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Maslow’s Theory

Discuss about the Effectiveness of Motivational Theories in Motivating Low Status Employees.

Performance of workers in organizations highly depends on the level of motivation of employees. In workplaces where the level of morale is low, the performance level is also low while high motivation level attracts high performance. Majority of the motivational theories applied in organizations target at appealing the psychology of individuals, which is dependent on the level of social status they hold. Among the low-status employees, the effectiveness of the motivational theories highly depends on their ability to highlight their needs, which include financial obligations, job security, and sense of belonging.

One of the motivational theories that an organisation can use in order to motivate its low-status employees is the Maslow’s Hierarchical theory. The effectiveness of this theory depends on the management’s ability to identify and classify the needs of the employees working in the low status levels. According to Maslow’s theory, everyone has needs (Jerome, 2013, p39). These needs vary thereby causing there to be different levels of needs. The methods of motivation used on each individual should therefore vary depending on one’s level of needs. If the management places an employee in the wrong level of needs, he or she will not be motivated enough to yield the results that was expected (Kaur, 2013, p1062). In the case of low status employees, if the management decides to use the motivational strategies appropriate for employees in the self-actualization level of needs such as increasing their responsibility, the method would be ineffective. The employees would feel oppressed as what they require most is money to meet their basic needs. Instead of the strategy leading to increased productivity, it would lead to increased complains and workers’ strikes. However, increasing their basic salary would motivate the employees to work hard thus increased profitability in the organisation. In order to ascertain that there is increased effectiveness of the Maslow’s theory in increasing motivation amongst low status employees, organisations’ managements should aim to meet the needs of people in the psychological and safety needs.

Organisations can further use Theory X and Theory Y to motivate their employees. While Theory Y states that people have a need to work and thus they do not require to be pushed in order to work effectively (Ovidiu-Iliuta, 2013, p56). Theory X on the other hand argues that every employee needs to be pushed, threatened and supervised in order to work hard (Ovidiu-Iliuta, 2013, p56). The effectiveness of this theory is thus dependent on the ability of the management team to identify the category that the low status employees belong. The two theories cater for two groups of employees; those that need to be pushed in order to motivate them to complete their work as well as those that require to be assigned more responsibilities in order to be motivated (Kopelman, 2008, p255). When the management fails to identify the appropriate theory for the low status employees, they risk using the wrong theory, which would lead to continued low productivity. Low status employees are in most cases in the category of employees that need to be pushed, thus theory X is applicable to them. However, the assumption that every low status employee needs to be pushed and punished in order to be motivated is often incorrect and may lead to an organisation losing some hardworking employees. In cases where the employees need to be motivated using incentives and appreciation, this theory is inappropriate and may be a source of demoralization instead of a motivating factor.  

Theory X and Theory Y

The cognitive evaluation theory is based on the argument that motivation can either be intrinsic or extrinsic (Van den Bos & Van Prooijen, 2002, p616). The effectiveness of this theory is therefore dependent on the management’s ability to identify if the low status employees require either extrinsic motivation or intrinsic motivation. Those that require intrinsic motivation are highly demoralised when the management uses extrinsic methods (Van den Bos & Van Prooijen, 2002, p618). Although they may not reject the rewards given, the methods lead to a decrease in their productivity thus making the theory ineffective. This is similar to those that are motivated through extrinsic methods (Fehr & Falk, 2002, p700). They also do not feel motivated when the management uses intrinsic methods. When the theory is used and the right methods used to motivate the right group, the employees are happy and the organisation is able to record increased productivity. In most of the cases, the management assumes that all low status employees are motivated extrinsically. The assumption is not always correct, a fact that decreases the effectiveness of the theory since the wrong motivation methods are used. In order to increase the effectiveness of this theory therefore, the management needs to identify the appropriate motivational methods for each of the low status employees and use them on each of them. This may however end up being very expensive for the company.

David McClelland developed the Needs theory, a motivational theory that is applicable in organizations today. According to the theory, managers have to learn the characteristics of their employees in order to identify what drives them. McClelland divided the needs among the workers into three categories, which are achievement, affiliation, and power (Robbins & Judge, 2007, p134). These needs act as dominant motivators. The type of need among individuals is dependent on experiences and culture.

