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Motivation Assignment
This assignment will examine the motivational theories of Maslow and McGregor and shall
discuss separately how both theories might help managers to motivate employees more
effectively. Both theories will be examined, an explanation for their application will be
provided for and then both theories will be evaluated. Motivation is defined by the internal
and external factors that stimulate desire in people to be continually interested and
committed to their role in an organisation by making an effort to attain a goal. Therefore, a
motivational theory is tasked with discovering what drives individuals to work towards a
goal. Theories of motivation are often employed by managers to motivate employees.
Authors have stated in their works in recent years both the positive and negative impacts
these theories have had on organisations. Many have criticised these theories, however,
both have proven to allow managers to motivate employees effectively.
Theory and Application
This text shall initially examine the most renowned motivational theory, Maslow’s theory
and his hierarchy of needs. This tiered system is the basis from which his theory has been
derived. It has been argued that where individuals are paid fairly, a motivational formula
applies and it becomes the reason for motivation (Pink 2009). Autonomy is how employees
receive more responsibility through delegation from those based in higher ranks which is
similar to Maslow’s esteem needs when a person needs self-worth and recognition to meet
this need (Hellriegel & Slocum 2004). Writers like Daniel Pink conclude that employees
should be given tasks which pose as much of a challenge to them as their ability allows
without frustrating them (Pink 2009). This intertwines with Maslow’s self-actualization tier
where employees feel the need to learn more and to improve their problem solving abilities.
Pink’s idea of the purpose stage of the motivation process states that people who find
reason for fulfilling a task are higher motivated than those who don’t (Pink 2009). We
believe that Maslow’s tier of self-actualization looks at this from a similar perspective
although not entirely. He believes employees become ambitious, reach their potential and
can be given specialised roles to fulfil as they share the same purpose as those who are
delegating the role.
It is intriguing to note how this theory is open to criticism. Psychological researchers
highlight that it’s not accurate to state that one is unable to acquire a particular need
without first fulfilling the needs that precede it (Gallman 1976). There is evidence to suggest
that people often fulfil one need before fulfilling the needs which precede it. Data was
gathered from 266 sales representatives in fourteen companies. No support was found for
the existence of the need hierarchy which underlies Maslow's theory, raising the question as
to why Maslow's theory is taught in marketing and management courses (Berl 2013) and it’s
unlikely that strong evidence will be found to justify an employee’s need hierarchy (Locke
2000). Also, Maslow’s theory was a personality development theory although it’s studied as
an inter-individual difference theory (Schneider 2004, cited in Locke 2007).
This essay will now explain its application and how it is used by managers to
motivate their employees effectively. Maslow’s work has received much attention from
managers and psychologists (Hellriegel and Slocum 2004). Managers can satisfy employee’s
needs and ultimately make them more motivated by using Maslow’s theory. Physiological
needs are fulfilled by the company paying employees fair wages to acquire food, water and
shelter. Likewise with security needs, employees must feel secure otherwise they will
become preoccupied trying to satisfy them. After these deficiency needs are satisfied the
following three tiers influence an employee’s motivation the most. Evidence shows that in
countries such as China, Japan and Korea that value community practices over individual
achievements, belonging and security are more important than meeting deficiency needs
(Hellriegel and Slocum 2004). Managers should recognize this key motivational factor and
deploy Maslow’s theory by facilitating a warm atmosphere for employees which will ensure
a more motivated work force. I would strongly argue that managers cannot take a “one size
fits all” approach to fulfilling employee’s needs when applying this theory as workers at the
lower end of the organizational structure of a company may not even experience higher
level needs. Studies show that the fulfillment of people’s needs differs according to their
role. For example, Susan Dallas, business development manager at Gartner, explains “not
everyone is motivated in the same way. You have to understand people’s needs” (Hellriegel
and Slocum 2004).
I feel Maslow’s theory can motivate employees effectively as managers can examine
an employee’s esteem and self-actualization needs which are the most influential factors
when it comes to motivating individuals. This view is modelled on research which found that
top managers are better able to satisfy their own esteem and self-actualization needs than
the lower level managers are as they have more challenging jobs and more opportunities
(Hellriegel and Slocum 2004). It also is better at predicting a relationship between a person’s
intention and behaviour (Wicker, Brown, Wiehe & Reed 1993).
In evaluation, Maslow’s Theory provides a good insight into what influences
employees to work hard showing different things motivate employees depending on the
level they are on and that money isn’t the only incentive. However, it does not explain why
employees accept low pay now for the promise of future benefits. Also, realistically,
employees don’t just satisfy one need at a time (Murphy 2013).
Secondly, this essay will now examine McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y which
differ from each other greatly as they are based on entirely different managerial beliefs.
Theory X’s view is based on lower paid jobs whereas Theory Y involves more highly skilled
personnel. Theory X takes the view that workers are lazy, disinterested and need to be
motivated as they are unable to find a purpose in their role. In contrast, Theory Y adapts a
view that employees are self-motivated and need very little supervision as they are
ambitious and can reach their full potential. They will acquire the skills necessary to meet
their objectives (Murphy 2013). A similarity appears between this perspective and Pink’s
point outlined above. Theory Y’s belief is that employees find their work challenging but,
like Pink concluded, it is important not to overload an employee with tasks in which they are
simply not able to complete (Pink 2009). I agree with the criticism that Theory Y can only be
deployed in organizations with highly qualified individuals and that it’s not feasible where
there is a large number of employees. A critique of Theory X is that eventually employee’s
respect for management will diminish if they were to implement a leadership style based on
it (McGregor 1960).
