Home » Motivation Theory in Business

Motivation Theory in Business

A simple game of bingo, if analyzed closely, can be shown to be a tedious task consisting of a repetitive action that occurs after being prompted by a repetitive stimulus. The skill level needed to make that action is low, and the variability in the rules of the game rarely changes. This game is not unlike many of the jobs that can be classified as having low motivational potential scores (Hackman, et al). So why do people not only enjoy playing games like bingo, but actually pay money to have the pleasure?

The answer directly points to the motivating factors of monetary rewards and recognition which are provided on a “variable-ratio” schedule. Motivation by reinforcement (Miller). There are many theories regarding motivation with the most prevalent being the theories of Maslow and Herzberg. It is important to understand these theories and their implications to accurately comment on reinforcement theories of motivation. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are five classes: (1) physiological, (2) safety, (3) social, (4) esteem, and (5) self-actualization.

Each lower level need must be satisfied before an individual experiences higher level needs. Also, Maslow hypothesized that as physiological, safety, social, and esteem needs were satisfied, they ceased to motivate, while the self-actualization needs actually motivate an individual more as they are satisfied (Schwab, 1978: 57). Herzberg used this theory as a base to build his motivation-hygiene theory which ties Maslow’s needs to on the job achievement. The hygiene elements relate to low needs (physiological, safety, and social).

For an individual, hygiene conditions include company policy and administration, supervision, relationships with peers and supervisors, work conditions, salary, status, and security. These, according to Herzberg account for 69% of the factors which cause employee dissatisfaction or lack of motivation. The motivation conditions, which include achievement, the job itself, recognition, responsibilities, and personal growth, accounted for 81% of the factors which contributed to job satisfaction.

The hygiene conditions are extrinsic factors while the motivation conditions are intrinsic factors, and the only way to sustain motivation toward organizational goals is through the achievement of intrinsic outcomes. Each of these theories have proven to contain ideas consistent with human nature, but each also has its limitations within organizational settings. Because lower order needs are generally satisfied in the workplace today, managers have to deal with how to provide esteem and self-actualization to their employees, and that can be a nebulous concept to a manager who demands results immediately.

Also, studies demonstrate that different workers are motivated by different factors be them intrinsic or extrinsic. Centers and Bugental’s studies on “intrinsic and extrinsic job motivation among different segments of the working population,” show that while skilled workers are motivated the intrinsic rewards of their employment, lesser skilled workers in jobs that are deemed routine were motivated by extrinsic factors such as incentives and bonuses. This fact can be reaffirmed by analyzing union contacts and job descriptions in an industry like the steel industry.

Employees who have routine jobs or jobs that have little in the way of decision making are often provided high monetary incentives based on productivity and quality. These ideas do not discount the work of Herzberg and Maslow, but instead show that as needs progress up the hierarchy ladder, focus must be made on what a manager should do to provide their workers with what they lack, an increasingly difficult task that have influenced the motivational theories of job enrichment (Hackman, et al. 75). Job enrichment efforts have proven somewhat successful in improving performance and attitude amongst employees.

Job enrichment theories are analogous to why people enjoy games so much. M. Scott Meyer wrote in his book, Every Employee a Manager, that the key to job enrichment can be related to why people enjoy bowling. His answer sums of the seven characteristics of bowling: 1. The bowler has a visible goal, 2. he has a challenging but attainable goal, 3. is working according to his own personally accepted standards, 4. he receives immediate feedback, 5. he has an opportunity to satisfy social needs, 6. he is an accepted member of a group, and 7. he can earn recognition. The one thing that job enrichment cannot do, however, is make the individual a better bowler. That is something that the player must earn himself. Studies by Hackman and Oldham,, and Earl Weeks have shown the effectiveness of job enrichment.

Hackman and Oldham in their studies showed that by enhancing and changing a routine job through manipulation of their five implementing concepts (natural units of work, task combination, client relationships, feedback and vertical loading), improvements can be made in relation to productivity, quality, absenteeism, attitude, the elimination of unnecessary controls, and in the role of the supervisor. Weeks’ study of custodial employees at Texas Instruments was similar to that of Hackman and Oldham in that many factors were changed at once to achieve increases in productivity and quality.

These studies do provide evidence that job enrichment is an affective tool when coupled with the theories of Herzberg and Maslow, but have limitations in the fact that job enrichment seeks to create an environment in which the needs of the employee are consistently being met instead of an environment in which an employee can “earn” the satisfaction of his or her needs (Miller 33). Again, this is a theory of motivation, like Herzberg and Maslow’s that has limitations when applied. There needs to be something more for consistent motivation.

An additional theory on human behavior, motivation, and management was developed in the late 1950’s by McGregor. His theories X and Y and were based on assumptions made regarding the “system” and individuals. In short, in Theory X (the most common management practice) management organizes all elements of production, motivates and controls employee behavior to fit the needs of the organization, and without this intervention, employees would be indifferent to changing organizational needs.

McGregor further assumes that managers believe that the average employee is by nature indolent and lazy, lacks ambition, is self-centered, and resistant to change (McGregor 1957). The grim consequences that McGregor proposes about management by “direction and control,” a style that is and was popular in big business, hardly have been exhibited in the corporate world 40 years later. This fact alone shows that McGregor’s assumptions regarding Theory X are inaccurate. McGregor’s alternative to Theory X was Theory Y.

