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Motivation Theory Essay

2417 words - 10 pages


 The term motivation is derived from the Latin word movere, meaning "to move." Motivation can be broadly defined as the forces acting on or within a person that cause the arousal, direction, and persistence of goal-directed, voluntary effort. Motivation theory is thus concerned with the processes that explain why and how human behavior is activated.
The broad rubric of motivation and motivation theory is one of the most frequently studied and written-about topics in the organizational sciences, and is considered one of the most important areas of study in the field of organizational behavior. Despite the magnitude of the effort that has been devoted ...view middle of the document...

Still others examined the influence of individuals' cognitive processes, such as the beliefs they have about future events. Over time, these major theoretical streams of research in motivation were classified into two major schools: the content theories of motivation and the process theories of motivation.


Content (or need) theories of motivation focus on factors internal to the individual that energize and direct behavior. In general, such theories regard motivation as the product of internal drives that compel an individual to act or move (hence, "motivate") toward the satisfaction of individual needs. The content theories of motivation are based in large part on early theories of motivation that traced the paths of action backward to their perceived origin in internal drives. Major content theories of motivation are Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Alderfer's ERG theory, Herzberg's motivator-hygiene theory, and McClelland's learned needs or three-needs theory.


Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs, which suggests that individual needs exist in a hierarchy consisting of physiological needs, security needs, belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Physiological needs are the most basic needs for food, water, and other factors necessary for survival. Security needs include needs for safety in one's physical environment, stability, and freedom from emotional distress. Belongingness needs relate to desires for friendship, love, and acceptance within a given community of individuals. Esteem needs are those associated with obtaining the respect of one's self and others. Finally, self-actualization needs are those corresponding to the achievement one's own potential, the exercising and testing of one's creative capacities, and, in general, to becoming the best person one can possibly be. Unsatisfied needs motivate behavior; thus, lower-level needs such as the physiological and security needs must be met before upper-level needs such as belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization can be motivational.
Applications of the hierarchy of needs to management and the workplace are obvious. According to the implications of the hierarchy, individuals must have their lower level needs met by, for example, safe working conditions, adequate pay to take care of one's self and one's family, and job security before they will be motivated by increased job responsibilities, status, and challenging work assignments. Despite the ease of application of this theory to a work setting, this theory has received little research support and therefore is not very useful in practice.


The ERG theory is an extension of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Alderfer suggested that needs could be classified into three categories, rather than five. These three types of needs are existence, relatedness, and growth. Existence needs are similar to Maslow's physiological...

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