By analyzing both theories the manager is enabled to motivate his/her employees by
determining whether his/her managerial beliefs are more suited to either Theory X/Y and
then what leadership style is most appropriate based on this. Without doubt, McGregor’s
theory can help managers to motivate employees more effectively. If a manager decides to
adapt theory X, employees will become motivated as managers will implement stricter
supervision strategies and an incentive will be provided such as performance-related pay. In
1986, an employee attitude survey in an organization displayed dissatisfaction. A new pay
structure based on an employee’s performance then demonstrated an increase in
employee’s work rate and motivation by 1990 (Beaumont 1993). The theory can allow
managers to increase the level of motivation of their employees even if they adapt Theory Y.
Employees will become more motivated as managers will offer promotions and titles
because by adapting this theory they are made aware that their employees are highly skilled
and therefore have a desire to meet their esteem and self-actualization needs by acquiring
praise and a professional status (Murphy 2013).
In conclusion, McGregor’s Theory X and Y is a good motivational theory because it
makes sense that employees will work harder and contribute better to the organization if
they feel valued (Murphy 2013).
Reflection and Application
Considering my motivation for my studies in DCU and looking at both theories I have
discussed above has enabled me to select the theory which best describes my motivation to
perform in college. Motivation to perform in college can have many influential factors and I
firmly believe that Maslow’s motivational theory and hierarchy of needs best explains my
motivation. This piece will first discuss the relevance of this theory in relation to college
performance and then will look at how Maslow’s hierarchy can actually be applied by using
illustrative examples.
Firstly, as people, we all have a hierarchy of motivational needs and once one need is
satisfied we then develop the desire to satisfy the next need until we reach our full potential
at the self-actualization stage. Motivation to perform in college is no exception and students
are motivated by the same hierarchy (Murphy 2013). Overall, I have satisfied my deficiency
needs in order to attend third level education. However, it is still important to highlight
without food, water, shelter and financial security that attending would not be possible.
These can be motivating factors themselves as I want to get value financially and I see
further education as an investment in my future. There is more than one way to perform in
college. Apart from exams, people feel pressure to perform socially and social needs create
a desire in individuals to do so and to have friendships and intimate relationships (Murphy
2013). This is a core motivational feature of the hierarchy as it is crucially important for
people to form strong attachments (Eysenck 2009). Similarly to employees, growth needs
are the main motivating factors for myself to perform in college. Esteem needs can cause
me to desire praise and recognition, perhaps from lecturers, and self-actualization needs are
my desire to reach my full potential by achieving high grades on my course.
Secondly, these five tiers can all be applied to my motivation in college through
illustrative examples. Although I have already satisfied my deficiency needs, the cycle can
continue and I feel motivated to complete a degree in college to be able to provide
physiologically and financially for myself in years to come. I perform socially in college by
attending events such as sports matches and parties in order to make friends and bond to
fulfill my social needs. A classic example of motivation to perform in college through esteem
needs is the longing for praise and recognition. I put my best effort into assignments and
study hard to maintain high grades in exams to receive praise from my lecturers. To be
motivated by my self-actualization needs to reach my full potential, I’m ambitious and have
a strong interest in my chosen course. For example, I now not only want to complete a
degree but also hope to progress to do a Master’s Degree in the course to fulfill Maslow’s
highest tier on his hierarchy, self-actualization needs.
In conclusion, Maslow’s theory best explains my motivation to perform in college as I
have a desire to fulfill the next need once the need which preceded it has been satisfied.
This theory is the basis for my motivation to perform and progress to reach my full potential
socially and academically in DCU.
Beaumont, P.B. (1993). Human Resource Management Key Concepts and Skills. London :
Sage Publications.
Berl, R.L. (2013). Industrial Salesforce Motivation : A Critique and Test of Maslow's Hierarchy
of Need. Online Publication.
Eysenck, M.W. (2009). Fundamentals of Psychology. London : Psychology Press Taylor &
Francis Group. p. 377.
Gallman, D. (1976). A Biblical Critique of Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Self-Actualization.
Dublin : Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Hellriegel, D. Slocum, S. (2004). Organizational Behaviour. 10th Ed. U.S.A.: Thomson SouthWestern. Chapter 5. p. 119-121.
Locke, E.A. (2000). Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice. 2nd Ed. London
: Sage Publications. Chapter 6. p. 133.
McGregor, D. (1960). The Human Side of Enterprise. New York : McGraw-Hill.
Murphy, W. (2013). 21st Century Business. Revised Ed. Dublin : CJ Fallon. p. 97-98.
Pink, D. (2009). Drive. 4th Ed. New York : Riverhead Books.
Schneider, D.J. (2004). The Psychology of Stereotyping. 2nd Ed. New Jersey : John Wiley &
Wicker, F.W. Brown, G. Wiehe, J.A. Reed, J.L. (1993). Personality Theories: Development,
Growth, and Diversity. 5th Ed. London : Psychology Press.