Most low-status individual fall under the categories of achievement and affiliation. One of the characteristics of this category of workers is that they have an urge to become more. They focus on a future that is better in terms of the financial aspect, health, living conditions, position in the society, and position in the workplace, among others (Ovidiu-Iliuta, 2013, p55). Therefore, in the workplace, this category of workers is driven by the dominating need of achievement. Thus, they desire to accomplish goals that are challenging through taking calculated risks. The managers not only need to assign them tasks that are out of their comfort zone, but also monitor their progress to give them adequate progress that would boost them towards achieving.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

Another category of low-status employees whose main drive is affiliation also exists. Such employees like to ‘play it safe’ to reduce the chances of losing their jobs since they have an inclination to cater for their financial needs. Such people develop links with other employees to not only develop a sense of belonging but increase their job security. For example, through collaboration, they would shoulder each other against competition, which could result to loss of jobs for those whose performance is low. The managers, in this category, allocate duties to groups of people with the necessary expertise, hence reducing the exposure to high risk.

This theory argues that the human needs have three categories namely the growth needs, the relatedness theory and the existence theory (Yang, Hwang & Chen, 2011, p7885). The effectiveness of this theory is dependent on the ability of the management team of an organization to fulfil all the needs of the employees in the low status jobs as they arise. The management team has the responsibility of finding out the needs the employees have and strategizing on how to meet these growing needs. Every employee has needs that develop as others are satisfied (Caulton, 2012, p2). The methods of motivating the low status employees change depending on the change of the needs that they have to meet. Most of the employees start working in the low status jobs because of the need to meet their basic needs. However, as soon as these needs are met, the urge to satisfy social and growth needs increases. If the management continues to use the motivational methods meant for people that urgently need to satisfy their basic needs, it may demoralize them and push them into searching for job opportunities that will meet their growth and relatedness needs (Arnolds & Boshoff, 2002, p700).

Herzberg’s theory of motivation presents two sets of factors that influence the motivation of workers in an organization. While the motivational factors target at improving the employee morale, the hygiene factors aim at reducing the elements that would reduce the level of motivation among the workers. The factors vary depending on the social status of employees (Robbins & Judge, 2007, p156). For example, where among the high-status workers policies and working conditions could act as sources of dissatisfaction, the low-income group is more focused on the presence of a salary.

According to the study of Danis et al. (2007, p1656), which evaluates the choice of employment benefits related to health among the low-income employees, it is evident that the preference of the low status workers is financial security, then job retention, and finally health benefits. Although the results only reflect preference of health-promoting benefits, one can relate it to the inclinations employees have in the workplace. For example, these workers main concern is salary, monetary awards, and job security.

McClelland Theory – Acquired Needs Theory

Evidently, the hygiene factors are of more importance than the motivational factors. The major hygiene factors that the managers could focus on are salary, job security and high quality supervision to assure high quality of work. Nonetheless, motivational factors such as recognition and involvement in decision making would inspire the workers to work towards attainment of organizational goals.

Organisations also use the Adam’s equity theory of motivation to ensure that they keep the low status employees motivated. The theory suggests that the management should ensure that they reward employees with both tangible and intangible rewards for their input in the organisation (Al-Zawahreh & Al-Madi, 2012, p158). The rewards should be directly proportional to the input. The effectiveness of this motivational theory is therefore dependent on the management’s ability to measure the input of the employees. Most of the input that the theory recommends be assessed may be difficult to measure as there are no machines that can complete the assessments. The success of the assessment is therefore dependent on the management’s observation abilities. If they fail to observe and record the input of some employees in a given capacity, it may lead to demoralization of the low status employees and thus failure of the theory (Tudor, 2011, p98). The effectiveness of the theory is further dependent on the management’s ability to develop an accurate rewarding system. Different low status employees may put in different types of input, for example, one may demonstrate loyalty to the company while another may make personal sacrifices. Although the input is different, they all deserve to be rewarded fairly in order to increase motivation amongst the employees. When the rewarding system seems unfair to the employees, they are demoralized and reduced productivity is recorded (Bell & Martin, 2012, p110).

