Motivation can be defined as a process that is initiated by a physiological
or psychological deficiency or need, which triggers a specific behavior or
drive in order to achieve a goal or incentive. It consists of three
interacting and interdependent elements - needs, drives and incentives.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Herzberg's two-factor theory and Alderfer's ERG
theory are classified as content theories of work motivation. Maslow's needs
hierarchy suggests that a person's motivational needs can be arranged in a
hierarchical manner. Once a given level of need is satisfied, it no longer
serves as a motivating factor. A higher level need or one at the next level
is triggered and motivates the individual further.
Herzberg's two-factor theory identifies two aspects which are necessary for
job satisfaction - hygiene factors and motivators. While the hygiene factors
are responsible for preventing dissatisfaction, motivators are essential to
keep the employees satisfied. Hygiene factors include factors like working
conditions, pay, fringe benefits, etc. Motivators include factors like
achievement, recognition, advancement and growth.
Alderfer in his ERG theory identified three basic groups of core needs: the
existence needs, the relatedness needs, and the growth needs. The existence
needs are associated with survival and physiological well-being. The
relatedness needs stress social and interpersonal relationships. Growth needs
are a person's desire for personal development.
Process theories provide a better theoretical explanation of work motivation
than the content theories. Vroom's expectancy model and the extension and
refinements made by Porter and Lawler in their theory, help explain cognitive
variables and their relationship with each other in the complex process of
work motivation. Porter and Lawler pointed out that efforts did not directly
result in performance, and there was a complex relationship between
motivation, satisfaction and performance. They believed that performance
leads to satisfaction and that performance is dependent on the person's
motivation levels, his abilities and skills and on role perceptions.
Of late, the equity theory and attribution theory have received much
attention. The equity theory is based on perceived outcome-input ratios. The
equity theory states that employees compare their outcome-input ratio with
that of others. If they perceive the ratio of their outcomes and inputs to be
equal to that of their peers and others, a state of equity exists. Otherwise,
a state of equity tension or inequity is created. The attribution theory uses
attributions made by people to explain work motivation. This theory tries to
explain internal and external attributions made by people and contributes to
an increased understanding of the complex cognitive process of work
Some emerging theories, namely control and agency theories, have been
receiving attention in the recent years. One version of the control theory
states that control is basically a cognitive phenomenon, and determines
people's ability to control their lives or their jobs.
Another version of this theory focuses on the management function of control.
It states that controlling both the inputs and outputs of the organization is
important for effective management. The agency theory assumes that an agency
relationship exists in most organizations. It gives a clear idea as to how
the principal i.e., owners, board of directors, or top management can avoid
their interests conflicting with those of the agents i.e., subordinates,
middle management, or shop floor employees.