In everyday conversation, the question “What motivated you to do that?” is a way of asking, “What caused your behavior? Why did you act that way?” To psychologists, a motivation….
Describe, compare and contrast one process and one content theory of motivation. Evaluate how appropriate they are for organisations today. Motivation is the desire or willingness of someone to do something. Craig C. Pinder (1998) defined work motivation as a “set of internal and external forces that initiate work related behaviour and determine its form, direction, intensity and duration. ” Motivation plays an important role in a business environment, as employee motivation is believed to improved work performance.
Discussed in this essay are two types of motivation theories; Content theory which tries to identify specific needs that motivate people and Process theories which is based on developing models relating needs, motives and behaviour. In this essay, I aim to asses content and process theories accordingly; Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory and Stacey Adams Equity Theory; comparing these theories and highlighting any assumptions, strengths, weakness, positives and negatives individually and comparatively to be able to come to a critical conclusion as to whether these theories are suitable for organisations today.
My content theory is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, published in 1943 by Abraham Maslow. His hypothesis was that “human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies” as quoted in his publication of A Theory of Human Motivation in 1943 (p. 370). In hierarchical order physiological needs which entails food, water, shelter and warmth. Safety needs refers to security, stability and freedom from fear. Social needs include the need for affection and friendships. Esteem needs refers to ego needs, recognition and respect.
Finally, Self-actualisation, realisation of ones full potential ‘becoming everything that one is capable of becoming. ’ “When one set of needs is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivating factor. Thereafter the next set of needs in the hierarchy order takes places,” (Maslow, 1943) this continually occurs until the assumption of self-actualisation is satisfied, as Maslow stated, “a satisfied need is no longer a motivator. ” Equity Theory, a process theory first proposed by Stacey Adams in 1963 ocuses on people’s feelings on how fairly they have been treated in comparison with the treatment received by others. It is based on exchange theory (Homans 1961) undergoing an exchange process, which involve inputs and outcomes. In ‘Social Behaviour: its Elementary Forms’ by George C. Homans he created the rule of ‘Distributive Justice’: “ a man in exchange relation with another will expect that the reward of each man be proportional to his costs… the greater the investments, the greater the profit,” (Homans 1961 p. 75).
Numerous business environments present inequality, however, the acknowledgement of inequality will motivate an individual to decrease or eradicate the inequality. These two theories illustrate a relationship in terms of how they motivate individuals by fulfilling a need that affects them both mentally and physically; for example, Maslow’s theory suggests you will be motivated to the next ‘higher level’ of needs if the previous level is fulfilled satisfactorily, if this is not met, work performance will deteriorate and affect individuals mentally or physically as they cannot advance to the next level.
As well as, Adams Equity Theory; Work on Walster, Berscheid and Walster, 1973 was covered by Kingsley, Catherine, Park, Hee Sun and Lee, Hye Eun (2007) where they suggested “mathematically, equity theory predicts that people will be uncomfortable in relationships in which their own ratio of inputs to outcomes is not equivalent to the other party’s ratio of inputs to outcomes”, in other words, this ‘discomfort’ can lead to further enthusiasm to reach the next goal or increase input to ultimately increase outcomes to reach satisfaction and eliminate the ‘discomfort’.
Furthermore, research has proved that both theories of Maslow and Adams can result in consequential behaviour if their needs are unable to be satisfied. For instance, Maslow’s theory states there are five stages of the hierarchy, considering psychological needs are most important, in having a healthy work relationship, if this is not fulfilled, individuals might resort to criminal activities to satisfy that need in order to survive.
Similarly, evidence from research highlight that there are negative ways in which workers can redress inequality; As seen in Organizational behaviour and Work, Wilson, Fiona M, (2010), it highlights the ways in which individuals act negatively towards inequity “underpayment leads to lowered job performance (Prichard et al. , 1972; Lord and Hohenfeld, 1979). Another form of reaction to underpayment is disruptive, deviant behaviour, such as vandalism and theft (Hollinger and Clark, 1983). Theft might be seen as a means to replenish feelings of underpayment inequity.
