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December 20, 2016

Psychological Theories of Motivation (Theory X and Y)

December 20, 2016


Motivation is derived from the word motive which means needs, desires or wants within individuals. Motivation is the process of stimulating people to accomplish desired goals. It can also be defined to give a reason someone to do something. Workers are motivated in the workplace to produce best result for business. A highly motivated person will hard work toward achieving performance goals.

In this article we are discussing the following motivation theories.

1. Humanistic theory              (Abraham Maslow)

2. Two factor theory               (Frederick Herzberg)

3. Theory x and theory y        (Douglas McGregor)

Motivation Theories: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Humanistic Theory

Humanistic theory was proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 article “A Theory of Human of Motivation” in Psychological Review. According to him, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs. Maslow explains that individual strives to satisfy a higher need when lower needs are satisfied. He describes the hierarchy of needs are as follows:

1. Physiological needs.

2. Safety and security needs.

3. Love and Belonging needs.

4. Self-Esteem needs.

5. Self-Actualization needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


1. Physiological Needs:
Human physiological needs are those required for human survival, such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep.  If these needs are not satisfied, a human body cannot function properly. They are considered to be the most important needs because all other needs depend on the physiological needs being met. So once the basic needs are satisfied, we may think about other needs.

2. Safety and Security Needs:
Once the physiological needs are satisfied a human starts pursuing the higher level of needs which are safety and security needs. Such needs may be fulfilled by living in a safe environment, job security, financial security, health insurance, and freedom from threats. If a person does not feel secure, first he will strive to find safety before he attempts to satisfy any higher level of needs.

3. Love and Belonging Needs:
Having satisfied basic and security needs the need for love and affection become important. Human nature is full of love. He has love for his children, brothers, sisters and parents. He wants to belong to others and make friends. He likes to give and receive love from others. But the lower needs must be met before an individual begins to pursue the need to belong.

4. Self-Esteem Needs:
After satisfaction of social needs a human strives to fulfill esteem needs. This kind of needs can be accomplished by self-respect, respect from others, achievement, recognition, high status and self-confidence. Status may be gained through a position within an organization. When a person has status, he is widely recognized. But this level of need is harder to satisfy.

5. Self-Actualization Needs:
Self-actualization is the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualization takes place when a person realizes his full potential. Maslow defines that it is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming. When people are able to achieve self-actualization, they tend to be motivated by increased opportunities to satisfy that need. 

Two Factor Theory

The two factor theory was developed by Frederick Herzberg in 1950s based on the concept of employee satisfaction. Herzberg was a professor of Psychologist at Case Western Reserve University in USA. He conducted a series of experiments in motivation with two hundred engineers and accountants. He asked these employees to describe positive and negative feelings about their work. By resulting data, he concluded two important factors in every job:

1. Maintenance Factors.

2. Motivational Factors.

1. Maintenance Factors:
The maintenance factors can lead to dissatisfaction of employees, if they are absent or inadequate. These factors can avoid dissatisfaction of employees but do not significantly motivate them. Herzberg discovered maintenance factors in the workplace are:

1. Company policy and management.

2. Technical supervision.

3. Relationship with supervisor.

4. Relationship with peers.

5. Relationship with subordinates.

6. Salary.

7. Job security.

8. Personal life.

9. Work conditions.

10. Status.

2. Motivational Factors:
The motivational factors lead to satisfaction and motivation of employees for better performance. These factors do not lead to dissatisfaction, if they are not present. According to Herzberg study, the motivational factors in the workplace are:

1. Achievement.

2. Recognition.

3. Advancement.

4. The work itself.

5. Possibility of promotion.

6. Responsibility.


Theory X and Theory Y

McGregor was an American management scientist. He proposed two contrasting motivation theories as theory x and theory y in 1960 in his book “The Human Side of Enterprise”. These theories are following.

Theory x:
Theory x assumes autocratic management. Managers under theory x believe that most people are naturally lazy and require close control and supervision. Theory x managers are extremely task-oriented. They centralize power and authority.

 Theory x has the following assumptions.

1. An average person dislikes work and attempts to avoid it whenever possible.

2. Most people have to be forced with the threat of punishment to get work done.

3. An average person avoids responsibility and prefers to be directed.

Theory y:
Theory y assumes democratic management. Managers under theory y believe that most people like to work and do not need to be forced and controlled. They do not believe in centralization of power and authority.

Theory y has the following assumptions.

1. The physical and mental effort of work is as natural to humans as play and rest. Therefore, an average person does not dislike work.

2. Coercion is not required to get work done. Workers exercise self-direction and control to achieve organizational objectives.

3. Rewards and job satisfaction will result workers’ loyalty and commitment to organization. 

4. An average person can learn to accept and even seeks responsibility and do not need much direction.

5. Most people are creative and innovative. These capabilities can be utilized to solve problems at work.

Both theories are opposite to each other and represent extreme viewpoints. They are applied according different situations. If employees dislike work, the manager will tend to adopt autocratic style of management (Theory x). On the other hand, if employees like to work, he will tend to adopt humanistic approach (Theory y).
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