Why Should Managers Be Aware of Various Motivation Theories?

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Organizations are established with the sole purpose of achieving specific goals and objectives. Employees, on the other hand, are hired to assist the organization to achieve the set-out goals and objectives (Armstrong 56). Without proper motivation, employees lack the drive for directing their efforts towards the realization of the organization’s objectives. Managers represent the organizations’ owners on-site, thus they are tasked with the responsibility of taking care of the employees in terms of their various needs (57). Businesses in today’s world are faced with dynamic cultural and lifestyle changes, thus prompting a change in the needs of the employees. The type of treatment that managers give to an employee who has various needs always has an effect on the overall performance of the employee (Dunn 123). Motivation is the process of giving a drive that will cause an employee to take action to become better (Buchbinder and Shanks 24). Several motivational theories have been developed in a bid to assist managers on how best to motivate employees based on their varied needs. More often than not, managers assume that employees are generally motivated to work due to the reward that they get in terms of money. However, going through the theories of motivation will equip managers with the knowledge they require to handle their employees effectively (25). Some motivational theories that have been identified are Murray’s theory of human personality, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, the E.R.G theory, McClelland’s theory of achievement and motivation, and Herzberg’s theory of motivation and hygiene (Champoux 152). This paper gives an insight into these theories as to the basis for explaining why managers in the modern world need to be knowledgeable on the theories so that they can motivate their employees to perform better in the realization of the organizational goals.

Murray’s Theory of Human Personality

This theory categorizes human needs into two: physical and physiological needs. It is assumed that human beings adapt to changing environments (Champoux 154). Physical needs are meant to satisfy the core physical processes of the human body, while psychological needs concentrate on human emotions. In most cases, a person’s behavior will be directed to some objects and not others. In general, humans are driven to fulfill specified needs (154).

Murray’s theory is important to managers in a number of ways. For instance, being knowledgeable about the theory can help managers comprehend how they can adapt to various physical and psychological needs of employees in their organizations. As an example, a manager can change swiftly to show dominance while at work in order to emphasize their actions and show that they are in authority. However, the manager is still able to avoid showing signs of seniority, so that they can mingle easily with the subordinates (155). In addition, Murray’s theory appreciates that some employees may naturally seem to be lonely, not associating much with a majority of fellow workers (Buchbinder and Shanks 24). One can ignorantly conclude that such people are not fit for certain job positions. A closer look into such persons may, however, reveal that they relate freely with employees in the same or lower job grades (Buchbinder and Shanks 25). Managers are, therefore, advised to be vigilant on how they respond to various behaviors of their employees to avoid making misguided conclusions about the employees.

Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchal Needs

Maslow came up with a hierarchy of 5 needs, which he grouped as physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization needs that should be realized in an upward order (Champoux 155). Basic human needs, such as food, health and water, represent the physiological needs. Safety needs comprise the efforts human beings make to be safe from all forms of harm. Love needs are also referred to as affiliation needs, which include the desire of human beings to be loved, cherished and accommodated by others. The esteem needs are categorized into two: esteem from outside people and self-esteem. The self-actualization need comprises a person’s desire to fulfill their dreams (156). Once a person fulfills a specified need, they shift focus to the next need in the hierarchy. Actually, the individual starts to behave in a manner that favors the realization of the next need in the hierarchy (Champoux 156).

The Maslow’s theory can assist managers in understanding why some employees behave differently from others at work. For instance, the manager can realize that a majority of the employees has realized the first two needs in the hierarchy of needs, thus they behave in a ways that show the desire to achieve love, esteem, and self-actualization needs as the remaining needs in the hierarchy (157). A manager who is knowledgeable about Maslow’s theory, for example, can realize that most employees seeking promotion are in the pursuit of more money so that they can fulfill their dreams. The manager can then recommend an increase in the employees’ salary to motivate them to work harder.

Alderfer’s E.R.G. Theory of Basic Human needs

This theory gives a detailed explanation of the 3 basic human needs: existence needs, relatedness/love needs, and growth needs. Existence needs are the physical, as well as material needs that a human being wants. Relatedness needs are those needs that give a person the urge to be loved by others and to belong to a particular community. Finally, growth needs are explained as the willingness to become creative and productive, while at the same time trying to develop other useful capabilities (Champoux 158). Just like the Maslow’s theory, the E.R.G theory proves that needs that are not satisfied at any given time form a basis for one’s motivation. An individual will, thus, be devoted and behave in a manner that shows that they really want to meet the particular need that has not yet been fulfilled (158). The E.R.G theory introduces two types of movements: a satisfaction-progression movement and a frustration-regression movement. In the satisfaction-progression movement, an individual is able to realize his needs progressively in a manner that brings personal satisfaction. On the other hand, frustration-regression movement indicates a situation where an individual fails to meet the desired need, thus they end up frustrated (Champoux 159).