This theory is also used by organisations to motivate low status employees. The theory argues that motivation is a choice that is dependent on what employees expect in terms of whether the set goal is achievable, whether there are rewards for achieving the goal and the value of the reward to the employees (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000, p68). One of the factors that determine the effectiveness of the theory is the achievability of the set goals. The employees could feel that the set goal is unachievable and thereby be demoralized from working towards achieving it. In order to increase the effectiveness of the theory therefore, the management should ensure that it sets achievable goals in order to motivate the employees to increase their productivity. The effectiveness of this theory is further dependent on the value of the reward to the employees. If the management gives a reward that is considered to be of low value to the low status employees, then the theory fails to be effective in motivating the employees (Van Eede & Thierry, 1996, p578). The effectiveness of the theory further depends on the assurance to the employees that they will receive an award when they achieve the set goals. If the employees are not sure that they will be awarded, then their motivation is decreased thereby causing the theory to be ineffective. Organisations that use this theory can increase its effectiveness by ensuring that it sets achievable goals and promises awards that are valuable to the concerned employees.

Alderfer’s ERG Theory

Conclusion

In conclusion, the effectiveness of employee motivational theories varies depending on how the management of an organisation implements the theories. It is important for the management of organisations to ensure that it understands all the aspects of the motivational theories that it chooses to use. This is important because it helps them ascertain that they include every aspect of the motivational theory in their strategic plan thus managing to utilize it fully and yield positive results.

Al-Zawahreh, A. & Al-Madi, F. 2012. The utility of Equity Theory in enhancing organizational effectiveness. European Journal of Economics, Finance and Administrative Sciences, 46, 158-170.

Van den Bos, K. & Van Prooijen, J. 2002. Referent cognitions theory: The psychology of voice depends on closeness of reference points. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 81, 616-626.

Yang, C., Hwang, M. & Chen, Y. 2011. An empirical study of the existence, relatedness and growth (ERG) theory in consumer’s selection of mobile value-added services. African Journal of Business Management, 5(19), 7885-7898.

Danis, Marion et al. 2007. Low-income employees’ choice regarding employment benefits aimed at improving the socioeconomic determinants of health. Am J Public Health, 97(9), 1650-1657, [Online], Doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2006.091033

Jerome, Nyameh. 2013. Application of the Maslow’s hierarchy of need theory; impacts and implications on organizational culture, human resource and employee’s performance. International Journal of Business and Management Invention, 2(3), pp39-45.

Ovidiu-Iliuta, Dobre. 2013. Employee motivation and organizational performance. Review of Applied Socio-Economic Research, 5(1), pp53-60.

Robbins, Stephens and Judge Tim. 2007. Organizational behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

Tudor, T. 2011. Motivating employees with limited pay incentives using equity theory and the fast food industry as a model. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(23), 95-101

Bell, R. & Martin, J. 2012. The relevance of scientific management and equity theory in everyday managerial communication situations. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 13(3), 106-115.

Caulton, J. 2012. The development and use of the Theory of ERG: A literature review. Emerging Leadership Journeys, 5(1), 2-8.

Arnolds, C. & Boshoff, C. 2002. Compensation, esteem valence and job performance: an empirical assessment of Alderfer’s ERG Theory. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 13(4), 67-719.

Wigfield, A. & Eccles, J. 2000. Expectancy-Value Theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Education Psychology, 25, 68-81.

Van Eede, W. & Thierry, H. 1996. Vroom’s expectancy models and work related criteria: A Meta analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology. 81(5), 575-586.

Fehr, E. & Falk, A. 2002. Psychological Foundations of Incentives. European Economic Review, 46, 687-724.

Kopelman, R. 2008. Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Y: Toward a construct valid measure. Journal of Managerial Issues, 20(2), 255-271.

Kaur, A. 2013. Maslow’s need hierarchy theory: Applications and criticisms. Global Journal of Management and Business Studies, 3(10), 1061-1064.

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