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Motivational Theory: Evaluation of Theory in Practice

Motivation in the workplace has been the subject of research for several decades. One of the first theories to be developed was Abraham Maslow’s (1998) hierarchy of needs. Many of the current theories relating to motivation in the workplace have evolved from, or use Maslow’s theories as the foundation for their own. The intention of this paper is to study is to evaluate the practical application of these theories. To this end we have selected two Scottish organisations that operate within the taxi/minibus hire business.

Our conclusion intends to show that the theories expounded by Maslow and others can impact practically in a practical environment. Maslow’s Theory A psychologist by profession, Abraham Maslow (1998) was one of the first to study the multifaceted issue of how and what motivated individuals. The result of these studies was to lead to his “Hierarchy of Needs” theory. From his studies Maslow determined that motivation in an individual existed over five distinct levels. For a person to achieve their ultimate performance level, each of these need levels have to be met in full and in a logical and pre-determined order.

Often the theory is portrayed by use of a pyramid (see appendix). The first motivation level

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for people is to fulfil their basic needs, such as food, water and clothing. These needs can only be fulfilled if one has money, which normally can only be earned through employment. Step two of the Maslow theory addresses the individual’s need for security and safety. Having found a way of fulfilling basic needs, a person is motivated to secure that position. Within the third level the need for affection and belonging. Maslow’s theory acknowledges that generally people are uncomfortable with loneliness or not being an integral part of a community.

On a personal level this would include love, but the sense of belonging is equally applicable in the work place. Esteem and respect are equally important to the individual, both from themselves and others. If people are not respected or held at a level of esteem, they will not be motivated to give of their best. Once all the previous need levels have been satisfied a person will look to their own wishes. The apex of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs” theory concentrates upon a person’s individual desire to achieve what they want to do or be in life. If they find the right outlet for this, a person will be motivated

Other Motivational Theories Using Maslow’s theory as a foundation, a number of other psychologists have formed theories that have been directed more specifically towards the performance and motivation of people in the workplace. For example, Fredrick Herzberg (1993) in 1959 first introduced the “Motivation to Work” theory in 1959. Although it has the same basic elements as the Maslow’s theory, Herzberg also address the issue of de-motivation, finding that employees can be motivated and demoralised by the same work issues, and how the organisation addresses these will determine whether an employee will be satisfied with their job or not.

Essentially Herzberg’s theory divides the issues into two specific categories, which he calls “Hygiene” and “Motivators,” the former category is aligned to the first three levels of the basic human need requirement identified by Maslow, the latter deals with individual need to receive recognition and endeavour to achieve their own goals. Similarly, in 1988 David C. McCelland (1988), combined parts of both the preceding theories to produce the “Motivational needs theory. ” His theory identified an employee’s motivational needs.

McClelland’s studies further discovered that an individual’s mix of needs in the workplace was related to the position that they held or desired, for example, for instance they would be different for a person who is a manager than it would be for someone in another position within the organisation.

The research divided these needs into three areas of motivation which McCelland called “affiliation motivated” for those who need to interact with others and will therefore make good team members; the “authority motivated,” being people who want a position of power and a desire to be recognised, and the “achievement motivated” workers who has a set career path need.

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