Motivation drives an individual to go beyond the normal level and achieve success with great energy and enthusiasm. It pushes people to come out of their comfort zone, perform well, and be productive for their personal or professional growth. Theories of motivation allow management to understand the behavior of their employees based on their passion and interest. They put them in situations that lead to better progress of individuals and the organization as a whole.

What are Motivation Theories?

Motivation theories refer to the study of the development of inspiration to achieve certain aims at a professional or personal level. It means the theories help identify the process of learning and understanding an individual's motivation to achieve a particular result. Motivation theories are helpful in several fields, including sociology, psychology, and business management. 

The theories are beneficial and widely applicable in management to identify the factors inspiring employees. Consequently, they aid in enhancing the productivity and profit of individuals and organizations.

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Here are some popular motivational theories to find the factors that motivate individuals:

Maslow's Theory Of Hierarchical Needs

Any individual cannot focus on complex requirements until their basic requirements have not been fulfilled. Maslow’s theory outlines this hierarchy by creating a pyramid to portray the process of individuals fulfilling their basic needs before progressing to the higher level needs. These needs are generally categorized into five types, including

  1. Psychological Needs: It is about the basic survival needs that are needed in our daily life routine, such as food, shelter, water, clothes and so on. Psychological needs can only be fulfilled by the individual’s income.
  2. Safety Requirements: Safety needs refer to the needs that make individuals feel secure and protected. Protection from deprivation, employment security, health, property and other factors are included in safety requirements.
  3. Social Needs: They cover the individual’s sense of belonging. Everyone strives to associate with people and organizations to connect, affiliate, and join groups and communities. They indulge in team-building activities.
  4. Self-Esteem Needs: Individuals have a quest for recognition and respect. It makes them feel confident in their area and boosts self-esteem. This esteem can be fostered by acknowledging the employees' achievements and providing positive feedback.
  5. Self-Actualization Needs: Self-actualization is the highest phase of Maslow’s theory that trains individuals to have long-term complex goals to reach this level. The need inspires workers to deliver effective tasks, learn more, and work for their personal development in challenging fields. 



Mcclelland's Theory Of Needs

The theory affirms the three motivating drivers that every individual needs, though each would vary with the type of personality. The management must understand employees' behavior of striving for their specific needs and motivate them accordingly. The three dominant needs are as follows:

1. Achievement:

Some people have a hunger to be successful and get recognition. They always strive for competition to achieve higher standards in their work environment. Furthermore, they seek quick acknowledgment of their progress to be consistent in their result-based efforts.

2. Affiliation:

The theory claims that individuals want to be associated and accepted in groups. The theory aids management in understanding their employees' striving for growth within the team and building interpersonal skills, strengthening the relations between coworkers so that they can encourage them accordingly.

3. Power:

Some desire control of their work and are interested in leading others at their workplace. They incorporate their leadership skills to distribute work, coordinate events, and inspire coworkers.



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Incentive Theory

The theory determines that rewards or punishments influence employees' work behavior. Therefore, these are the primary motivators for individuals performing certain tasks and achieving specific results. For instance, 

  • Bonus: It refers to the reward that is given to the employees for their exceptional performance. 

  • Opportunity: It is a type of incentive given to individuals through paid training or continuing education to enhance their knowledge and build their skills.
  • Promotion: Providing a higher position or salary can make employees feel their importance and growth.
  • Paid off: Providing compensation for taking leave as additional holidays on emergency needs or planned trips can make employees feel satisfied.



Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

The theory states that two factors influence satisfaction or dissatisfaction:

  1. Hygiene Factors: Satisfaction can be influenced by factors like professional relations, policies, working environment, attitude of the supervisor. If these factors are fine, they can motivate employees and vice versa.
  2. Motivators Factors: Motivating factors, including recognition, personal growth, achievements, career and responsibilities, are crucial for employees. Acknowledging these enhances job satisfaction.



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Vroom's Expectancy Theory

The theory states that expectations for the future can have a major impact on an individual’s motivation. It means that conscious choices from the options given can boost pleasure and decrease pain. The factors that influence motivation are:

  • Expectancy: It implies that Increased efforts bring success. It means if you work hard, you will get better outcomes.
  • Instrumentality: Getting incentives or rewards if you meet performance expectations.
  • Valence: It refers to how an employee gives importance to the expected results. 



McGregor’s Theory X And Theory Y 

McGregor introduced Mcgregor’s theory in his book named ‘The Human Side of Enterprise.’ In the book, he stated two styles of management, i.e., 

1. Theory X: 

The theory incorporates micromanaging individuals who have low motivation, are incapable of performing well, dislike their work, avoid work and responsibility and so on. Micromanagement gets the task done appropriately by using an authoritarian style of management. 

2. Theory Y: 

The theory states that managers can use a decentralized and participative management approach for people who are enthusiastic towards their work, take responsibility for their work or do not need to be supervised to get the task done appropriately.



Alderfer’s Erg Theory

The theory liquidized Maslow’s five hierarchy of needs into three categories, i.e., existence, growth and relatedness, along with physiological and materialistic desires (such as affection, clothing, food, water, etc.). It focuses on the following:

  • Existence: It involves the basic needs for living, like food and shelter.
  • Growth: It determines the intrinsic need for personal development aligned with self-esteem, achievement, and confidence. It requires problem-solving skills, creativity and morality.
  • Relatedness: It involves interpersonal relationships, such as social interactions, terms with family members, belongings or love-related needs.




Theories of motivation aid management teams in bringing out the best ways to achieve organizational goals and work toward the desired outcomes. If we apply the theories of motivation successfully, it helps to bring positiveness, support, and inspire the employees efficiently, leading to the growth of individuals, teams and the entire organization. 

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1. What are the theories of motivation?

Theories of motivation help understand the factors that motivate individuals to perform efficiently toward their specific goals. It helps management to influence individuals to achieve the result effectively.

2. Who is the father of motivation theory?

An American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, is popularly known as the father of motivation theory.

3. What is Maslow's motivation theory?

Maslow’s motivation theory determines the five fundamental needs of individuals. It incorporates physiological, safety, love and belongingness (social need), esteem and self-actualization needs. Individuals cannot switch to their complex high-level needs before fulfilling these fundamental needs.

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