The Hawthrone Studies conducted by Elton Mayo between 1924 and 1932, showed that employees are not just motivated by the money, “outcomes,” but their attitudes, “needs” as well. Initiating the human relations approach to management and the needs and motivation of employees was the primary concentre of managers. In short, both Maslow and Adams theories can be considered Equity theories of motivation. In some way, Equity Theory may seem more relatable to organisations today globally, as equity is part of the human rights laws, as compared to Maslow’s theory.
Maslow’s theory is unmasked as ethnocentric by Geert Hofstede (1984), he stated, there are ‘cultural limitations’ in the study of this theory conducted by Haire, Ghiselli and Porter (1966) where Haire et al, concluded ‘the only nationality group that ordered their need importance almost, and their need satisfaction exactly, in the Maslow order was the U. S. managers. The other nationalities showed more or less deviant patterns. ’ Hoftsede argues that Maslow’s theory is based on an individualistic society seeking self-actualisation as their most important goal/need.
However, in collectivist societies such as China seeking “harmony” or “family support” or job satisfaction, which are not represented in the hierarchy of needs, are seen as their necessary goals. Nevis (1983) study emphasises that Maslow’s Hierarchy is not relatable to Chinese culture. His main observations were that there was a difference in the cultures in terms of belonging; Individualistic society as opposed to collectivist societies seeks belonging, whereas collectivist societies basic needs only emerge after they have satisfied their need to belong.
This indicates Maslow’s theory is not appropriate to all cultures, however, there is a predominant relationship illustrating the need for equity in business environments. Empirical support for Maslow’s Theory is lacking (Murcell 1976), Maslow himself admitted in 1962: ‘my motivation theory was published 20 years ago… nobody repeated it, tested it, or really analysed or criticized it. ’ Lowry (1982: 63). Another criticism discussed (McLeod 2007) concerning the assumption that the lower needs must be satisfied before a person can achieve their full potential and self-actualise.
McLeod (2007) argues that this is not always the case, and therefore the theory is ‘falsified. ’ Many creative people such as authors, musicians and artists have exhibited self-actualisation without meeting the lower needs. Van Gogh, who was poor and considered by many psychotic; Rembrandt, who had no food or majority of the basic psychological needs; Toulouse Lautrec, whose body tormented him; were all engaged in some form of self actualisation. Perhaps the development of uniqueness and creativity in meeting some of the levels, in someway compensates for the lack of having the basics.
It is sensible however to state that some people aim for self actualisation even when their physiological needs or lower needs are not fully met. Moreover, Maslow defined self-actualisers as people of great accomplishment such as dignitaries and presidents. This statement makes it complex to understand the concept of self-actualisation. In fact, Muchinsky (1993) states that Maslow’s theory is more philosophical than empirical, which means it is complicated to test.
The only way to do so is to say that ‘all people are at different stages of development, and all of them are self actualisers in some form,’ Poston (2009). Another weakness is the arrangement of hierarchy; Bellot & Tutor (1990) argue that the arrangement does not apply to organisations today and modern society. They conclude that ‘self actualisation is a proponent need for self-esteem’ implying self-esteem would follow only after self- actualisation, which is clearly not illustrated in the Maslow’s theory model.
Equity Theory can be assessed into four basic propositions according to Huseman, Hatfield and Miles (1987). One of the propositions being: Individuals develop their perception of fairness by calculating a ratio of their inputs and outcomes and then comparing this to the ratios of others (Huseman, et al. , 1987). Noticeably some inputs and outcomes are intangible, in the sense that they cannot be measured or quantified such as Inputs: experience, knowledge, ability, qualifications and ambition of the individual (Cory, 2006) and outcomes: recognition or job security.
