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Theories of Motivation in the Workplace

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Theories of Motivation in the Workplace

At one time, in the workplace, the only type of "motivation" necessary was a command from the boss for an employee to do something (Lindner, 1998). However, times have changed and so have bosses and employees. Ever since the middle of the 20th century, various business experts and academicians have developed theories of motivation to help direct employees toward better and stronger productivity. The main theories that tend to be used in the business community are those postulated by Frederick Herzberg (theory of motivation) and Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of needs) (Gawel, 1999).

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Most motivational theories of today, whether workplace or elsewhere, were introduced by Maslow, a behavioral psychologist, who, in 1954, introduced the concept that people attempt to satisfy their personal needs through context of their work (Gawel, 1999). Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs, focusing on the idea that people do not pursue the next highest need in a hierarchy until a current, or recognized, need was completely satisfied (Gawel, 1999). The five levels Maslow introduced were physiological (food, housing and clothing); safety, social, ego, then finally, self-actualization (Lindner, 1998).

In a corporate set-up, the boss who recognizes what level of the hierarchy the employee is on will do the best job in terms of satisfying employee needs. The employee who is on the first level will be motivated primarily by the paycheck and benefits, whereas the employee who is on the social level is likely to achieve motivation through team building or a work group setting.

Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg, who introduced his theories in 1959, suggested that there was a "two-dimensional paradigm" when it came to factors that impacted people's attitudes about work, noting that attributes such as a company's policies, its supervisors, interpersonal relationships, working conditions and salary are considered "hygiene factors" as opposed to "motivational factors" (Gawel, 1999). While the absence of such "hygiene factors" can lead to job dissatisfaction, noted Herzberg, they would not necessarily create satisfaction, nor would they motivate an employee (Gawel, 1999).

Rather, motivators consisted of those attributes by which a person's job has enrichment such as achievement and recognition, liking of the work itself, responsibility and advancement (Gawel, 1999). According to Herzberg's data, the motivators (also called satisfiers) were linked to long-term positive effects in job performance, while the hygiene factors were good only for short-term success (Gawel, 1999).

A good example of this is journalism, especially journalism on community newspapers. The pay is mediocre in such instances and the working conditions are filled with deadlines (sometimes-unrealistic deadlines), which can be problematic. In addition, journalists are under constant pressure from the public to make them look good in print, and from their editors to get things in on time. "When deadlines become too numerous, biological and psychological states create stress" (Reeve, 2001, p.13, ΒΆ 2). The job is highly stressful, with little pay and extraordinarily bad hours increasing the potential for burnout. Yet journalists who enjoy their jobs do so for the motivator factors--they enjoy the work. They obtain recognition (mainly through the public, especially when the public compliments them on a story). They love the responsibility of coming up with and developing stories. Advancement, for these people, is also a bonus (though journalists typically do not make very good editors). The same is true in a corporate setting--people do not necessarily come to work for the paycheck or because they like their co-workers, though both can be an incentive. They do so because they love their jobs, they believe in the organization's mission, and they receive recognition when they complete their jobs.

Expectancy Theory - Vroom

Vroom's expectancy theory, which focused on the fact that employee efforts lead to performance, with that performance leading to rewards (Lindner, 1998). The more positive the rewards, notes Vroom's theories, the more highly motivated the employee is likely to be (Lindner,



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