels of need, and that the needs are hierarchical. He believed our attention is focused initially on the lower level needs, until they are satisfied, at which point our attention goes up the hierarchy to the next level of need. To begin with, the lowest level of need is the “survival” need. This level of need represents the person’s basic needs, such as food and shelter. The next level of need up the hierarchy is the “safety and security” need. This level of need is about the need to be free of danger. Next up, there are “social” needs. This level of needs involves the need for friendship, family, and sexual intimacy. A manager could motivate employees at this level, by organizing social activities such as picnics, parties, workshops and programs. The next level up includes the “ego” needs. This level of need is related to concepts of; self-esteem, confidence, and achievement. Recognizing, praising, offering awards, increasing salary, marketing them publicly or promoting to a higher position, are all different ways an employee at this level can be motivated. The last, and fifth level of the hierarchy is the need for “self actualization”. This level of need deals with the need to develop continually, and to realize one’s potential. If someone has worked very hard to master all of the tasks at their position, then they must be switched to another position, where there is still room available to learn new things and grow. Otherwise they will lose motivation. As you can see, the workplace can satisfy the various levels of need that people have.


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