Motivational theories can be divided into two main categories.


Motivational theories can be divided into two main categories. They are the content and process of motivational theories. The content theories are based on answering the WHAT question while the process motivation theories are based on answering the HOW question of how human behavior is motivated. Content theories are earlier theories of motivation while the process theories are based on a more modern approach to motivation. The content theories include Maslow’s needs hierarchy theory, McClelland’s achievement motivation theory, and Herzberg’s two-factor motivation theory. The main process theories that are discussed in the textbook include Skinner’s reinforcement theory, Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory, and Adam’s equity theory. This paper will look at the major five theories of motivation that are discussed in the chapter.

Theories of Motivation

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It is a widely known theory of motivation and condenses human needs into five basic categories. The lowest needs in the model are dominant and human beings cannot do without them. The needs motivate human beings in life as they strive to achieve them. The first group is the physiological theory which in clued the basic needs such as food shelter and water. Maslow argued that the human body cannot function well without such needs.  They act as major motivators in the life of a human being. The safety needs include the desires that a person has for protection and security. They include job security, a place to live, and health and well being. Safety and security needs motivate individuals to work towards achieving personal and family security which could secure them against uncertainties.

The needs of belonging and love are those that are involved in the social nature of man. Man is a social creature and wants to feel like part of a community or affiliated to a particular group. Individuals are therefore motivated towards particular actions if such actions create a sense of belonging or create an affiliation to a particular group an individual is interested in.

The esteem needs include the value that an individual receives within the society. Esteem needs mean the value and respect and the feeling of appreciation from others. Self-actualization is the highest in the pyramid and includes the needs and desires of an individual to grow and develop their potential.  The need motivates individuals to work and perform activities so that they could help develop their skills and reach their maximum potential.

Individuals are motivated to work if their needs are met. Once one level of needs is met the individual develops the desire to meet their other needs. Job redesign ensures that the outcome of such jobs is related to the needs of the employees. If they are looking for self-actualization, the job needs to make sure the employees feel that they are developing.  Individuals are satisfied with the job if it helps them move up Maslow’s ladder of the hierarchy of needs. Such motivation leads to outcomes such as increased productivity and efforts from employees as they want to move from one level to the next.

McClelland’s Need for Achievement Theory

The theory was the development of Maslow’s theory of needs and the theorist believed that human beings are motivated due to three major factors.  He affirmed that human beings learn their motivators over time. The three motivators are achievement, affiliation, and power. Human beings are motivated by the need to complete something or the urgency to demonstrate their mastery of a particular skill. Affiliation is the need for love and a feeling of belongingness and relatedness. Power on the other hand shapes human behavior in that individuals are motivated to have control over their work and that of others. The need to achieve determines the type of job that individuals take. Job redesign should be in relation to the wants of the employee to motivate them toward personal achievements. Work arrangements are also necessary to meet the affiliation need of individuals.

Promoting teamwork and encouraging trust and collaboration helps increase the spirit of togetherness. Job positions should be redesigned to have promotional posts to meet the need for power. Individuals will be motivated to work if they have the opportunity to move up the ladder within an organization. The main causes of job satisfaction are the feeling of belonging, the need for power, and the feeling of achievement related to the job position. The outcomes of such motivation include increased productivity and high levels of competition among employees which is beneficial to an organization.

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

The theory is based on the factors that promote job satisfaction. According to theorists, motivational factors are divided into motivating factors and hygiene factors. Motivating factors are those that increase job satisfaction while hygiene factors cause job dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors include factors such as the working conditions the salary an individual receives and the working environment.  Motivating factors on the other hand are based on the individual’s need to grow. Hygiene factors determine the work arrangements and designs within an organization. Companies should increase the motivation factors within the organization to encourage employees to reach certain goals. Rewards and other forms of compensation are critical to the success of any business. The motivation results in increased employee productivity and efficiency within the organization.

Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory

The theory is based on operant conditioning theory where human behavior can be formed by the consequences related to the behavior. The theory is divided into positive and negative reinforcements. Positive reinforcements are those that encourage a particular behavior. They include appreciation, promotions, and other rewards that could promote job satisfaction. Negative reinforcements on the other hand try to eliminate the unwanted behavior.

Punishment is a great example of such reinforcement and it discourages individuals from certain behaviors and motivates them to have positive behavior. The job should be designed in a way that encourages employees to portray positive behavior. Negative behavior should be discouraged by creating different forms of punishments that will affect employees in a way that will help them change their negative behaviors. The outcomes of such motivation are an increase in the desired behavior in the organization and increased productivity.

Adams Equity Theory

The theory dictates that human beings are motivated once they feel that they are being treated in an equal manner. Fair considerations for the effort put in by employees encourage them to work better and harder and also increases their level of satisfaction with a job. The input of the individual has to be equal; to the output or the reward, they get such as salaries and promotions, and recognition.  Jobs should be redesigned in a way that no employee at the same level feels superior to others. Favoritism should also be avoided and employees at the same level given the same authority within the organization. That will promote collaboration, less conflict, and therefore increased production within the organization.


Motivational theories explain what motivates human beings to act in a particular way. They are effective in understanding and promoting job satisfaction within the organization. Job satisfaction increases the efficiency and productivity within the organization and also reduces the rates of turnover. Motivational theories should be adopted within the organization as a way of retaining talent and a way of modeling positive behavior.

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