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Discuss about the Theory of Motivation.




Motivation is a drive which creates enthusiasm and changes the behavior of an individual. They become more responsible and take decisions to achieve their desired goals. There are two main approaches to motivation: Content theory and Process theory. These theories are used by the management to increase the commitment and productivity level of their employees. All the needs and expectations of the workers are taken into consideration during the process (Armstrong and Taylor, 2014). It creates a positive working environment which facilitates growth, development and integration. The aim of this essay is to gain understanding about the contribution and limitations of content and process theories for an organization.       


Content theory (need theory) helps in understanding the psychological behavior, strengths and specific needs of a person. Kuratko, 2016, states that it can very useful for an organization to change the attitude and behavior of the employees. It not only reduces the employee turnover but it also directs the human behavior. The main theories which are included in are Maslow’s need hierarchy theory and Herberg’s theory. Maslow’s theory consists of five different levels of motivation which are physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem and self actualization. It has contributed in the development of HR strategies and policies which helps in fulfilling the needs of the workers as per their levels of motivation. It increases the satisfaction and morale of the employees which provides long term benefits to the organization. On the contrary, Olafsen, Halvari and Deci, 2015, argues that there is no support which satisfies the hierarchy pyramid of the theory. Furthermore, it becomes difficult for a manager to predict the behavior of the individuals. There can be also situations where the needs of an individual conflicts with each other. In this case, the systematic approach provided by Maslow cannot be followed. Along with this, in many cultures social needs are considered more important than others. As a result, this theory has been criticized on the basis of universal applicability. HR managers may find it difficult to change the levels due to rigidity of the hierarchy model.


Herberg’s theory of motivation also explains the contents or factors which can affect the satisfaction level of the employees. The motivating factors are growth opportunities, recognition, achievements, roles and responsibilities. On the other hand, the hygiene factors which cause dissatisfaction among the employees are salary, policy of the company, supervisors, relationship with the seniors, relationship with the colleagues and work environment (Hernes, 2014). This theory has contributed in the identification of factors which can lead to satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the organization. For instance, open communication and reassurance can be given to the employees of they are unsure about their job security. But this theory has been criticized by many authors because it does not take into account the situational factors which make it unreliable. Furthermore, it is completely based on the responses of the staff members which may not be applicable to all. There can be differences in the behavior and requirements of people in different countries. Tesco Company has been following both Maslow’s need hierarchy theory and Herberg’s theory in their organization (Motivational theory in practice at Tesco, 2016). It has helped them to create a positive culture which has been beneficial for the workers. But it is essential for the management to take into consideration all the limitations and criticism related to them.


Content theories is based on the needs of the people whereas Process theory focuses on the process and approach to motivation. It can help the management to take decisions and to understand how the behavior of the employees can be directed or changed. There have been many criticisms of Process theories because it increases the complexities in the organization (Kuratko, 2016). It can be difficult for the managers to apply it successfully in the organization. There are predominantly four theories in it namely, Reinforcement, Vroom’s theory, Goal setting and Equity theory. Reinforcement theory uses positive and negative theories to influence the behavior of the people. Positive reinforcement such as rewards, recognition, appraisals etc can increase the intensity of the individual which motivates him to perform better. On the contrary, Leake, 2014, states that negative reinforcement such as punishment, warning can reduce unacceptable behavior or outcomes. But it has its own limitations which can create problems. It is difficult to find rewards which does not lose value over the time and is acceptable by all. Furthermore, negative reinforcement can have negative implications on the workplace environment.


Vroom’s model focuses on attractiveness and probability of the rewards. It is based on three variables, expectancy, valence and instrumentality.  Similarly, Equity theory uses the perception to understand the motivation level of the workers. It includes outcomes, inputs and comparison levels. The Goal setting theory is entirely based on goals. If the employee is able to achieve his goals then he will be motivated and vice versa. The motivation in contemporary organization considers both internal and external reward systems (Nuttin, 2014). The individual differences have to be incorporated during the application of the theories, recruitment, selection, job design training and appraisals. According to Arends, 2014, old school models have become outdated because methods such as carrot and stick have not been beneficial for the organizations. The more preference should be given to creativity, innovation, autonomy, purpose and mastery. All these factors can be useful in creating effective workforce which will improve the overall productivity and efficiency of the company. For example, Google Company has been giving 20% rest time to their workers because they are more inclined towards employee engagement and satisfaction.



It can be concluded from the above that both Content theory and Process theories are important for the success of the organization. It can help the management to increase the motivation and satisfaction level of the employees which will have positive effects on the company. But it is essential for the organization to take into consideration the limitations and implications of these theories and relevant changes should be made in it as per requirement.   



Arends, R., 2014. Learning to teach. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Armstrong, M. and Taylor, S., 2014. Armstrong's handbook of human resource management practice. Kogan Page Publishers, pp. 41-43.

Hernes, T., 2014. A process theory of organization. OUP Oxford, pp 87-89.

Kuratko, D.F., 2016. Entrepreneurship: Theory, process, and practice. Cengage Learning.

Leake, D.B., 2014. Evaluating explanations: A content theory. Psychology Press., pp. 25.

Motivational theory in practice at Tesco. 2016. [Online]. Available through: <> [Accessed on 24th August 2017]

Nuttin, J., 2014. Future time perspective and motivation: Theory and research method. Psychology Press.

Olafsen, A.H., Halvari, H., Forest, J. and Deci, E.L., 2015. Show them the money? The role of pay, managerial need support, and justice in a self?determination theory model of intrinsic work motivation. Scandinavian journal of psychology, 56(4), pp.447-457.


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