Modern Theories of Motivation
We all are familiar with the classical theories of motivation, but they all are not empirically supported. As far as contemporary theories of motivation are concerned, all are well supported with evidences. Some of the contemporary / modern theories of motivation are explained below:
- ERG Theory
- McClelland’s Theory of Needs
- Goal Setting Theory
- Reinforcement Theory
- Equity Theory of Motivation
- Expectancy Theory of Motivation
- ERG Theory of Motivation
To bring Maslow’s need hierarchy theory of motivation in synchronization with empirical research, Clayton Alderfer redefined it in his own terms. His rework is called as ERG theory of motivation. He recategorized Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into three simpler and broader classes of needs:
Existence needs- These include need for basic material necessities. In short, it includes an individual’s physiological and physical safety needs.
Relatedness needs– These include the aspiration individual has for maintaining significant interpersonal relationships (be it with family, peers or superiors), getting public fame and recognition. Maslow’s social needs and external component of esteem needs fall under this class of need.
Growth needs– These include need for self-development and personal growth and advancement. Maslow’s self-actualization needs and intrinsic component of esteem needs fall under this category of need.
Implications of the ERG Theory
Managers must understand that an employee has various needs that must be satisfied at the same time. According to the ERG theory, if the manager concentrates solely on one need at a time, this will not effectively motivate the employee. Also, the frustration- regression aspect of ERG Theory has an added effect on workplace motivation. For instance- if an employee is not provided with growth and advancement opportunities in an organization, he might revert to the relatedness need such as socializing needs and to meet those socializing needs, if the environment or circumstances do not permit, he might revert to the need for money to fulfil those socializing needs. The sooner the manager realizes and discovers this, the more immediate steps they will take to fulfil those needs which are frustrated until such time that the employee can again pursue growth.
2. McClelland’s Theory of Needs
David McClelland and his associates proposed McClelland’s theory of Needs / Achievement Motivation Theory. This theory states that human behaviour is affected by three needs – Need for Power, Achievement and Affiliation. Need for achievement is the urge to excel, to accomplish in relation to a set of standards, to struggle to achieve success. Need for power is the desire to influence other individual’s behaviour as per your wish. In other words, it is the desire to have control over others and to be influential. Need for affiliation is a need for open and sociable interpersonal relationships. In other words, it is a desire for relationship based on co-operation and mutual understanding.
The individuals with high achievement needs are highly motivated by competing and challenging work. They look for promotional opportunities in job. They have a strong urge for feedback on their achievement. Such individuals try to get satisfaction in performing things better. High achievement is directly related to high performance. Individuals who are better and above average performers are highly motivated. They assume responsibility for solving the problems at work. McClelland called such individuals as gamblers as they set challenging targets for themselves and they take deliberate risk to achieve those set targets. Such individuals look for innovative ways of performing job. They perceive achievement of goals as a reward, and value it more than a financial reward.
The individuals who are motivated by power have a strong urge to be influential and controlling. They want that their views and ideas should dominate and thus, they want to lead. Such individuals are motivated by the need for reputation and self-esteem. Individuals with greater power and authority will perform better than those possessing less power. Generally, managers with high need for power turn out to be more efficient and successful managers. They are more determined and loyal to the organization they work for. Need for power should not always be taken negatively. It can be viewed as the need to have a positive effect on the organization and to support the organization in achieving it’s goals.
The individuals who are motivated by affiliation have an urge for a friendly and supportive environment. Such individuals are effective performers in a team. These people want to be liked by others. The manager’s ability to make decisions is hampered if they have a high affiliation need as they prefer to be accepted and liked by others, and this weakens their objectivity. Individuals having high affiliation needs prefer working in an environment providing greater personal interaction. Such people have a need to be on the good books of all. They generally cannot be good leaders.
3. Goal Setting Theory of Motivation
In 1960’s, Edwin Locke put forward the Goal-setting theory of motivation. This theory states that goal setting is essentially linked to task performance. It states that specific and challenging goals along with appropriate feedback contribute to higher and better task performance.
In simple words, goals indicate and give direction to an employee about what needs to be done and how much efforts are required to be put in.
The important features of goal-setting theory are as follows:
The willingness to work towards attainment of goal is main source of job motivation. Clear, particular and difficult goals are greater motivating factors than easy, general and vague goals.
Specific and clear goals lead to greater output and better performance. Unambiguous, measurable and clear goals accompanied by a deadline for completion avoids misunderstanding.
Goals should be realistic and challenging. This gives an individual a feeling of pride and triumph when he attains them, and sets him up for attainment of next goal. The more challenging the goal, the greater is the reward generally and the more is the passion for achieving it.
Better and appropriate feedback of results directs the employee behaviour and contributes to higher performance than absence of feedback. Feedback is a means of gaining reputation, making clarifications and regulating goal difficulties. It helps employees to work with more involvement and leads to greater job satisfaction.
