|A Review of Current Motivational Theories (Andreia Moore)|
In todays workplace teams have become one of the most popular organizational methods in developing projects. There is a vital and enduring aspect of teams that makes it powerful. But one should not forget to incorporate motivational strategies, in order to enhance the process. Motivation is the gist of any strategic plan and teams are no different in this respect. We will discuss more about the current motivational theories and how they can be implemented in the next paragraphs.
Motivational Processes Definitions and Terminology
A very common definition of motivation is: force that energizes, directs and sustains behavior. This force is studied using the scientific method because of its behaviorally specific characteristics. When studying motivation as it relates to the work place, the goal is to define what is more appropriate in terms of motivation to excel in a particular job requirement. Ones overall motivation is too broad of a concept to be dealt with scientifically. It is necessary to break things down to specific behaviors that can be easily observed in order to increase the likelihood that an effective theory will be developed. And to assist with this process of breaking things down, specific concepts and terminology have been developed. Among many other terms a very commonly used term in this field is Expectancy Theory. This term relates to how individuals make decisions regarding various behavioral alternatives once behavior has already been triggered. The following theories have been proposed:
Motivation Forces (MF) play the most important role in deciding among behavioral options. In other words, the motivational force for a behavior is a function of three distinct perceptions. The perceptions are as follows:
Expectancy-Probability (EP)-- Belief that effort (E) will lead to attainment of performance (P). This type of perception is based on past experiences, self-confidence and perceived difficulty. For instance, if I stay up all night studying, will I get a better grade on tomorrows test?
According to Rue and Byars (1983), "motive is a stimulus that leads to an action that satisfies a need". In other words, motive produces action, and these actions will ultimately enable one to achieve his/her goals. With these operational definitions in mind, lets examine in more detail some of the most popular theories of motivational processes.
Need Hierarchy Theory
In 1954, Maslow suggested that a person's needs could be diagramed as a five-level hierarchy (Ames & Ames, 1989). At the bottom are basic physiological needs (food, shelter, and clothing). Following is safety. For instance, employees need to be assured that the company cares about their safety. A more broad definition of safety goes beyond the physical aspect of it. It includes variables such as discrimination, favoritism, stereotyping, etc.). The next level of needs would be the social level. At this level the human need for love and a sense of belonging would be addressed. When designing Teams, this level should be carefully considered. The fourth level is self-esteem. This need is met when respect among co-workers, management, team members and all different levels of the company structure exist. The last but not least important level of need is self-actualization. According to Maslow, this is the highest and most complex level. It relates to people's need to reach their full potential. One very common mistake in implementing motivational strategies is forgetting to meet the self-actualization level and concentrating too much on meeting only the basic levels of need. Financial rewards are necessary, but they often disregard the highest level in this hierarchy of needs.
Motivational Maintenance Theory
The Motivational Maintenance Theory was developed by Herzberg (Keller, 1983). The process of development of this theory consisted of interviews with more than 200 engineers and accountants. The interviewees were asked to recall incidents at work that they associated with experiencing high or low self-esteem. Results of these interviews indicated that positive feelings were often associated with achievement, recognition, etc., and negative feelings with the work environment such as company policies, relationships with co-workers and supervisors, job security, working conditions, etc. This theory proposes that adding achievement, recognition and variables of that kind to the work environment, increases motivation.
This theory is based on the work of Skinner. Skinner believed that reinforcing behavior would lead to its repetition (Keller, 1983). Consequently, behavior not reinforced was less likely to be repeated. In order for companies to apply this theory with success, the effective reinforcers need to identified.
Hulls Drive Reduction Theory
In his drive reduction theory he states that the stimulus (S) affects the organism (O) and the resulting response (R) depends upon characteristics of both O and S (Hull, 1943). This concept identifies reinforcement as a very important factor determining learning, however it emphasizes that drive reduction plays an even more important role in behavior when compared to other theoretical frameworks. Lets look at Hull's theoretical framework: (1) organisms possess a hierarchy of needs which are aroused under conditions of stimulation and drive,(2)habit strength increases with activities that are associated with primary or secondary reinforcement, (3)habit strength aroused by a stimulus other than the one originally conditioned depends upon the closeness of the second stimulus in terms of discrimination thresholds, (4) stimuli associated with the cessation of a response become conditioned inhibitors, (5)the more the effective reaction potential exceeds the reaction threshold, the shorter the latency of response.
