Motivational theories in organizational behavior

Motivational theories in organizational behavior

Theories of motivation in organizational behavior are grouped into two main classes, distinguished by the differences in the very approaches of their authors to the analysis of motivation:
1. Needs theory. Needs are being addressed
as a source of desires (striving to achieve or possess something) and goals (specific and specific requirements) that shape behavior;
2. Theories of the motivational process for which the main
rather, the mental mechanisms and processes related to motivation are of interest.

Needs theories

Unmet need is a source of stress discomfort and creates a state of imbalance. To restore the balance, certain goals are set, the achievement of which would satisfy the needs, and a certain way of behavior is chosen, which would lead to the achievement of the set goals. Behavior is generally seen as motivated by unmet needs. All needs and motivations below are also valid in the context of organizations and their employees. Reference: “Motivation management”, (

At different times, not all needs have the same significance for the individual – some can be a much more powerful generator of goals than others, depending on the mental characteristics of the person and the situation in which he finds himself. The complexity also increases because there is no unambiguous determination or direct, fixed causal link between the individual needs and the respective goals: the same need can be met in different ways and the number of variants of goals related to meeting a certain need, grows right in proportion to the strength of need and time. At the same time, achieving a goal can lead to the satisfaction of many needs.
These few statements can be considered as the most general “skeleton” of the most necessary theories of motivation. Here we will briefly focus on the main contributions in this area, enriching the “skeleton” in many areas.

Systematization of necessities by Henry Murray.

Although not among the most cited, Murray’s motivational works of the 1930s are well known and serve as the basis for many later concepts. Its systematization is known as “Murray’s taxonomy of necessity” and is characterized by the fact that it does not try to separate instincts from needs, does not seek a basic instinct, does not seek to fix any subordination to each of the needs, but arranges them alphabetically. ed. The groups of needs in the taxonomy are 20 in number and according to the author, they individually or in combination are the basis of every human behavior. Reference:

  • Sharing: Considering and giving to others.
  • Achieving: Overcoming obstacles and achieving success in challenging tasks.
  • Inclusion: Establishing full-fledged social relationships, joining groups, need for love.
  • Aggression: Physical or mental harm to other people.
  • Autonomy: Overcoming the influence of others and striving for independence.
  • Counteractions: Protection of one’s honor and proud repulsion of other people’s aggression.
  • Subordination: Serving others by following instructions and guidance.
  • Justification: Self-defense through explanations, clarification of circumstances, and reasons.
  • Domination: Leadership, leadership, and control over others.
  • Display: Attracting attention to yourself.
  • Self-preservation: Avoiding situations and activities that pose a danger.
  • Insurance: Avoid failure, shame, humiliation, or ridicule.
  • Care: Providing help or support to those in need.
  • Order: Maintaining order, cleanliness, organization, precision.
  • Game: Relaxation, fun, fun.
  • Rejection: Ignoring others or rejecting them from activities.
  • Sensitivity: Desire for tactile (tactile) touch.
  • Sex: Desire for sexual intercourse or sexual intercourse.
  • Support: Seeking help or sympathy from others.
  • Understanding: Defining relationships, ideas, and concepts.

Murray’s taxonomy can certainly provoke reflection and discussion, but its most valuable quality is that it is among the first attempts to comprehensively and systematically cover human needs as determinants of purposeful behavior.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The most famous classification of needs was formulated by Maslow, who defended the thesis that there are five universally valid categories of needs in the following hierarchy:

  1. Physiological – the need for oxygen, food, water, and sex.
  2. Related to security – the need for protection against danger and deprivation of the opportunity to meet the first group of needs.
  3. Social – the need for love, attention, and a sense of belonging to a group.
  4. Related to evaluation – the need for a stable high evaluation of one’s self (self-confidence) and respect for others (prestige).
  5. Related to self-realization (self-renewal) – the need to develop potential abilities and skills, to achieve what the individual believes he can achieve.

