Motivation theories are fall into two main categories. They are:

1. Content theories of motivation: 

They explain the dynamics of human needs, such as why people have different needs at different times. By understanding an employee’s needs we can discover the conditions that motivate the person.

  1. Maslow’s need hierarchy theory,
  2. Herzberg’s two factor (motivator-hygiene) theory, and
  3. Elderfer’s ERG theory,

2. Process theories of motivation: 

These theories do not directly explain how needs emerge. Instead they describe the process through which needs are translated into behavior. Process theories help to explain why people behave the way they do. In doing so they help us to understand, predict and influence employee performance, attendance, work satisfaction and other outcomes.

  1. Equity theory of motivation (J. Stacy Adam’s equity theory of motivation) and
  2. Expectancy theory of motivation (Victor Vroom’s Expectancy theory of motivation)

Need Hierarchy Theory

This theory was developed by Abraham Maslow. This theory states that satisfaction of needs motivate individual behavior. The theory is based on human needs. Maslow believed that once a given level of need is satisfied, it is no longer serves to motivate man. Then, the next higher level of need emerges.

According to Maslow (1970), needs exist in a hierarchy. Only when lower-order needs are satisfied can higher-order needs be activated and serve as sources of motivation.

The theory hypothesizes that people have a set of five needs which are arranged in a hierarchy.

1) Psychological needs: They are basic survival needs for food, water, clothing, shelter, sex etc. They permit continued existence of our body. They are the needs of the lowest order and assume top priority.

  • Salary provides a means to satisfy psychological needs in organizations.

2) Safety needs:  They are needs for security and protection from physical and emotional harm.

  • Provident fund, pension, health insurance satisfy safety needs in organizations.

3) Social needs (Belongings needs): They are needs for affection, belongingness, companionship and social acceptance. They are the needs for contact and interactions with other people.

  • Peers, informal group, employee club etc. satisfy social needs in organizations.

4) Esteem needs (Ego needs): They are needs of liking and disliking for oneself. They can be:

- Internal: Needs for self-esteem, autonomy, achievement etc.

- External: Needs for status, recognition, praise, prestige etc.

  • Job titles, posh offices, luxury cars satisfy esteem needs in organizations.

5) Self-actualization needs: They are needs for self-fulfillment, potential achievement, creativity, talent utilization and personal growth, etc. It is “becoming what one is capable of becoming”. Self-actualization needs can never be fully satisfied.

  • Lower-order needs: psychological and safety needs that are satisfied externally are lower-order needs. They are most pressing needs.
  • Higher-order needs: Social, esteem and self-actualization needs that are satisfied internally are higher order needs. They are least pressing needs.

Two Factor theory

This theory was developed by Herzberg. It is also called the dual factor theory of motivation or hygiene theory of motivation. He conducted a study on 200 accountants and engineers of USA. In the study the respondents were asked 2 questions:

  1. When did you feel particularly good about your job-what turned you on, and
  2. When did you feel exceptionally bad about your job-what turned you off?

From the study, Herzberg concluded that job satisfiers are related to job content and that job dissatisfiers are allied to job context. He labeled job satisfiers motivators and he called the dissatisfiers, hygiene factors.

Hygiene Factors:

These factors are dissatisfiers. The absence of these factors leads to job dissatisfaction. They avoid dissatisfaction. These factors relate to job context*. They are related to the conditions under which a job is performed. They are associated with negative feelings. They do not help to improve motivation.

Features of hygiene factors are as follows;

  • They are external to job ( related to the job environment)
  • Prevents dissatisfaction
  • Zero-level motivation if maintained properly
  • Never satisfied completely
  • Money is the most important hygiene factor.

Motivators Factors:

These factors are satisfiers. They cause high levels of job satisfaction. However, absence of these factors does not lead to job dissatisfaction. These factors relate to job content**. They are associated with positive feelings of employees about the job.

Features of motivator factors are as follows;

  • They are content factors (they are inside the job)
  • They affect satisfaction.
  • They encourage individuals to superior performance.

Herzberg said that managers have yet been very much concerned with hygiene factors. In order to increase the motivation of employee’s managers should maintain the hygiene factors and increase the satisfiers/motivators.

(* Job context: Job context are the factors controlled by the organization like work condition, base salary, company policies etc. Individual has no control over it.

** Job content: Job content are the factors controlled by the individual oneself like performance, recognition, autonomy etc. Job content factors are directly related to individual’s job).

Comparison of Maslow’s and Herzberg Theories:

Maslow’s model Vs. Herzberg’s model:

ERG theory

Elderfer formulated a need category model called ERG theory. This theory extends and refines Maslow’s concepts, although there are several differences. This theory propounds three hierarchies of need. They are: E, R and G stands for three basic need categories: existence, relatedness and growth.

