What is Motivation?

What is Motivation?
What is Motivation?
Buchanan defines motivation as follows:
"Motivation is a decision-making process, through which the individual chooses the desired outcomes
and sets in motion the behaviour appropriate to them".
How does motivation differ from "motives"
Buchanan then defines motives as:
"learned influences on human behaviour that lead us to pursue particular goals because they are
Motivation can therefore be thought of as the degree to which an individual wants AND chooses to engage
in certain behaviours.
For example: are you motivated to study? The answer lies in whether you
(1) Want to study - what are the reasons, if so?
(2) Choose to study? - Why are you reading these revision notes? What factors mean that you have taken
the decision to study? How much effort do you put in?
Individual behaviour is at the heart of human motivation
Why is individual behaviour so important in trying to understand and then influence motivation?
- Every individual has a set of needs and a different set of goals
- Individuals behave in a way as to satisfy their needs and fulfil their goals
- Therefore, individuals behave differently!
- Businesses, as organisations, are in a position to offer some of the satisfactions that individuals seek:
E.g. - Relationships; sense of belonging; intellectual stimulation; mental & physical challenge; selfdevelopment
Why is motivation important for businesses?
It is often said that the best businesses have the best motivated workers. Why might this be important?
Because well-motivated employees are usually characterised by:
- Higher productivity (i.e. they produce more for a given level of resources than poorly-motivated workers)
- Better quality work with less wastage
- A greater sense of urgency (things happen quicker - when they need to)
- More employee feedback and suggestions made for improvements (motivated workers take more
"ownership" of their work")
- More feedback demanded from superiors and management
- Working at 80-95% of their ability
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Taylor -scientific management
Taylor developed his theory of "scientific management" as he worked his way up from a labourer to a works
manager in a US steelworks.
From his observations, Taylor made three key assumptions about human behaviour at work:
(1) Man is a rational economic animal concerned with maximising his economic gain;
(2) People respond as individuals, not as groups
(3) People can be treated in a standardised fashion, like machines
Taylor had a simple view about what motivated people at work . He felt that workers should
get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and that pay should be linked to the amount produced (e.g. piecerates). Workers who did not deliver a fair day's work would be paid less (or nothing). Workers who did more
than a fair day's work (e.g. exceeded the target) would be paid more.
The implications of Taylor's theory for managing behaviour at work were:
- The main form of motivation is high wages, linked to output
- A manager's job is to tell employees what to do
- A worker's job is to do what they are told and get paid accordingly
Weaknesses in Taylor's Approach
The most obvious weakness in Taylor's approach is that it ignores the many differences between people.
There is no guarantee that a "best way" will suit everyone.
Secondly, whilst money is an important motivation at work for many people, it isn't for everyone. Taylor
overlooked the fact that people work for reasons other than financial reward.
Whilst Taylor’s theories still hold a great deal of power over many managers, they have to some extent been
discredited. This has come about through the rise in the tertiary sector of business. Where it is much
harder to measure an employees output, and quality is often of far greater importance than the quantity of
work they get through.
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Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a "content theory" of motivation" (the other main one is Herzberg's Two
Factor Theory).
Maslow's theory consisted of two parts:
(1) The classification of human needs, and
(2) Consideration of how the classes are related to each other
The classes of needs were summarised by Maslow as follows:
How does the Hierarchy Work?
- A person starts at the bottom of the hierarchy (pyramid) and will initially seek to satisfy basic needs (e.g.
food, shelter)
- Once these physiological needs have been satisfied, they are no longer a motivator. the individual moves
up to the next level
- Safety needs at work could include physical safety (e.g. protective clothing) as well as protection against
unemployment, loss of income through sickness etc)
- Social needs recognise that most people want to belong to a group. These would include the need for love
and belonging (e.g. working with colleague who support you at work, teamwork, communication)
- Esteem needs are about being given recognition for a job well done. They reflect the fact that many
people seek the esteem and respect of others. A promotion at work might achieve this
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- Self-actualisation is about how people think about themselves - this is often measured by the extent of
success and/or challenge at work
Maslow's model has great potential appeal in the business world. The message is clear - if management can
find out which level each employee has reached, then they can decide on suitable rewards.
Problems with the Maslow Model
There are several problems with the Maslow model when real-life working practice is considered:
- Individual behaviour seems to respond to several needs - not just one
- The same need (e.g. the need to interact socially at work) may cause quite different behaviour in different
- There is a problem in deciding when a level has actually been "satisfied"
- The model ignores the often-observed behaviour of individuals who tolerate low-pay for the promise of
future benefits
- There is little empirical evidence to support the model. Some critics suggest that Maslow's model is only
really relevant to understanding the behaviour of middle-class workers in the UK and the USA (where
Maslow undertook his research).
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Herzberg two factor theory
Herzberg's Two Factor Theory is a "content theory" of motivation" (the other main one is Maslow's
Hierarchy of Needs).
Herzberg analysed the job attitudes of 200 accountants and engineers who were asked to recall when they
had felt positive or negative at work and the reasons why.
From this research, Herzberg suggested a two-step approach to understanding employee motivation and
Hygiene Factors
Hygiene factors are based on the need to for a business to avoid unpleasantness at work. If these factors
are considered inadequate by employees, then they can cause dissatisfaction with work. Hygiene factors
- Company policy and administration
- Wages, salaries and other financial remuneration
- Quality of supervision
- Quality of inter-personal relations
- Working conditions
- Feelings of job security
Motivator Factors
Motivator factors are based on an individual's need for personal growth. When they exist, motivator factors
actively create job satisfaction. If they are effective, then they can motivate an individual to achieve aboveaverage performance and effort. Motivator factors include:
- Status
- Opportunity for advancement
- Gaining recognition
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- Responsibility
- Challenging / stimulating work
- Sense of personal achievement & personal growth in a job
There is some similarity between Herzberg's and Maslow's models. They both suggest that needs have to be
satisfied for the employee to be motivated. However, Herzberg argues that only the higher levels of the
Maslow Hierarchy (e.g. self-actualisation, esteem needs) act as a motivator. The remaining needs can only
cause dissatisfaction if not addressed.
Applying Hertzberg's model to de-motivated workers
What might the evidence of de-motivated employees be in a business?
- Low productivity
- Poor production or service quality
- Strikes / industrial disputes / breakdowns in employee communication and relationships
- Complaints about pay and working conditions
According to Herzberg, management should focus on rearranging work so that motivator factors can take
effect. He suggested three ways in which this could be done:
- Job enlargement
- Job rotation
- Job enrichment
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Mayo & The Hawthorne experiments
He carried out the HAWTHORNE experiments at a power plant in Chicago. He took a group of workers and
wanted to find out what effect changing aspects of their work, the environment etc would have on their
motivation. His surprising findings were that each time their conditions changed the work rate went up,
even when he finally changed back to the original conditions.
His conclusions were that:
Attention, and feeling important influence an employee's attitude
Motivation comes from more than pay and working conditions
Employees are group members - work is a group activity
Motivational factors include recognition, belonging, security
¾ Informal groups create important bond. Supervisors need to focus on the individual social needs of
workers, and the influence of informal groups
These theories are often set in the context of communication or the influence of workers on decisions, who
may not actually be managers or supervisors. So, think about the power of the informal group. It also
suggests that workers want to feel valued and important.
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