According to Maslow’s concept, when a certain more basic need is satisfied, another, next in rank, becomes dominant and the individual’s attention is directed to it. The latter group of needs, however, can never be met in the true sense of the word. According to Maslow, “man is a wanting animal” and only an unmet need can motivate behavior, with the currently dominant need being the primary motivator. At the same time, this behavior is very rarely associated with only one dominant need. It is determined by a complex set of interacting needs of different types and with unequal intensity, which quite often remains un (realized).

The lower (“primary”) needs are universal for all people, but their intensity may be different for different individuals. It is also worth noting that they are “conditioned” (adapted to the conditions) concerning the socio-cultural environment. Primary needs continue to exist, even when they are temporarily not dominant as motivators, and the individual constantly and automatically returns to them. When they remain in a state of dissatisfaction for a long time, they tend to dominate the behavior. The lower in the hierarchy such a need is, the stronger its influence.

Higher (“secondary”) needs in the hierarchy are more difficult to determine because they apply not only to our body but to our spirit and mind, ie. psychological and social. Most of them are formed as we mature as individuals. Their form of manifestation is even more dependent on the socio-cultural environment and the accumulated individual experience, and their variations are extremely many. Other features are:

  • – that they “work” on a group rather than an individual level;
  • – that they are often incompletely aware;
  • – that even more often they are intuitively or purposefully hidden from others;
  • – that unlike the primary ones, which decrease sharply in strength at the moment of their satisfaction (until they reproduce themselves again), the secondary ones create a stronger impulse of motivation, intensifying with the process of their satisfaction.

The inability to satisfy a need of the upper circle often provokes the so-called compensatory mechanisms through which the individual begins to value higher the next, lower-ranking need. Maslow also argues that the individual’s interaction with the environment, his flexibility, and his adaptability to change are closely related to whether he has had and can meet the full range of their needs. If something prevents him in this regard, his behavior becomes more conservative and he finds it harder to tolerate adverse outside influences.

ERG – Theory of Clayton Alderfer.

ERG is an abbreviation composed of the first letters of the English words existence, relatedness, growth – existence, commitment, growth.
Alderfer’s theory rightly draws attention to subjective states of satisfaction and desire as phenomena closely related but not identical to need. Satisfaction refers to the result of the interaction between the individual and his environment and can be defined as a feeling, as a subjective reaction to the achievement of desire. Reference:

The desire itself is even more subjective because it refers to the inner state of the individual, related to his needs, motives, and preferences. ERG theory adopts the “open system” approach to understanding the human personality, but still, Alderfer formulates his categories of needs, divided into the following three-level hierarchy:

  1. Needs of existence (E), reflecting the vital requirements that people have for the material and energy exchange with the environment and the need to achieve and maintain homeostasis. Hunger and thirst are deficits and are typical needs of existence. In general, this includes the needs of Maslow’s first two groups.
  2. Needs for attachment (R), taking into account the need for the relationship of each individual with the surrounding social reality. Satisfaction of this class of needs depends on the processes of communication and reciprocity, and the elements of commitment are acceptance, understanding, affirmation, and influence.
  3. The needs for growth (G) stem from the tendency of each open system to increase over time its degree of internal order (organization) and differentiation as a consequence of the growing separation from the environment. “Satisfying the needs of growth depends on how much the individual finds opportunities to be what he is and to become what he can be.”

Apart from the fact that Alderfer’s theory is more concentrated than the previous one, it also has other features and contributions. ERG – the theory does not adhere to the theory of strict adherence to the hierarchy from level to level. It is considered acceptable and likely that needs from all three levels are equally active at a given time.

A two-factor model of Frederick Herzberg.

This model is based on the presence of two sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Suppose that people have the ability and desire to share exactly the conditions that satisfy them and that do not satisfy them in their work. Accordingly, the representatives of the study group were asked by the interviewers about the moments when they felt extremely good and extremely bad about their work and concerning what in particular they felt these feelings. Herzberg conducted a meaningful analysis of the responses. Reference:

It turned out that the answers to the “good periods” are most often related to the content of the work. These answers most often talked about achievements, recognition, development, responsibility, and the content of the work itself. The answers to the “bad periods” were most often related to the conditions in the workplace. Here they talked about company policy and administration, pay working conditions, and more.