Employees’ participation in goal is not always desirable.
Participation of setting goal, however, makes goal more acceptable and leads to more involvement.
Goal setting theory has certain eventualities such as:
Self-efficiency- Self-efficiency is the individual’s self-confidence and faith that he has potential of performing the task. Higher the level of self-efficiency, greater will be the efforts put in by the individual when they face challenging tasks. While, lower the level of self-efficiency, less will be the efforts put in by the individual or he might even quit while meeting challenges.
Goal commitment- Goal setting theory assumes that the individual is committed to the goal and will not leave the goal. The goal commitment is dependent on the following factors:
Goals are made open, known and broadcasted.
Goals should be set-self by individual rather than designated.
Individual’s set goals should be consistent with the organizational goals and vision.
Advantages of Goal Setting Theory
Goal setting theory is a technique used to raise incentives for employees to complete work quickly and effectively.
Goal setting leads to better performance by increasing motivation and efforts, but also through increasing and improving the feedback quality.
Limitations of Goal Setting Theory
At times, the organizational goals are in conflict with the managerial goals. Goal conflict has a detrimental effect on the performance if it motivates incompatible action drift.
Very difficult and complex goals stimulate riskier behaviour.
If the employee lacks skills and competencies to perform actions essential for goal, then the goal-setting can fail and lead to undermining of performance.
There is no evidence to prove that goal-setting improves job satisfaction.
4. Reinforcement Theory of Motivation
Reinforcement theory of motivation was proposed by BF Skinner and his associates. It states that individual’s behaviour is a function of its consequences. It is based on “law of effect”, i.e, individual’s behaviour with positive consequences tends to be repeated, but individual’s behaviour with negative consequences tends not to be repeated.
Reinforcement theory of motivation overlooks the internal state of individual, i.e., the inner feelings and drives of individuals are ignored by Skinner. This theory focuses totally on what happens to an individual when he takes some action. Thus, according to Skinner, the external environment of the organization must be designed effectively and positively so as to motivate the employee. This theory is a strong tool for analyzing controlling mechanism for individual’s behaviour. However, it does not focus on the causes of individual’s behaviour.
The managers use the following methods for controlling the behaviour of the employees:
Positive Reinforcement– This implies giving a positive response when an individual shows positive and required behaviour. For example – Immediately praising an employee for coming early for job. This will increase probability of outstanding behaviour occurring again. Reward is a positive reinforce, but not necessarily. If and only if the employees’ behaviour improves, reward can said to be a positive reinforcer. Positive reinforcement stimulates occurrence of a behaviour. It must be noted that more spontaneous is the giving of reward, the greater reinforcement value it has.
Negative Reinforcement– This implies rewarding an employee by removing negative / undesirable consequences. Both positive and negative reinforcement can be used for increasing desirable / required behaviour.
Punishment– It implies removing positive consequences so as to lower the probability of repeating undesirable behaviour in future. In other words, punishment means applying undesirable consequence for showing undesirable behaviour. For instance – Suspending an employee for breaking the organizational rules. Punishment can be equalized by positive reinforcement from alternative source.
Extinction– It implies absence of reinforcements. In other words, extinction implies lowering the probability of undesired behaviour by removing reward for that kind of behaviour. For instance – if an employee no longer receives praise and admiration for his good work, he may feel that his behaviour is generating no fruitful consequence. Extinction may unintentionally lower desirable behaviour.
Implications of Reinforcement Theory
Reinforcement theory explains in detail how an individual learns behaviour. Managers who are making attempt to motivate the employees must ensure that they do not reward all employees simultaneously. They must tell the employees what they are not doing correct. They must tell the employees how they can achieve positive reinforcement.
5. Equity Theory of Motivation
The core of the equity theory is the principle of balance or equity. As per this motivation theory, an individual’s motivation level is correlated to his perception of equity, fairness and justice practiced by the management. Higher is individual’s perception of fairness, greater is the motivation level and vice versa. While evaluating fairness, employee compares the job input (in terms of contribution) to outcome (in terms of compensation) and also compares the same with that of another peer of equal cadre/category. O/I ratio (output-input ratio) is used to make such a comparison.
Ratio Comparison Perception
O/I a < O/I b Under-rewarded (Equity Tension)
O/I a = O/I b Equity
O/I a > O/I b Over-rewarded (Equity Tension)
Negative Tension state: Equity is perceived when this ratio is equal. While if this ratio is unequal, it leads to “equity tension”. J.Stacy Adams called this a negative tension state which motivates him to do something right to relieve this tension.
Referents: The four comparisons an employee can make have been termed as “referents” according to Goodman. The referent chosen is a significant variable in equity theory. These referents are as follows:
Self-inside: An employee’s experience in a different position inside his present organization.
