9.1 Motivation to Work


Need Theories
1. Hierarchy of needs by Maslow (1943)
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs claim that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy and a person moves through the hierarchy by fulfilling each level.

  1. Psychological Needs (survival): Air, shelter, water, food, sleep, and sex.
  2. Safety and Security
  3. Social Needs: Friendship, and family.
  4. Esteem: Self-esteem, confidence, and achievement.
  5. Self-Actualisation: Creativity, problem-solving.

Maslow’s updated model has 8 stages:

  1. Biological & Physiological Needs (survival)
  2. Safety needs
    ➜ Including a stable society with legal justice systems.
  3. Love and Belonging Needs (social)
    ➜ Includes all groups: work, family, friends, and relationships (romantic).
  4. Esteem Needs
    ➜ Includes achievements, skills, status, independence, etc.
  5. Cognitive Needs
    ➜ Need for information, knowledge, and meaning.
    ➜ Consider how the internet may have changed our ability to access information.
  6. Aesthetic Needs
    ➜ Need and appreciation of beauty.
  7. Self-Actualisation
    ➜ It’s reaching our personal potential and being fulfilled.
  8. Transcendence Needs
    ➜ Ability to help others to also achieve self-actualisation.

2. ERG Theory by Alderfer’s (1972)
Alderfer’s ERG Theory (1972) simplifies Maslow’s 8 categories into 3:

  • Existence Needs: the physiological and safety needs.
  • Relatedness Needs: The social and self-esteem needs. Alderfer says there are 2 types of self-esteem needs: internal and external.
    Relatedness needs satisfy our external self-esteem needs. For example, if other people like us and want to spend time with us, we must be likeable people.
  • Growth Needs: needs related to self-development and advancement. Meets needs related to our internal self-esteem, including self-actualisation.

Alderfer’s theory is not a hierarchal approach, so this means that people can be motivated by needs from different levels at the same time.
Ideally, paid work (jobs) will provide all 3 needs.
Alderfer’s theory also suggests that the relative importance of these needs may change throughout our lives.

3. Theory of Achievement Motivation by McClelland
McClelland’s theory proposes that there are different needs that motivate people, and these differences are measurable.
3 types of needs:

  • Need for Achievement (N-Ach): Need to achieve things and succeed. People who have N-Ach are motivated by challenges.
  • Need for Affiliation: Need to be liked and accepted as part of a group. These people are motivated by cooperative tasks and prefer working with others.
  • Need for Power: Need to influence and control others.
    They are motivated by the chance to gain status.

The theory is commonly applied in organisations as these are measurable qualities of a person.

Need for Achievement (N-Ach) can be measured using the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). TAT consists of a series of ambiguous images that the individual is asked to interpret. The TAT is a type of projective test.
For example, they would give an ambiguous image and ask what was happening, what happened, and what will happen next.

Projective Test: a personality test using ambiguous stimuli such as ink blots or the TAT. The response is thought to reveal hidden emotions the individual projects onto the image.
Strength - Projective tests can be used to get an insight into personalities and diagnose mental illnesses.
• They are subjective, and there’s a risk of interpretation bias.
• The validity and reliability are low.


  1. It is difficult to support the idea that needs are organized in a hierarchal manner. This suggests that Alderfer’s approach may be more accurate.
  2. In Maslow’s theory, it’s difficult to test whether a person has been self-actualised or not. Maslow had studied a small group of people that he thought as being self-actualised. Thus there is low validity and generalisability.
  3. Theories of motivation have useful applications in the universe.
    • Organisations need to ensure workers’ physiological and safety needs. For example, they should eat, have toilets, breaks; and the building should be safe.
    • Social needs can be met by providing social clubs or holding events.
    • Training + bonus schemes to meet self-esteem needs.
  4. McClelland’s theory can be used to help understand personal characteristics, and to ensure that people get roles that satisfy their particular needs for achievement.

Cognitive Theories
1. Goal Setting Theory
Ryan (1970) argues that human behaviour is affected by conscious plans and intentions.
Locke and Latham (1981): Locke said goal setting was a key motivator in getting people to work hard and improve their performance.
Locke and Latham (1984) on Specific Goals: setting specific goals produce higher levels of performance than setting vague goals.

