The essay sample on Compare And Contrast The Content Theories Of Motivation dwells on its problems, providing shortened but comprehensive overview of basic facts and arguments related to it. To read the essay, scroll down.
Motivation is a complex concept to define and is persistently explored not only by psychologists but also by many global organizations. With reference to the Oxford dictionary, motivation is “a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way”. In contrast to the definition, there are numerous theories that attempt to explain the true nature of the concept.
As a result of the diverse beliefs, it is argued (Wilson, 2010, 136) that there is no single reliable theory that can be used to solve motivational issues. Managers need to understand the principles of the leading theories in order to use motivation techniques effectively. It is perhaps one of the most desirable skills a manager can possess, as they would be able to influence their employee’s behavior where a more satisfied and motivated employee would perform better and are less likely to quit their job.
The theories based on this subject can be contrasting and are categorized into two types: content and process theories. Content theories assume that everyone possesses a common set of needs and looks at what motivates people at work. Process theories on the other hand stress the difference in people’s needs and focuses on the cognitive processes.
One of the most famous and influential content theories is the works of Abraham Maslow (1943).
According to Maslow, “human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies. That is to say, the appearance of one need usually rests on the satisfaction of another more prepotent need” (Sheldrake, 1996, 136). Based on this idea, he claims that we all have similar set of needs. Furthermore, he argues that these set of needs are structured in a hierarchy with five different levels and once individuals have fulfilled one need in the hierarchy, it ceases to motivate their behavior and they are motivated by the need at the next higher level. The starting point of motivating an individual would therefore begin at the foundations of the hierarchy including physiological, safety and security, love and eventually working towards the top of the hierarchy of higher order needs such as self- esteem and self-actualization. The first three needs would represent deficiency needs that people must fulfill before they can develop a healthy nature, whereas the last two needs reflects on the individuals developments and achievements. The top level is identified as self-actualization needs and where one achieves their full potential and only minorities reach this stage. Maslow did not intend this model to be regarded as fixed as some people prioritize needs on top of others. But a more realistic approach to this would be to suggest in the terms of decreasing percentage of satisfaction along the levels of the hierarchy, where a typical person may satisfy 85% of physiological needs, 70% of safety and security needs, 50% love needs, 40% self-esteem needs and 10% self-actualization needs (Mullins, 2010, 262).
The theory is still widely renown for its simplicity and intuitive nature yet there are some criticisms to the model. Firstly, it is vague and impossible to predict behavior and secondly, the theory is culturally limited to the middle-class workers in the UK and USA. For instance, the Asian culture places higher values on self-esteem and social needs whereas white-American cultures places higher values on individual self-actualization (Buchanan et al, 2010). This shows that in different cultures, the value of the need can be of a different order to one another.
The equity theory constructed by J. Stacy Adams explains the people’s reactions to how fairly they have been treated in comparison to treatment received by others in the workplace (Mullins, 2010). This social comparison process is what motivates individuals to resolve the inequity. The more intense the perceived inequity, the higher the tension and motivation to take measures. The inequity can be calculated using a formula, which measures the effort-reward ratio by comparing the rewards and contributions of one person to the rewards and contributions of another. When an individual notices that their effort contributed to the organization is the same as their colleagues in the same role but receives a lower or higher level reward of what they consider is fair, they might experience inequity and therefore prone to disaffection and demotivation. The possible responses for the people to resolve the inequity could be to change outcomes, change inputs, distort perceptions or to quit (Naylor, 2004).
There are some limitations to the theory. When calculating the equity ratio, other quantitative and qualitative variables have to be taken into consideration. These variables are difficult to measure as they depend on individual judgments. For example, when using the calculation some people may include pay and promotion prospects into the rewards aspect and loyalty and commitment into the contribution aspect. As everyone has distinctive beliefs, two employees in the same firm with the same roles and possibly the same rewards may still feel they are treated differently, and experience inequity compared to one another in the view that they will have different perceptions of what is equitable. Another limitation is when issues arise, it does not predict which response an individual will follow. Nevertheless, when such issues arise across the company’s staff, it is up to the manager to find a solution and reduce the scale and influence of the matter. This can include adapting schemes such as job evaluation to maintain balance and to indicate that they are aware of the problems.
