What Is Motivation?

In the modern era, it is essential to have a successful business that is able to compete with other companies, not only in all its departments but also all employees should perform good co-ordination in order to achieve the company’s goals and create international competitiveness. Therefore, how to motivate employees should be a real concern to the leader/manager. What is motivation?

Krech, Crutchfied and Ballachey states that: “Motivation is concerned with why people choose a particular course of action in preference to others, and why they continue a chosen course of action, often over a long period, and in the face of difficulties and problems”. In other words, motivation at work has been playing an essential role in a company in terms of trying to encourage people to work more productively and effectively and in a dependable, loyal manner (Bunchanan and Huczynski. 1985). In organizational behaviour, there are two main motivational theories, content theories and process theories. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast two content theories; Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s two-factor theories. I have chosen these theories because they are well-respected and both Maslow and Herzberg are viewed as forerunners in motivational theories; I am going to compare and contrast these theories and then analyse how managers could apply these theories effectively in the modern workplace.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) is viewed as the father of human psychology by creating his first hierarchy of needs in 1943. He believed that people have nine innate needs or motives in their lives at all times which are: 1. Biological requirements e.g. the basic need for survival such as sunlight, food, air, water, sleep, sexual expressions; 2. Safety; the need for security, protection, comfort, shelter, freedom from the fear and threat from the environment; 3. Affiliation, the need for love and relationships; 4. Esteem, the need for recognition, attention, strength and self-esteem; 5. Knowing and understanding, the need for curiosity and exploring; 6. Aesthetics, needs for order and beauty; 7. Transcendence; 8. Freedom of enquiry and expression; 9. Self-actualization, needs for the development of our full potential.( A.Huczynski and A.bunchanan. 2007). Maslow’s model of motivation is depicted as a five-step hierarchy of human needs in the form of a triangle “as we can see in the graph below”. The lower-order needs or deficiency needs in other word are belongingness, safety and physiological needs. The higher-order needs are esteem needs and self-actualisation. If the lower-order needs are not satisfied, we cannot move on to any of the higher levels (Robin Fincham and Peter Rhodes).

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While Maslow is known as father of human psychology, Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000) is known as the “Father of Job Enrichment” with his well-known work, the two-factor theory which was written in 1943. Herzberg’s theory is called the two-factor theory because the theory is two sets of incidents; one is about achievement, promotion, recognition, autonomy, personal growth and responsibility which Herzberg named motivators. The other set involved salary, job security, working condition, company policy and interpersonal relations with supervisors and peers called hygiene factors (Robin Fincham and Peter Rhodes).

There are several similarities between Maslow and Herzberg’s theories. It is noticeable that Herzberg wrote his two-factor theory about twenty-three years after Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is proof that Herzberg’s theory was written almost based on Maslow’s theory. We can see that motivator factors and hygiene factors in Herzberg’s theory are a collection of higher and lower order needs respectively in Maslow’s theory. Lower order needs such as needs for friendship, job security, water, food, etc. could be seen as hygiene factors. Similarly, needs for recognition, promotion, responsibility, etc. could be seen as motivators of Herzberg’s two-factor theory (Fincham and Rhodes. 2005). From this evidence, we can infer that both Maslow and Herzberg had the same point of view about which factors were important and needed for people to be motivated in work as well as all other aspects of general life. Due to this we can say that Herzberg used Maslow’s theory as the basis for his Two Factor Theory and merely changed Maslow’s hierarchy to suit his own beliefs and make the theory more applicable to a work environment.

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Although Maslow and Herzberg’s theories are both content theories and very similar, there are some differences. One is the fact that Maslow’s theory applies to life in general whereas Herzberg geared his specifically towards the work environment and how to motivate employees rather than people in general (Montana and Charnov, 2008). Further evidence is that Herzberg wrote his theory based on interviews with 200 employees while Maslow’s hierarchy was written with 3,000 unemployed people involved e.g. college students (Fincham and Rhodes, 2005). For the reason that Herzberg’s theory is merely focused and relevant to the workplace therefore the theory is more suitable and recommended for managers to use to motivate their employees. However, this theory has now become slightly incorrect; the reason is people can be satisfied and motivated by all the aspects of life not only at work.

As mentioned at the beginning, Herzberg’s theory states that motivation is divided into two dimensional (e.g. Motivators and hygiene); each dimensional is consisted of different factors (Thompson, 1996). While, Maslow separated motivation into five different levels of needs. This can be understood that Maslow took into account Herzberg’s hygiene factors and other factors not associated with work such as food, shelter and social needs.


As mentioned early, there are five distinct levels of need on Maslow’s hierarchy of need and each level must be satisfied in order before moving on to higher levers. Thus, how might managers apply this theory in the workplace? Firstly, the lowest order- Physiological needs of Maslow’s hierarchy have to be satisfied (e.g. needs for foods, shelter, etc.) by paying employees decent salary. After the first order has been satisfied, employees are motivated to work toward to the next level e.g. Safety or security needs. To be able to fulfil this level, employees should be given health insurance or guaranteed with their job for instant, contract. Managers could create a good relationship between them and their staffs or between each staff, team and group for examples, managers might have one-to-one talk with their staffs if necessary, correct them if there is any problems or praise them in person when they have done well; this might make the staffs feel valued and are motivated to work harder and productively. However, not every people in the same levels are motivated in the same way.

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Reference List

  1. “motivation is concerned…” Krech, D., Crutchfield, R. S. and Ballachey, E.L (1962). Cited in Mullins, L., 1993, Management and Organisational Behaviour, 3rd edition Pitman Publishing, 443.
  2. “motivation is an organisational context is a social process…” (Bunchana, D. And Huczynski, A., 1985 Organizational Behaviour, Prentice- Hall international p.62)
  3. “what needs people attempt to satisfy and the needs which motivate” ( Motivating others, David P. Thompson, p.9)
  4. “argues that we have nine innate needs” (Organizational Behaviour, 6th Edition, Andrzej A. Huczynski and Davia A. Bunchana, 2007, pg 242)
  5. “If the lower- orders needs…” (Robin Fincham. Peter Rhodes, pg 195)
  6. “Herzberg took a somewhat different approach…” ( Management- Patrick J.Montana and Bruce H.Charnov, Fourth Edition, pg 239)
  7. Further evidence is that Herzberg wrote his theory based on interviews with 200 employees while Maslow’s hierarchy was written with 3,000 unemployed people involved e.g. college students (Fincham and Rhodes, 2005)
  8. “two-dimensional” David Thompson, 1996, pg 13. Motivating Others.
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