Managers can benefit from the E.R.G theory by using its principles to develop strategies that can motivate employees to work well. The strategies should be tailored to suit the needs of individual employees to encourage a satisfaction-progression movement, rather than a frustration-regression movement. The E.R.G theory also talks about an enrichment cycle, where those who have achieved growth needs continue to desire the needs again and again (158). Managers who have this knowledge can encourage employees who have achieved specific growth needs to get involved in various community-based projects, for instance, and support talents in the community as a way of giving back to the community.

Persons entrusted with the management of organizations also need to develop strategies that can ensure that their employees do not fall into the deficiency cycle (Champoux 159). The deficiency cycle locks an employee into a state where they only work for the existence needs. Employees working for the existence needs only will not be as motivated as those who have realized relatedness and growth needs. A better approach for ensuring that all employees realize various needs is the review of their rewards, such as salaries, so that the rewards can match the current economy (Cooper 96). Employees who feel that their needs are not realized at their place of work may experience the frustration-regression movement, where they find themselves moving from one level of employment to another (Buchbinder and Shanks 33). Managers need to make sure that such employee’ needs are addressed as quickly as possible to change the movement of those employees to that of a satisfaction-progression.

McClelland’s Theory of Achievement and Motivation

According to the McClelland’s theory, human needs are gained throughout life and developed through various experiences that a person faces in life (Buchbinder and Shanks 28). The theory focuses mainly on 3 needs: achievement needs, affiliation needs, and need for power (28). McClelland claim’s that persons who have a strong desire for achievement are motivated by the desire to achieve realistic, but challenging goals. Such individuals are problem-solvers and will take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions (Champoux 160). They take calculated risks and have self–regulated achievement goals in their pursuit for success. These types of people welcome both positive and negative criticism to help them achieve their goals. McClelland’s theory identifies a group of people who have a strong need for power and categorize them into two: those who control others in the pursuit for power and those who influence others in order to gain power. An influencer will tactfully use his wisdom to gain the hearts of other people (Champoux 160). This theory also recognizes individuals who have an increased need for affiliation. These individuals are motivated by the need for friendships and work towards increasing interactions with different people. In other words, they are more concerned with how they relate with others (Armstrong 63). They are also good team players.

One of the lessons that managers can learn from the McClelland’s theory is that all workers in an organization need to have set goals that are self-moderated. An organization that has a management and employees who are focused on the same direction in terms of goal achievement will realize the organizational goals efficiently than an organization that does not encourage its workers to have set goals. A manager who understands this theory can aim to become a better influencer and more persuasive than the one who controls people. The manager can, therefore, express his thoughts to his subjects diligently. In effect, employees can own up the ideas and work willingly towards the implementation of the ideas (Champoux 160).

Managers who have a strong need for affiliation portray reduced objectivity (Buchbinder and Shanks 33). Such managers work towards gaining the approval of employees. Unfortunately, it affects the manager’s capability to make decisions (33). Managers should have an increased drive to achieve success than an increased need for authority so that they can set and achieve goals that can steer the development of the organization (161). However, managers who have a high desire for power always develop a strong commitment and good work ethics that their employees can emulate. Consequently, they contribute positively to the progress of the organization (Cooper 98). The McClelland’s theory also equips managers with the knowledge that money as a reward may have both negative and positive effects on the performance of an employee (Dunn 136). A manager with a strong need for achievement is more likely to become the best leader, although he might expect too much from his employees if he holds a belief that all individuals have high goals to achieve (Buchbinder and Shanks 34). Generally, a manager who has an increased desire for achievement normally makes things happen and gets results (Cooper 103). An employee who gets a monetary reward for achieving a target is motivated to work diligently so as to receive more rewards in the future. Therefore, managers should use monetary rewards to motivate the employees who do well, thereby motivating even more employees to work hard to be rewarded in the future (Dunn 137).

Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation and Hygiene

Herzberg’s theory identifies various satisfiers, as well as dissatisfiers in the life of an employee and their effects on the employee’s performance (Champoux 162). Examples of satisfiers that Herzberg identified included clearly laid job descriptions, employee achievements, and feelings of responsibility among employees. Some of the dissatisfiers that were identified included poor administrative management, poor working conditions, poor interpersonal relationships, poor pay, reduced employment security, as well as poor supervision (Champoux 162). According to the Herzberg theory, satisfiers are the employee motivators, while dissatisfiers are the hygiene factors. This theory proves that people who have not achieved hygiene needs will continue to pursue the needs until they realize them, because the fulfilled hygiene needs will have a positive influence to their happiness and growth in the organization (Armstrong 68).