Looking at the just the notion of the two theories discussed, it is easy to see that there are no similar features between them. However, from a managerial perspective, they do relate to each other in the sense of sampling them in the work environment. If a manager wishes to gain a better understanding of motivation in the workplace, studying one theory may be not be sufficient enough but the combination of both content and process theories will give a better insight to the topic. If an organization adopts Maslow’s theory, they will have to look at meeting their deficiency needs situated at the lower levels of the hierarchy before moving onto the higher level needs and in the order they must be fulfilled. For instance, the manager can offer a fair competitive wage, safe working conditions, social facilities and events, a good rewards program and personal development programs.
There are many alternative approaches to apply the needs to enhance employee motivation. However, if the equity theory was applied along with Maslow’s, some issues may arise in particular when employees operating under the same working conditions start comparing ratios and finds out for example their colleague who has less skills and education gets a pay rise. The major difference between the two theories is in the management practice. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs focuses on the development and growth of humans and doesn’t place emphasis on the importance of money as a motivator, where the main factor of employees experiencing equity or inequity if from comparing pay. The equity theory is widely supported by a several research studies for the conditions of underpayment where it directly relates to work output, work quality and attitudes towards work. The organization must be careful in setting wages, as underpayment is typical with perceived inequity and will quickly generate resentment. On the other hand, people who are overpaid reduce the perceived inequality by working harder to compensate (Buchanan at al, 2010).
Over the recent years, theoretical developments in motivation have declined and that workplaces have changed drastically where companies are both downsizing and growing. However, motivation still remains a challenge for many organizations today. Steers (2004) suggests that because of “these changes, it can have a profound influence on how companies attempt to attract, retain and motivate their employees.” To overcome these problems, managers need to understand what motivates their employees and build strong positive relations. Research has suggested that there is a positive correlation between the satisfaction and the performance of an employee (Khan et al, 2004). Managers therefore use rewards as a tool to influence individual or group behavior and thus increase the firm’s efficiency. Another useful tool is empowerment where it gives a sense of belonging and pride in a workforce. A satisfied and motivated workforce is actually a productive workforce in a company, which contributes to the efficiency and success of the organization and leads to the maximization of profits. (Matthew et al, 2009).
With the ever-changing business environments, it is debatable as to whether new-models of motivation are needed to explain new attitudes to work or whether old theories are still applicable. Maslow’s theory can be argued to be a timeless principle as his structure was well ordered, appealing and elegant yet it fails to stand any sort of critical experiments or examinations of human behavior. It also fails to offer any practical suggestions and Sheldrake (1996) suggests that there are no direct methods to prove that the existence of the needs. On the other hand, the equity theory assesses employee motivation from the individual’s perceptions and can be almost impossible for a manager to determine how employees value their contributions, what results they value most and who they select to compare to. Although the theory is mostly focused on the individual’s behavioral means to restore equity, there are some measures that a manager can take to reduce the inequity and that is to adapt to distributive and procedural justice that make sure that outcomes and rewards are fairly distributed.
As society has progressed, there have been great developments in technology but despite the advancements, people’s basic perceptions will still remain the same with all their drives, needs and wants. The theories are initially constructed to attempt to explain the phenomenal nature of motivation but applying theories into practice is easier said than done, and that they seen managerial guidelines for motivating staff than explanations of human behaviors. It is merely impossible to satisfy the needs of everyone and that the focus on satisfying the need of one individual may lead to the problem of inequity experienced by another individual. The success of a business is largely dependent upon the manager’s ability to motivate their staff as a motivated employee’ works best in the interest of the firm and will lead to be more productive and efficient means. The type approach the manager has to motivation will depend on the strength and desire of the needs and the number of different perceptions that taking a course of action will help satisfy those needs. The best strategy that a manager can adopt is to experiment with various content theories and process theories as there are undoubtedly multiple challenges that they will come across. Every single company will have a distinctive group of employees, therefore they will have a different set of needs and perspectives. The effectiveness of the motivational strategies for one company may not work for the other, as there is no single solution. The best outcome is for the company to discover which strategy brings a greater impact among their employees and adopt the principles whilst being flexible.