Specific goals are harder to achieve, and goal-setting theory claims that this will make the individual try harder. Their book provides evidence from many studies which support this claim.

Goal setting models:
i. The 4C F model

  1. Clarity: Make measurable, specific goals.
  2. Challenge: Relevant goals linked to the rewards.
  3. Complexity: Achievable within a specific time period.
  4. Commitment: Goals should be understood and accepted.
  5. Feedback
    • Feedback on task progress should be given by workers, and feedback on achievement must be given by the employer.
    • Feedback is crucial as many weaknesses in performance may be missed. There may be easier, quicker ways of achieving the same goal.
    • The feedback should be positive and constructive. The individual/worker must give a reflection and the superior must give feedback.

ii. SMART targets ➜ They are developed from the 4C F model. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

iii. Backward Goal Setting ➜ The individual is encouraged to work backwards from the end goal to find the most appropriate way of reaching the goal.

2. Expectancy Theory by Vroom (1964)
Vroom (1964) says that potential costs and rewards highly influence workers' decision-making process.

Expectancy Theory states that an employee's motivation is a result of how much the individual wants a reward (valence), the assessment of the likelihood that putting in effort will lead to an expected performance (expectancy), and the belief that the performance will lead to rewards (instrumentality).

Vroom recognised that workers’ performances are influenced by many factors such as knowledge, skills, and individual characteristics. Regardless of this, he claims workers can be motivated if there is a relationship between effort and performance, if the favourable performance is rewarded, and if the reward satisfies a need.

Vroom proposes this equation:
Motivation = expectancy × instrumentality × valence.

  1. Expectancy: The perception of how much effort relates to expected performance, and a worker’s confidence in what they are capable of doing. It can be modified by providing training.
  2. Instrumentality: The perception of how much effort is rewarded and whether workers will be rewarded what’s promised. Instrumentality is positively affected when promised rewards are given.
  3. Valence: The perception of the strength and size of the reward (how impactful it can be), and how needed or wanted it is.

  4. If the value of any 1 of the 3 is less, then the overall motivation is likely to be low.

3. Equity Theory by Adams (1963)
Equity theory applies Social Exchange Theory. The Social Exchange Theory predicts that people will weigh up the cost and benefits of an action.

Equity theory is similar to the Social Exchange Theory. In the workplace, workers expect things to be fair. Equity means fair and impartial. They expect pay, status, and recognition to equate to the amount of effort they put in.

The significant factor in Equity Theory is comparison with others. If we perceive others as being treated better than us, then this leads to reduced motivation.

Workers’ input may be perceived (IP), or actual (IA). For example, skills, qualifications, energy, and effort. And they expect an outcome in return that may be perceived (OP), or actual (OA). For example, pay, recognition, and involvement.

Workers compare themselves with other workers with similar posts to check the fairness. Perceived inequity can result in low motivation. Inequity can be of 2 types:
i) underpayment, or,
ii) overpayment.

  1. Underpayment equity ➜ When someone else in the same post as you is being paid more.
    • Increase job outcome ➜ ask for increased salary.
    • Decrease work input by worker.
    • Compare yourself to someone which will make you feel better about the situation.
    • Leave and find another job.
  2. Overpayment equity ➜ When you feel you are being paid undeservingly, or more than others.
    To bring equity, you would decide to work harder.


  1. Motivation is being examined from the cognitive approach. All 3 theories focus on the way the individual perceives the situation, rather than the situation itself.
  2. All 3 theories can be applied to the workplace. Goals are more effective if they are SMART.
  3. Expectancy theory can be applied by involving workers in the goal-setting process, and ensuring that rewards are appropriate, and will be valued by workers.
  4. Equity theory shows the importance of understanding that the individual makes sense of their role in comparison to others.
    Martin & Peterson’s 1987 study supported the Equity Theory. When new workers were taken at a lower pay scale than existing workers, they perceived underpayment equity for the same job. However, existing workers did not perceive overpayment inequity as they were not comparing themselves to the new workers.
  5. Research Methods
    The information in this subchapter is mainly theoretical, however, it has been tested in real-life situations, therefor there is high ecological validity. However, it is difficult to generalize findings due to variations in variables. It will never be possible to conduct highly controlled research.