Self-outside: An employee’s experience in a situation outside the present organization.
Other-inside: Another employee or group of employees inside the employee’s present organization.
Other-outside: Another employee or employees outside the employee’s present organization.
An employee might compare himself with his peer within the present job in the current organization or with his friend/peer working in some other organization or with the past jobs held by him with others. An employee’s choice of the referent will be influenced by the appeal of the referent and the employee’s knowledge about the referent.
Moderating Variables: The gender, salary, education and the experience level are moderating variables. Individuals with greater and higher education are more informed. Thus, they are likely to compare themselves with the outsiders. Males and females prefer same sex comparison. It has been observed that females are paid typically less than males in comparable jobs and have less salary expectations than male for the same work. Thus, a women employee that uses another women employee as a referent tends to lead to a lower comparative standard. Employees with greater experience know their organization very well and compare themselves with their own colleagues, while employees with less experience rely on their personal experiences and knowledge for making comparisons.
Choices: The employees who perceive inequity and are under negative tension can make the following choices:
- Change in input (e.g. Don’t overexert)
- Change their outcome (Produce quantity output and increasing earning by sacrificing quality when piece rate incentive system exist)
- Choose a different referent
- Quit the job
- Change self perception (For instance – I know that I’ve performed better and harder than everyone else.)
- Change perception of others (For instance – Jack’s job is not as desirable as I earlier thought it was.)
Assumptions of the Equity Theory
The theory demonstrates that the individuals are concerned both with their own rewards and also with what others get in their comparison.
Employees expect a fair and equitable return for their contribution to their jobs.
Employees decide what their equitable return should be after comparing their inputs and outcomes with those of their colleagues.
Employees who perceive themselves as being in an inequitable scenario will attempt to reduce the inequity either by distorting inputs and/or outcomes psychologically, by directly altering inputs and/or outputs, or by quitting the organization.
7. Expectancy Theory of Motivation
The expectancy theory was proposed by Victor Vroom of Yale School of Management in 1964. Vroom stresses and focuses on outcomes, and not on needs unlike Maslow and Herzberg. The theory states that the intensity of a tendency to perform in a particular manner is dependent on the intensity of an expectation that the performance will be followed by a definite outcome and on the appeal of the outcome to the individual.
The Expectancy theory states that employee’s motivation is an outcome of how much an individual wants a reward (Valence), the assessment that the likelihood that the effort will lead to expected performance (Expectancy) and the belief that the performance will lead to reward (Instrumentality). In short, Valence is the significance associated by an individual about the expected outcome. It is an expected and not the actual satisfaction that an employee expects to receive after achieving the goals. Expectancy is the faith that better efforts will result in better performance. Expectancy is influenced by factors such as possession of appropriate skills for performing the job, availability of right resources, availability of crucial information and getting the required support for completing the job.
Instrumentality is the faith that if you perform well, then a valid outcome will be there. Instrumentality is affected by factors such as believe in the people who decide who receives what outcome, the simplicity of the process deciding who gets what outcome, and clarity of relationship between performance and outcomes. Thus, the expectancy theory concentrates on the following three relationships:
- Effort-performance relationship: What is the likelihood that the individual’s effort be recognized in his performance appraisal?
- Performance-reward relationship: It talks about the extent to which the employee believes that getting a good performance appraisal leads to organizational rewards.
- Rewards-personal goals relationship: It is all about the attractiveness or appeal of the potential reward to the individual.
Vroom was of view that employees consciously decide whether to perform or not at the job. This decision solely depended on the employee’s motivation level which in turn depends on three factors of expectancy, valence and instrumentality.
Advantages of the Expectancy Theory
- It is based on self-interest individual who want to achieve maximum satisfaction and who wants to minimize dissatisfaction.
- This theory stresses upon the expectations and perception; what is real and actual is immaterial.
- It emphasizes on rewards or pay-offs.
- It focuses on psychological extravagance where final objective of individual is to attain maximum pleasure and least pain.
Limitations of the Expectancy Theory
- The expectancy theory seems to be idealistic because quite a few individuals perceive high degree correlation between performance and rewards.
- The application of this theory is limited as reward is not directly correlated with performance in many organizations. It is related to other parameters also such as position, effort, responsibility, education, etc.
Implications of the Expectancy Theory
- The managers can correlate the preferred outcomes to the aimed performance levels.
- The managers must ensure that the employees can achieve the aimed performance levels.
- The deserving employees must be rewarded for their exceptional performance.
- The reward system must be fair and just in an organization.
- Organizations must design interesting, dynamic and challenging jobs.
- The employee’s motivation level should be continually assessed through various techniques such as questionnaire, personal interviews, etc.
Previous Post- Classical Theories