What is the meaning of motivation? Basically, motivation means that people do what they want to do. In general term, it can be described as the direction and persistence of action in preference to others, and they continue with a chosen action, often over a long period, and in face of different problem. Nowadays, motivation is treated as more and more important factor for organisation and individual self; especially the motivation theories are used in working position. For example, managers want employees to work harder and harder, more efficiency, to make high performance for organisation.

From managers’ view, it is good intention to let employees work more, in order to achieve this, all of the managers will motivate their employees, however, this part is hard to handle. Although there are many competing theories which attempt to explain the nature of motivation, and those theories are all at least particularly true to explain the behaviour of certain people in certain time, still there is no ready-made solution or single answer to what motivate people to work well. After all, there are various theories for manager to use, maybe it is very difficulty to choose single one or two.

Hence, these various theories can be concluded to two broad branches: the content theories of motivation, and process theory of motivation. Both two are kinds of motivation theories, however they come from different viewpoint. From the definition we know that the content theories attempt to explain those specific things, which actually motivate the individual at work. These theories are concerned with identifying people’s needs and their relative strength, and the goals they pursue in order to satisfy these need.

Content theories place emphasis on the nature of needs and what motivation. Compare with content theories the process theories attempt to identify the relationship among the dynamic variables, which make up motivation. These theories place emphasis on the actual process of motivation. However both the two definition is too simple to be understood. Both manager and us have to understand the content of both theories, and distinguish them, and then we can handle these theories, and put them in practice, use them to motivate people.

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The first task is to understand the content theories, which include 4 components theories: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model, Alderfer’s modified need hierarchy model, Herzberg’s two-factor theories, and McClelland’s achievement motivation theory. In Maslow’s view, people’s needs can be divided to five different stages: Physiological Needs (which include homeostasis such as satisfaction of hunger thirst, the needs for oxgen and to maintain temperature regulation. Also sleep, sensory pleasure, argualable sexual desire. ); Safety Needs (which include safety, security, the freedom from pain, and so on.

); Love Needs (which contain affection, sense of belong, social activity, friendships, and so on. ); Esteem Needs (self esteem, esteem from others, the self respect involves the desire for confidence, strength, independence and freedom. ) and the last one self-Actualisation Needs (what human can be, they must be. For example, maybe buy a Ferrari is someone’s self-actualisation. ). These four stages are relative by each, and each stage is higher than previous one. In Maslow’s theory, when lower need has been satisfied, it does not act as a strong motivator any more.

The needs of the nest higher level in the hierarchy demand satisfaction and become the motivating influence. In short, only unsatisfied needs motivate a person. Base on Maslow’s theory once the lower level of needs have been satisfied giving more of the same does not provide motivation. Individuals advance up hierarchy as each lower-level need becomes satisfied. Therefore, to provide motivation for a change in behaviour, the manager must direct attention to the next higher level of needs that seek satisfaction. In Alderfer’s theory, he modified the needs hierarchy model.

In his view, the Maslow’s five levels hierarchy can be condensed to only three stages: Existence Needs (sustaining human existence and survival, and cover physiological and safety needs of a material nature. ) Relatedness Needs (relationship to the social environment, and cover love belonging, afflation, and meaningful interpersonal relationships of a safety or esteem nature) and Growth Needs (development of potential, and cover self-esteem and self-actualisation. Similar with Maslow’s theory, Alderfer’s suggests that individuals progress through the hierarchy from existence needs, to growth needs, as the lower-level needs become satisfied.

However, Alderfer suggest these needs are more continuum than hierarchical levels. More than one need may be activated at the same time. Individual may also progress down the hierarchy. This is a frustration-regression process. For example, the individual continually frustrated in attempting to satisfy growth needs, relatedness may reassume most importance. The lower-level needs become the main focus of the individual’s effort. In Herzberg’s motivation- hygiene theory, there are two kings factor affecting human’s motivations. The first key of factor is called “hygiene” factors: If absent, cause dissatisfaction.

These factors are related to job context, they are concerned with job environment and extrinsic to the job itself. The other one is called “motivation” or “growth factor”. If present, serve to motivate the individual to superior effort and performance. These factors are related to job content of the work itself. In Herzberg’s view, if management is to provide positive motivation then attention must be given not only to hygiene factors, but also to the motivating factors. It is more likely good performance leads to job satisfaction rather than reserve.


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