Using the Hezberg’s theory, managers are encouraged to focus more on the improvement of hygienic conditions before giving more motivation to employees (162). The theory encourages managers to practice job enrichment by giving employees more job responsibilities, as this can add motivation to the employees. Managers are encouraged to initiate satisfiers, such as recognition and awarding top performers, as a means of promoting job satisfaction among the employees (Dunn 134). A manager should realize that the realization of hygiene needs gives employees motivation, but only to a certain limit. Therefore, employees acquire true and lasting motivation after they are enabled to achieve true satisfiers/motivators by their managers (Cooper 105).

Hygiene needs that managers should help the employees achieve include a good organizational policy, better relationships with supervisors, good working conditions, a meaningful salary, a company car, guaranteed job security, and improvement in employees’ personal life (Armstrong 68). True motivators that completely encourage the employees include recognition of employees after great achievements in their place of work, increased responsibility, and advancement in an employee’s career, including promotion and a better understanding of the work itself (Armstrong 69). Managers should realize that money in not always a motivator for employees (Dunn 158). For instance, an employee who receives a poor salary will be dissatisfied and lack the motivation to work effectively. Poor pay is normally a result of poor management that exercises unfairness in the wage system (158). Managers should, thus, establish efficient systems that can ensure fairness in the awarding of salaries to the employees (159). An employee who is happy with his salary becomes satisfied and is able to work smoothly in the realization of various organizational goals. A good salary proves that an employee is doing well at work, is recognized by the managers, and the job that he is tasked to do is performed well and directed in harmony with the organization’s goals (Dunn 160).

Exceptions to the Motivational- Need Theories

Although the above discussed theories are for use across all organizations, managers should exercise caution when they practice their professions in foreign countries (Champoux 164). Different countries have varied cultures; therefore, a visiting manager ought to be mindful of these differences to avoid applying some theories that may the hurt citizens of the host country. More research needs to be carried out to ascertain the credibility and applicability of the various theories in their use by managers across different organizations and in different countries (Cooper 104). Motivational theories were identified after several studies were performed on a particular group of employees in various organizations (Champoux 162). The results from these studies could have been influenced by external factors during the course of the study. Therefore, more studies need to be carried out in different countries and several organizations to give a unanimous nod to the theories (163). The theories are based on certain assumptions, such as “all employees are goal directed and behave according to their internal factors” (Champoux 153). Managers should take care when using different theories in their organizations to avoid behavioral conflicts from occurring. Employees’ needs are sometimes guided by education, social status, and culture. It is, therefore, prudent to consider these factors when assessing employee needs and determining the best approaches for addressing the identified needs (Buchbinder and Shanks 35).


Organizations are established to achieve various goals. Employees are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the goals of the organization are achieved efficiently. However, the lack of motivation among the employees lowers the expectations of both managers and the employees. Motivational need theories can be used by managers to identify and satisfy employee needs. For instance, Murray’s theory focuses on the need for managers to ensure that the employees are able to achieve both physical and physiological needs. The Maslow’s theory, on the other hand, creates a hierarchy of needs that people from all walks of life need to achieve in a specified order. Maslow argues that an employee cannot achieve self-actualization needs if they have not achieved the basic needs. The E.R.G theory categorizes Maslow’s hierarchal needs into 3 groups: the existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs. On the other hand, the McClelland’s theory gives emphasis on employees’ achievements and recognition, especially by managers. Finally, the Herzberg’s theory introduces satisfiers and dissatifiers as the key determinants of the performance of employees. The theory claims that motivators are the main determinants of good performance of employees. In view of the above theories, managers should be diligent in determining the theories that are most practicable in their organizations.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Michael. A Handbook of Human Resources Management Practice (10th edition). London: KoganPage, 2006. Print.

Buchbinder, B. Sharon, and Nancy H. Shanks (Eds). Management and Motivation (2nd edition). Jones and Barlett Publishers. 2006. Print.

Champoux, Joseph E. Organizational Behaviour: Integrating Individuals, Groups, and Organizations (5th edition). New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Cooper, David J. Leadership for Follower Commitment. Burlington: Butterworth-Heinemann. 2003. Print.

Dunn, Steven C. An Empirical Application of Herzberg’s Motivator-hygiene Theory to Examine the Motivational Aspects Pertaining to Protect and Functional Management in a Matrix Organizational: A Dissertation. Huntsville, University of Alabama. 2002. Print.

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