  • Existence needs: Those necessary for basic human survival-roughly composed to the psychological and security needs of the Maslow’s hierarchy.
  • Relatedness needs: Those involving the need to relate to others, are similar to Maslow’s belongingness (social) and esteem needs (esteem of others only).
  • Growth needs: Those needs similar to Maslow’s needs for self-esteem and self-actualization. Desire for personal development.

This theory substitute three needs for Maslow’s five needs. This theory argues that, there is no rigid hierarchy of needs. More than one need can be operative at the same time. Even all three needs could be operated at the same time.

This theory also contains a frustrations-regression dimension. Inability to satisfy higher level need can lead to increased satisfaction of lower level needs. For example, inability to satisfy social interaction need may increase the desire to make more money.

This theory considers individual differences in people. But it does not offer clear-cut guidelines to predict behavior.

Maslow’s theory Vs. ERG theory: Similarities and Differences:

Equity theory

This theory was developed by J. Stacy Adams in 1963. It is a cognitively based motivation theory. This theory is based on the notion that people want to be treated fairly in relation to others for motivation. This theory states that individuals are motivated by their desire to be equitably treated in their work relationships. Individuals compare their job inputs and outputs with those of others and then respond so as to eliminate any inequalities.

Individuals compare themselves with a “comparison person” (referent) – someone in a comparable organization situation. The referent can be:

  • Self-inside: An employee’s experiences in a different position inside his or her current organization.
  • Self-outside: An employee’s experiences in a situation or position outside his or her current organization.
  • Other-inside: Another individual or group of individuals inside the employees’ organization.
  • Other-outside: Another individual or group of individuals outside the employees’ organization.

Equity occurs when:

Inequity occurs when the above ratio is not approximately equal. The person will be motivated to take actions to reduce inequity. The greater the perceived inequity, the greater the motivation to reduce it.

The perception of the individual is an important factor in equity theory. The equity ratio is based on the perception of inputs and outcomes. The examples of inputs and outcomes variables are;

Inequity can be reduced by the following mechanisms:

  1. Changing inputs: The person may actually increase or decrease his job inputs, for example by working harder or less hard.
  2. Changing outcomes: The person may attempt to actually change his outcomes, for example by asking a salary increase.
  3. Changing perceptions of inputs and outcomes: The person may change his perceptions of inputs and outcomes.
  4. Changing the inputs or outcomes of comparison person: A person can convince the comparison person to change his inputs or outcomes to restore equity. This change can be actual or perceptual.
  5. Changing the comparison person (Referent): A person may change the comparison person to restore equity.
  6. Leaving the field: A person can remove himself from the situation of inequity. This could be a request for transfer or leaving the organization.

Implication of Equity theory

  • Organizations should establish and maintain fair and equitable methods of treating their employees.
  • Employees should also perceive fair and equitable treatment by the organization.
  • Equity is in mind of beholder. Social comparison of equity is also important. However, it is difficult to judge what fair treatment is.

Expectancy theory

Victor Vroom presented the expectancy theory in 1964. The theory explains motivation in terms of expectations.

According to Stephen P. Robbins, “Expectancy theory states that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual.”

Expectancy theory explains motivation in terms of 3 relationships:

  1. Effort-Performance Relationship: Expectation that efforts generate better performance known as “instrumentality”. (E—P)
  2. Performance-Reward Relationship: Expectation that better performance leads to a variety of outcomes known as “expectancy”. (P—O)
  3. Rewards-Personal Goals Relationship: Expectation that each outcome has an anticipated value (expected value) known as “valance” (V). Reward should satisfy personal goal of an individual.
  • This theory emphasizes links between effort, performance and valance for motivation.
    • According to this theory:

    Motivation= Expectancy × Valance

    • Motivation is the product of instrumentality, expectancy and valance

This theory states that high level of work motivation requires:

  1. Strong expectancy that effort will lead to effective performance.
  2. High expectancy that effective performance will lead to positive outcomes. There is no limit to the type and number of outcomes that an individual may perceive.
  3. Positive anticipation of value (valance) of the outcomes or rewards. People value outcomes differently. Anticipated value is rather than actual value. This is so because the outcome is attained in future. However, the outcomes should be attractive to the individual.
  4. The degree to which outcomes satisfy an individual’s personal goals.
  • Expectancy theory is useful in understanding organizational behavior. It recognizes that there are no universal principles of explaining motivation. The linkage between efforts and performance, between performance and rewards, and between the rewards and individual goal satisfaction are important in understanding motivation.
  • However, expectancy theory assumes that individuals make decisions consciously. But not all individuals make decisions consciously. The empirical validity of this theory needs further testing.