Motivators at Work
1. Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation
Motivation can be internal or external.

Internal (intrinsic) motivators come from within. Examples of intrinsic motivators include enjoyment, a sense of satisfaction, and achievement.
This means that motivation is derived from the actual performance of the task rather than from the potential consequences of completing the task.

External (extrinsic) motivators are the potential rewards gained from completing a task. They create a sense of motivation because of potential rewards such as money, promotion, and bonuses.

Different workplaces offer different types of motivators. Someone working in finance may have high external motivators, whereas someone working in healthcare/social services is likely to be motivated intrinsically such as from the sense of helping others.

2. Reward Systems
Reward systems vary in workplaces and can include pay, bonuses, profit sharing and performance-related pay.

  • Performance-related pay is a direct relation between work performance/efficiency and pay/money earned.
  • Bonuses are significant sums of money given in addition to a salary, particularly in the Finance sector.
  • Profit sharing is when a percentage of company profits is shared amongst all workers. This gives workers a sense of belonging and motivation.

It is hard to say whether monetary rewards are successful in improving productivity.

De Waal and Jansen’s (2011) paper summarized numerous research findings, including:

  • Yao (1997): When bonuses were given in Chinese State industries, it increased productivity by more than 50%.
  • Belfield and Marsden (2005): Found positive effects from performance-related pay.
  • Hollowell (2005): claimed that the organisations that paid senior executives on high performance-related pay scale, maintained strong stock market presences.

De Waal and Jansen include contradictory evidence as well:

  • Bloom (1999): Found that in organisations with very high inequalities, (the difference between the highest and lowest paid member) there is very high turnover of staff.
    In baseball, teams with the highest pay inequalities lose more games. Therefore, this suggests that any gains in productivity shown by high performers are outweighed by the costs to the low performers.
  • Research conducted in numerous organisations in the UK (Fattorusso et al., 2007) and Holland (Duffhues & Kabir, 2008) found no relationship between bonus size and performance.

3. Non-monetary Rewards
Non-monetary rewards include praise, respect, recognition, and a sense of belonging.
Non-monetary rewards are not promised when working, but monetary rewards are. Recognition is given for a worker’s significant achievement or contribution. Hansen et al. (2002) says that they would never promise a cash reward for every act of courage under fire.

Praise, respect, and recognition from others can be extremely motivating. Achieving a difficult task, or meeting a challenging goal, can produce a sense of empowerment which is motivating, and creates a sense of belonging.

Rose (1998) estimates that around 75% of UK organisations conducted non-monetary recognition schemes, more so in organisations relying on customer contact.

Advantages of having a non-monetary recognition scheme:

  • The scheme highlights desired behaviours.
  • Recognition creates role models for others.
  • Lowers staff turnover. Evidence includes:
    1. Brown & Armstrong (1999) found that making staff know they’re appreciated increases satisfaction ratings and makes them more likely to stay.
    2. Reed (a UK recruitment company) found recognition as the most important factor in achieving job satisfaction, and salary 6th.

Application to real-life:

  • The theories can help you consider what motivates you and help choose what type of job to aim for.
  • Theories help managers consider what motivates workers. For example, if monetary rewards are not possible to give, then it is good to realise that a non-monetary reward (recognition) can have a similar effect.

Behaviourist vs. Cognitive Approach: The section takes a behaviourist approach as we consider the effect of reinforcements on behaviour rather than focusing on the cognitive aspect.

Individual vs. Situational Variables:

  • The situational factors are highly likely to determine the most-effective motivators.
    For example, an individual in a creative environment is more likely to be motivated by recognition/praise, but a person in the business sector would be motivated with monetary rewards.
  • However, individual differences do affect motivation because what motivates one person may not motivate another.