Thursday, February 28, 2013

Motivational Theories

All the employers have common goals. They want to keep improving efficiency, increasing productivity, and making the quality of their products or services better. In order to achieve these goals, they have to keep motivating their employees since motivation affects the productivity of individuals. Motivation is best described as "a person's active participation in and commitment to achieving the prescribed results".
Since everyone responses differently to different kinds of motivation, many theories have been developed. I would like to put emphasis on three of those that I found interesting and they show how this field has improved during the years.

Cussin's Approach or Management by Threat

This theory was popular the year after World War II. It lies on the anticipation that the more the employees get yelled at the harder they will work. Today this approach is only used in third world countries, in areas where the economy is left behind but as workers are becoming aware of their rights “management by threat” is disappearing. During the early years of Cold War, the majority of the labor force were soldiers who fought during the war and they had no other choice but to accept any job they could get since due to the extremely low number of jobs available. Note that this approach did only create a work environment where employees just wanted to avoid to get yelled at, and it did not have positive effect on productivity.

Maslow's theory

Abraham H. Maslow developed his theory, also known as hierarchy of needs theory, when Cussin's approach was widely used, in 1954. He believed that the personal needs motivate human the most. His hierarchy consists of, from the bottom of the pyramid to top; psychological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and the highest is the self-actualization needs. Psychological needs are the most important and essential; wage, salary, and proper working conditions. Safety needs include job security. Social needs mean interaction with coworker and developing a healthy relationship with them. Esteem needs are met by giving the workers opportunities for promotion within the company and giving positive feedback. Self-actualization needs are created by challenging tasks that are stimulating.

Herzberg's theory

Maslow's theory is one the most well-known motivational theories and the basis of Herzberg's theory. Fredrick Herzberg developed this theory by observing a few hundreds of engineers and accountants; how their working relationships are, how their attitudes change, and what motivates their performances.
He believes that there is one factor that motivates, the job enrichment factor, and one factor that demotivates, the hygiene factor.
Job enrichment factors include achievement, recognition, responsibility, freedom, and advancement. When an employee is given a difficult task and she can complete the task on her own way it creates in confidence therefore she is going to perform at her best and complete the task. As a result, she receives recognition which will motivate her in the future.
Hygiene factors include work conditions, policies, administrative efficiency, style of supervision, and relationship between employees. If we are in the same situation but our employee is not rewarded it will demotivate her for the next task. Additionally, if she is forced to work with someone she would not like to, or supervised they way that creates uncomfortable working environment, she will also be demotivated.


Ranjan, B. K., & Charles, J. H. (2002). Motivational theories and successful total quality initiatives. International Journal of Management, 19(4), 605-613. Retrieved from

Hassan, A. H. (2005). Motivational theories and their application in construction. Cost Engineering, 47(3), 14-18. Retrieved from

Colquitt, J. A., Lepine, J. A., & Wesson, M. J. (2009). Organizational behavior . (Second ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

 Matyas Keresztes

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