Theories of Motivation and Their Applications to Management


Employee motivation plays a very important role in business growth and development. It has been empirically established that motivated employees perform better than their counterparts who are not motivated. Although this fact was solidly established, the trick has always been comprehending how an employee could be motivated. This has led to the establishment of several theories trying to suggest ways through which employees can be motivated. However, are all these theories viable? Can their application guarantee motivation? This paper will examine some of the theories and apply it to real life experience and thus point out the fact that some of these theories are not practical.

Classical Theory of Motivation

The classical theory of motivation is one of the oldest theories that tried to explain the approach to employee motivation. The theory is established on the thesis that a good pay is enough to make workers motivated. However, this theory looks weak. It is evident that the performance of an individual is based on more than the monetary rewards that are likely to result from his work. The working conditions and personal attributes could greatly contribute to the worker’s motivation. The essence of this is that despite a large salary, one can be demotivated if he felt unappreciated, if he is not given opportunity to spend some time with his family, if the working conditions of the job pose great risks to his health, if he sees no opportunity for growth, etc. consequently, it is not true to argue that money is enough to guarantee motivation. From a personal perspective, I worked with a restaurant part time for six months. The job was well paying. Apart from the lucrative salary offered by the restaurant management, there were tips by customers that left one heavily loaded with money. However, I had to quit the job after six months because we used to work from six in the evening to five in the morning. I had to sleep for two hours before waking up and going to school at eight. I had consistently felt that that was not the job for me. Having greater ambitions for life, I preferred quitting the job and concentrating on my studies so that I could achieve my big dreams. This shows that an individual’s ambitions for growth can override the monetary benefits in a given job (Blacks Academy, par. 3).

Theory X and Y

Theory X and Y shows the two possible natures of the human being. While theory X paints a sorry picture of the human being, theory Y paints an idealistic picture of the human being (Value Based Management, par. 1). Both theories do not give an accurate and realistic account of the human being. Without a good reason, it is unrealistic that an individual will just decide to be unreliable and lazy just because his nature dictates so. On the other side, without a very tantalizing reason, an individual will not work so hard and be reliable naturally. There has to be a reason for one to behave in a given way and the reason is not just nature. In addition, theory X calls for a totalitarian leadership where workers are dictated upon. Under such leadership, the chances that one will be motivated are very low. An employee working for mining company where he is subjected to risks of health and within an environment that is characterized by an authoritarian leadership, even when given enough money, will not be motivated. He will feel that the management is the beneficiary of his hard work. He will feel like an instrument used by the management to produce but will not feel like he belongs to the company. By itself, this is a form of demotivation.

Maslow’s Theory

Maslow’s theory of motivation has also tried to explain the approach to employee motivation. In his theory, Maslow a hierarchical model on which he argues that individuals will always try to achieve the identified steps before aiming for the next step. This psychological approach to motivation is more reliable. An individual will actually try to achieve actualization and esteem needs when he is sure of his basic physiological needs. Reputation, recognition, self respect and accomplishment form the basis of esteem. It is therefore obvious that an individual will not seek for recognition and reputation from his fellow workers when, in the first place, the individual is not accepted as one who belongs to them (Envision Software, par. 4). Considering the example given above, as a restaurant worker, the most important thing I yearned for was a good salary that would ensure that I was able to access all the basic needs. Contrarily, I still had to quit! I was not motivated because I had achieved the lowest of the hierarchical model, the second lowest which was safety, I had achieved the third stage which was belonging but esteem was pending and I felt that I could not attain this. To me, reputation (which is a constituent of esteem) within the society meant being a managing director of WL Gore or any other reputable organization and not a restaurant waiter. As a result, I could not be motivated if I saw no future of being recognized in the society.

Works Cited

Blacks Academy. Alienation and the Classical Theory of Motivation. 2009. Web.

Envision Software. Maslow’s Theory of Motivation-Hierarchy of Needs. 2009. Web.

Value Based Management. Theory X and Y- McGregor. 2009.

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