Hulls theoretical framework indicates that many types of variables can influence motivation and learning. And the concept of habit strength hierarchy needs to be given special attention. It stresses that the likelihood of a specific response changes according to not only the reward but also the efficiency of other variables.
Sign Learning (E. Tolman)
According to his theory there are five types of learning: (1) approach learning, (2) escape learning, (3) avoidance learning, (4) choice-point learning, and (5) latent learning. All of which depend upon a certain structured process. Many variables such as goal-oriented behavior, mediated by expectations, perceptions, representations etc. play an equally important role in the motivational process. Thus, the emphasis of Tolmans theoretical approach is the relationship between stimuli rather than that between stimulus and response.
Principles of Tolmans Theory
In other words, motivation serves to create intentions and goal-seeking acts that are relevant to an individual's desire for success, the expectancy of success, and the incentives provided (Ames & Ames, 1989).
Reward and Punishment Systems
According to Schneider and Bowen there are four ways organizations failed to use reward effectively.
The reward system may inhibit rather than facilitate. People do the things that are more likely to lead to rewards or less likely to lead to punishment. Behavior that yields rewards will persist. Behavior that fails to yield results will be extinguished.
Sometimes rewards are uneven or inequitable. And in order to ameliorate these problems, an strategic combination of different types of rewards can be used. Some of the different types are discussed in the following paragraphs. One thing to keep in mind is that even though money is the most commonly used type of reward, there are many others and regardless of what reward is under discussion, the following test should be applied to define its effectiveness under the circumstances.
Jobs as a Source of Reward
Understanding Factors That Influence Behavior
Much has been written about motivation, and, as leaders, it is important to understand what motivates employees. The theories discussed give us some insight on how certain techniques need be applied. The need to recognize individual contributions is very much on the top of the list of motivational strategies. Why do people do what they do? Three factors have been identified as playing a very important role in those decisions. They are (1) feelings, (2) values, and (3) needs.
Motivation is a very complex subject and many theories have been developed with respect to its use in the work environment. No one theory solves every problem one might encounter in motivating others, but there are certain concepts that have been proven quite efficient and that have become somewhat universal in the Motivational Theory field.
One concept is the concept of praise. Praising is based on the concept of feedback as a reinforcer and motivator. There are some guidelines to praising that should be followed. Praise should follow desired performance almost immediately. The longer a company or manager waits the more the use of praise as a reinforcer looses its efficiency. Recognition is one of the most powerful tools a company has. The New Websters dictionary defines "recognition" as "acknowledgment of a fact or claim; friendly notice; salutation; attention." Recognizing good performance can cause desired behavior to increase, and it is something that is readily available. In addition to being so powerful, recognition is an example of a reward tool that passes all 7 of the tests mentioned above in the "Reward and Punishment Systems" section.
Personal Recognition can be given in many different ways. It could be a verbal praise, a letter of recommendation, a formal memo, a thank you card. But the most important characteristic of praise is that it needs to be timely, genuine and contingent with desired behavior.
After having said so much about praise, it is important to remember that however powerful praise may be, it is the combination of praise and other more tangible rewards that brings the most effective motivation. There are many theories of motivation, however experts agree that no one single theory provides all the answers. Lets keep in mind that it is a well designed combination of theories that is more likely to present us with the solution.
Ames, C. & Ames, R. (1989). Research in Motivation in Education, Vol 3. San Diego: Academic Press.
Keller, J. (1983). Motivational design of instruction. In C. Riegeluth (ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Malone, T. (1981). Towards a theory of instrinsically motivating instruction. Cognitive Science, 4, 333-369.
Weiner, B. (1986). An Attribution Theory of Motivation and Emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Hull, C. (1943). Principles of Behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Hull, C. et al. (1940). Mathematico-Deductive Theory of Rote Learning. New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press.
Tolman, E.C. (1932). Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Copyright 1998, Center for the Study of Work Teams, University of North Texas. All Rights Reserved.