The main analysis of these results made by Herzberg states that “The needs of workers can be divided into two groups. The first concerns the need for human development in the workplace as an expression of his self-realization. The second group functions as a substantive basis of the first and is related to fairness in pay, working conditions, etc. Satisfying this second group of needs does not motivate the individual to increase productivity and improve personal performance at work, but prevents dissatisfaction. and low performance. ”

This grouping underlies the two factors in Herzberg’s model: the first factor (the needs of the first group) consists of the so-called “Satisfiers” or motivators that can encourage the individual to high work performance and create significant working conditions. The second factor is composed of “dissatisfied”, who generally describe the environment and serve primarily to prevent job dissatisfaction while having very little importance in building a positive attitude towards work and the actual motivational process.

Herzberg’s theory has been the subject of strong attacks in several directions. The research method has been criticized for the lack of experience in establishing the relationship between satisfaction and work performance and for the lack of distinction between motivation and satisfaction. It is argued that the two-factor outcome is an inevitable consequence of the bipolar nature of the survey questions themselves, or that the pay-related answers are not adequately interpreted. It protests against the underestimation of the importance of pay, status, and social contacts present in the model as hygienic factors. The model is accused of insufficient universality (more difficult applicability for executive and unqualified staff), etc.

McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory – Achievement, Affiliation and Power

This is a way of qualifying needs, based on research mainly of management staff. Three needs (or rather groups) are identified as the most significant:

  1. The need for achievement, defined as the need for competitive success, commensurate with personal standards of excellence.
  2. The need for inclusion, defined as the need for warmth, friendly and cordial relationships with other people.
  3. The need for power, understood as the need for control and influence over others.

McClelland does not offer a comprehensive concept like its predecessors. He is not interested in Maslow’s lower needs and Herzberg’s hygiene factors, but focuses on those groups of needs that he believes are learned through learning.

Later, the fourth group of needs was added to the McClelland scheme – “competence”. It means striving to “be good at something”, to do your job well, to prove yourself in what you do.

The type, emphasizing achievement, pursues and conquers goal after goal, climbing the ladder of success. Performance, the completion of a task, is important in themselves, as an achievement, and not so much because of the reward with which they may be associated. People of this type, according to McClelland, will work better if they feel that their efforts will be noticed if they do not face a high risk of failure and if they receive full feedback on the quality of their performance.

The type with dominant motives of the character “inclusion” has quite different characteristics. Unlike the previous type, which works better when it receives a detailed assessment of its performance, this one performs better when it is praised, encouraged for its cooperation, and good attitude.

The choice of collaborators in this type is subject to their desire to surround themselves with close and pleasant people. They need intimacy more intensely and therefore prefer work that gives them freedom of communication. When charged with managerial responsibilities, this type can have serious problems due to the contradiction between the desire to be accepted and liked and the need to set tasks, monitor their implementation, and punish if necessary.

The “competence” type of motivational orientation is associated with an emphasis on the level of one’s abilities. The motivated individual strives to complete the task and take on the next one, needing standards and norms against which to compare his achievements and success. The “competence” motivated person feels inner satisfaction rather than the very good performance of the work.

Finally, the “power” motivational type is characterized by behavior driven by the desire to exercise influence and control over other people and events. This type needs to influence the organization and is willing to take risks in the name of this desire. People of this type are usually very good managers.
McClelland conducts a lot of research on the type that he thinks deserves the most attention from a social point of view – the achiever.

Gradually, the image of this type is concretized with characteristics such as a clear preference for tasks involving personal responsibility, as they would show success as a person rather than a collective achievement; preference for tasks and activities of medium difficulty, as the more complex ones, carry the risk of a badly experienced failure, and the performance of the easier ones is not an achievement.

McClelland also draws some interesting conclusions about the social significance of the type in question. According to him, the economic development of nations is largely due to the prevalence of motivation for achievement in the population.

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