This makes coming to a suitable conclusion for an individual’s input and outcomes ratios more difficult as these concepts are intangible, meaning it is difficult to define or understand, as it is vague and abstract a concept. Another proposition suggests that: as the difference in inequity increase, the tension and distress felt by individuals will increase (Huseman, et al. , 1987). However, not every person will experience equity or inequity in the same way because people have varying tolerance levels for sensitivity to perceived situations of inequity.
Huseman et al. , suggest that there are three types of individuals on an Equity Sensitivity Spectrum: Benevolent (more tolerant of under-reward), Equity Sennsitives (follow the ‘norm’ of equity theory) and Entitled (prefer over-reward situations)(Huseman, et al. , 1987). In my earlier statements about Wilson, Fiona M, (2010) work that highlights the ways in which individuals act negatively towards inequity may be narrowed down using this spectrum, unlike the generic idea that “underpayment leads to lowered job performance (Prichard et al. 1972; Lord and Hohenfeld, 1979). Using the spectrum, Benevolents, will experience distress and guilt if they are in a situation of over-reward. Equity Sensitives, will experience distress when faced with either type of inequity and Entitleds, experience distress when in an equitable or under reward situation. This structure is useful for addressing and understanding equity theory and individuals behaviour. However, needless to say this is just a broad spectrum. The Equity Sensitivity Spectrum does not account for all individual differences in preferences and behaviour.
Individuals might show different equity sensitivities in different contexts (Huseman, et al. , 1987). For instance an individual might be Equity Sensitive in their relationships, favouring an equitable balance. Conversely, they might be an Entitled in business environments and are open to the idea of over-reward. Equity theory in a business environment is said to be less damaging if employees are given a voice, respect and feeling of belonging in a workplace. “ People feel affirmed if the procedures that are adopted treat hem with respect and dignity, making it easier to accept outcomes they do not like,” Deutsch, 2000, p. 45). Skarlicki and Folger (1997) found that employees that are treated with respect are more likely to tolerate unfair pay. The perception of inequity is more likely to be tolerated if employees feel comfortable, belong and are respected by their employer. This further prevents detrimental behaviour an employee is likely to illustrate, if uncompensated for the inequity at work such as counter-productivity work.
These intangible concepts such as respect help maintain or increase motivation and prevent problems that arise from under-reward. Cultural differences influence the equity theory (Fadil, Williams, Limpaphayom, and Smatt, 2005). Research shown on Eastern culture illustrate that, equality as opposed to equity was preferred (Leung and Bond, 1982, 1984; Leung and Park, 1986; Mahler, Greenberg and Hayashi, 1981 as cited in Fadil et al. , 2005). Eastern cultural shows that rewards will be given out equally to all those involved in the group’s performance regardless of individual inputs or personal efforts (Fadil, et al. 2005). This is probably as a result of primary sector being the most occupied sector in these cultures. Equality as opposed to Equity is a good ideology that will benefit the equity theory significantly. The business climate today allows Maslow and Adams theory to be applied, although to a limiting degree. Undoubtedly, both theories have shown weakness, strengths and assumptions, which I have explored widely. Today, Maslow’s model is relatable because people do seek to achieve psychological, safety, social and esteem needs, and to discover the realm of self-actualisation.
However, as discussed, Maslow’s theory is a very individualistic model that does not relate globally, in collectivist societies. Thus, proving that Maslow’s theory may not be appropriate to business environments globally, which practice collectivism such as China. Alternatively, Adams theory is more fitting for business environments globally in the present and certainly in the future as equity is seen as a necessity of human rights. Finally, ’one of the difficulties in motivating workers is that they, all are ifferent and react differently to the same kind of change or action. ’(Haleopota, 2005) once this concept is understood, it is much easier to regard these theories individually, monitoring the effects on an individual over short and prolonged periods of time. These theories discussed are outdated and difficult to empirically test, even though they have been published for years now. Businesses evolve over the years and structures rotate as time goes along. Needless to say, some aspects of these theories are relatable today but are quickly diminishing.
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