This theory made the assumptions that management has the responsibility for organizing the elements of production, people are not by nature passive, but become so as a result of experiences, management should enable employees to develop their motivational characteristics, and that it is essential for management to arrange organizational conditions in a manner where employees can achieve their own goals by directing their personal effort towards organizational objectives. The contrast between X and Y solely relates to who controls human behavior.

Theory X touts external control, and Theory Y promotes self control and self direction. The main dilemma with McGregor’s premises is that Theory Y places an unrealistic amount of burden on the management. Heroics cannot be the responsibility of a manager and the difficulty a manager would have fulfilling his own personal goals and the goals of the organization while conceiving “of their job as helping each of his subordinates to achieve their mutual goals in the subordinate’s own way (Gellerman 1963),” is an enormous.

A manager would require not only extensive training in management but in human psychology. Drucker’s opinion on the subject sums up why the McGregor’s techniques lack vital characteristics for effective organizational motivation; An employer has no business with a man’s personality. Employment is as specific contract calling for specific performance, and nothing else. Any attempt of an employer to go beyond this is usurpation. It is an immoral as well as illegal intrusion of privacy. It is abuse of power.

An employee owes no “loyalty,” he owes no “love,” and no “attitudes” -he owes performance and nothing elseManagement and management developmentshould consider themselves with changes in behavior likely to make a man more effective. They do not deal with who a man is -that is, with his personality or his emotional dynamics (Drucker, 1973). Though Drucker’s opinions reflect why Theory Y may be perceived as flawed, they represent a somewhat cold stance on other issues in organizational behavior.

Management must have some responsibilities to the emotional well being of their subordinates, but they cannot be responsible to the extent Theory Y proposes. Of all the intrinsically based theories of motivation, the one that is most related to motivation through reinforcement is that of the expectancy-valence theory. Vroom’s formulations on this theory have become the dominate works in regard to motivational management. The expectancy-valence theory is a cognitive approach to explaining the causes of motivation, which in turn, influence the behavior of the individual.

Expectancy theories explain not only the choices an employee will make regarding actions, but to what level the employee will perform in regard to those actions (Schwab 1978). This somewhat scientific approach to explain motivation involves three key steps. The valence of outcomes is the first step which incorporates the concept of the attractiveness associated with activities. Unlike Maslow, Herzberg, or McGregor, the expectancy theory “makes no a priori statements about what outcomes individuals will find valent or nonvalent (Schwab, 1978).

The second assumption in the expectancy theory regards people’s beliefs about the connection between activity and outcome. These perceptions ” can be thought of as subjective probabilities and are referred to as instrumentality perceptions (Schwab 1978). ” In essence, people have an idea that there is a link between performance and wage increases. The final premise of the expectancy theory ” pertains to the individual’s beliefs about the connection or linkage between one’s effort to engage in an activity and the likelihood that the activity will be accomplished (Schwab, 1978).

Crystallized, the expectancy theory of motivation states that employee motivation is high when a task is attractive in itself, and when the outcomes of the completed task are attractive to the employee. Because of the complexities of the internal nature of the expectancy theory, it is a difficult approach to take as a manager. Though it takes into account that the recognition of the outcome of an action may influence the frequency of that behavior, the expectancy theory still relies too much on the internal processes of motivation because of its basis in cognition.

A far simpler way to motivate employees disengages itself from internal (intrinsic) processes and solely analyzes how external events can influence the frequency of motivated behavior. This method is motivation by reinforcement. Motivation by reinforcement may be argued to not even be a valid motivational theory since it deals mainly with how “behavior is shaped by its consequences (Katzell and Thompson, 1995). ” It is based on the simple premise that effective behavior is to be positively reinforced in order to continue, and that poor performance should not be rewarded but in fact punished.

Motivation by reinforcement allows a manager to focus on the present conditions, things that he can control. The theory adapts to the current behaviors and the current environment and does not dwell on the internal factors which can cloud decision making. Realistically, a manager can only control some of the conditions of the work environment (i. e. goal statements and incentive promises) and has no control over past conditions that could influence employee behavior. Also, an employer cannot anticipate how a subordinate will behave in the future.

A manager’s main responsibility is to be aware of an employee’s previous experience which dictates performance in the present. Two characteristics of an employee which determine his response to conditions are his ability to learn and his “current repertoire or behavior, learned from prior experience (Miller, 1981). ” To understand why motivation through reinforcement is a realistic and valid motivational technique, one must analyze these two factors. A manager must assess a person’s ability to learn before placing him on a job.

He must analyze the amount and speed of learning a job, and relate that to his employees learning ability to see if that employee can handle the task. Also, a manager must assess the subordinates prior experiences and relate them to his ability to learn. Much of these assessments are best done within the hiring practices of a company to facilitate the manager’s assignment of tasks. After analysis of employee skills and experience, motivation becomes a function of this experience and the characteristics of the present conditions.

Since it is the primary function of the manager to achieve results though the work of himself and his subordinates, the manager must determine deadlines and then change or maintain the behavior of his employees to meet expectations. The only way a manager can manipulate behavior is to alter the environment in the present. A manager cannot feasibly determine what needs each employee desires for satisfaction, and cannot change organizational goals to fit the behavior of each individual employee. Since all practices of managers involve the manipulation of the work environment, it is only natural that that is the way to affect motivation.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment