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M.J. Arul

Motivation is one of the constructs psychologists have propounded in their quest for understanding the individual. The word is derived from the Latin verb movere, which means "to move". That which moves a person to act or behave is what motivates a person. The inner drive, the urge or the desire of the person to do something is called motivation. If we can identify what motivates a person to behave, psychologists say, we can understand the person.

The root of all motivation seems to be needs: The individual has needs, which orient and energise the person to engage in behaviour that will satisfy the needs. That is to say, human beings behave to satisfy their needs. Attempts to explain this view of behaviour have given rise to various theories of motivation.

Here we shall take a cursory look at some of the theories before we stop in class to discuss the topic in detail.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, classified all human needs into five categories and arranged them in a hierarchy of prepotency: i) Basic or physiological needs, ii) Safety and security needs, iii) Love or belongingness needs, iv) Esteem needs, and v) Self-actualisation needs. Maslow referred to the first two categories as lower-order needs and the remaining three as higher-order needs.

Maslow says that only unsatisfied needs motivate, but they follow a sequential hierarchy: Only when the physiological needs of a person are reasonably satisfied will the person be motivated by the next set of (safety) needs. When the physiological and safety needs are reasonably satisfied, the person will feel the urge of love, esteem, and self- actualisation needs in that order--after each preceding need has been, and continues to be, reasonably satisfied. The theory also maintains that whatever level of needs may be motivating a person at a given phase of his/her life, there will occur a reversal or slide-back to the needs of that lower level whose satisfaction has been blocked for a significant period of time.

Alderfer's ERG Theory

Clayton Alderfer re-classified human needs into Existence or survival needs, Relatedness or social needs, and personal Growth needs. According to him, the prepotency or rank of these categories is neither universal nor predictable; it differs from person to person as a function of culture, education, family background, age, etc. Neither the sequence nor the salience of these needs can, therefore, be generalised to all individuals.

McClelland's Theory

David McClelland in his 1961 book The Achieving Society proposed that humans are motivated by three needs: Need for achievement or nAch, need for power or nPow, and need for affiliation or nAff. Udai Pareek, an Indian psychologist, who worked with McClelland, added the need for extension or nExt to the list.

nAch: The desire or drive to excell in whatever one does. It is the inner urge to do things better and better or more and more efficiently than before; to strive constantly to achieve self-set standards.

nPow: The desire or drive to influence, or have impact on, others; it urges one to acquire prestige and/or control over others.

nAff: The desire or need to be liked and accepted by others; it is the drive to form and maintain meaningful relationships with others.

nExt: The drive to help others in need. It does not refer to one's "helping" others as a means of satisfying one's other needs. This motive is an urge to help others purely as a function of one's realisation that the other person needs help and that one is capable of providing the help.

McClelland contends that the motive profile of a person can change, both as a function of one's life course as well as formal training. He has demonstrated with abundant evidence that nAch can be increased by formal training. We shall get back to this in session 28, where we discuss "manager development".

Other Theories: Herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation, also known as the Motivation-Hygiene theory, is more relevant to employees at work. So are the theories of Equity, Goal-setting, Reinforcement, etc. Since these theories relate to work motivation rather than motivation in general, they may more appropriately be discussed in a course on personnel management.

Vroom's Expectancy Theory

Victor H Vroom in his 1964 book Work and Motivation presents a theory, which appears more comprehensive than other theories and is applicable to employees at work as well as humans in general.

Briefly, the expectancy theory states that motivation to behave or perform depends on three variables: Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence.

Expectancy refers to the linkage between effort and performance; it represents the strength of one's belief that such-and-such effort will result in such-and-such performance outcome. Instrumentality refers to the linkage between performance and reward; that is, the strength of one's belief that certain kind and level of performance will lead to a particular reward. Valence refers to the attractiveness or utility of the reward to the individual.

This theory states that a person will expend the required effort, i.e., he will be motivated to perform, if he believes that his effort will result in the desired performance, which will get him a reward that is important to him.

Now that we have gone through the bare outlines of some of the theories of motivation, let us discuss them.

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