Compare and contrast three motivation theories. Provide one example of each.

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In business, motivated employees make both individuals and companies profitable and successful. Businesses include large groups of diverse individuals, and the study of motivation is important as companies look for insights into what pushes employees to work hard, especially when adversity arises, in order to accomplish goals.

There are two main categories of motivational theories: content theories and process theories. Content theories deal with “what motivates people” while process theories deal with “how motivation occurs.”

One of the content theories is McClelland’s Needs Theory, which categorizes an individual’s needs into three groups: power, affiliation, and achievement. Those driven by their need for power seek high-level positions in order to exercise control over an organization. Those driven by their need for affiliation desire acceptance and love from others. Others are driven by a need for achievement, and these people work relentlessly in order to accomplish goals by taking calculated risks and seeking immediate feedback on their work. These achievement seekers are less motivated by money and instead derive greater pleasure from the accomplishment of a job well done.

One of the process theories is Adam’s Equity Theory, which contends that employees make contributions in time and efforts (inputs) for money (outcomes). An employee is constantly evaluating this tradeoff and will become de-motivated if the inputs outweigh the outcomes. An example of this in the workplace is if two people at the same level who complete the same amount of work are paid unequally, the lesser paid employee will become de-motivated.

Another process theory is Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory, which posits that the behavior of an employee is the function of its consequences, so an individual’s behavior develops as a result of previously performed actions. If an employee completes a task on time and receives positive consequences such as a monetary bonus or praise from a manager, the employee becomes more likely to repeat that behavior.

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There are many ways to view motivation in the workplace and it has been a source of study for many years. Of the theories there are three which stand out as macro theories on motivation; Scientific management, Human Relations, and the Hiearchy of Needs. The theories have few similarities and many differences. The differences are apparent when analyzing the characteristics of each theory. However, they all share a common factor. Each theory of motivation is dependent upon the management to institute the motivational factor. It is encumbant upon the organization to create an atmoshphere of motivation because workers will not self-motivate.

The Scientific Management theory postulated by Frederick Taylor (1856-1917) suggests workers are motivated almost entirely by pay. He suggests workers dislike working and would choose to enjoy liesure activity over work if given the choice. Therefore, Taylor surmised the worker was motivated by pay in order to meet basic needs and obtain liesure status at some point. This theory suggests workers are given a motivation to increase productivity when they increase output, also known as the piece-rate pay theory. This theory is still in use tody. The transportation industry is one example. Traditional taxi services and even newer services such as Uber revolve around the driver pay based on the number of customers serviced. A major criticism of theory is it does not explain every job category. Volunteers by definition receive no pay for their services, yet there are thousands of people who choose to work over liesure activity. This disparity cannot be readily explained by Taylor's theory.

Elton Mayo (1880-1949) argued the Human Relation theory best addressed motivating a group. He introduced the Hawthorne Effect by studying the effects of management in Chicago. This theory argues people are motivated to perform when they are part of a team. Central themes to this theory include equality among peers and the fair evaluation of their work product. In his experiments, Mayo found the work conditions of the office environment had little effect on workers when they had communication with supervisors and felt valuable. This theory is probably the most widespread motivation system in use today, evolving into the primary evaluation system in many companies. One institution where it is easily observed is the military. The espirit de corps, or group motivation, of teams are higher when everyone is given a part of the mission, despite the inherent dangers of combat. A critique of this theory is the inadequate contributions of workers. One worker may include greater input into the project and feel the contribution should gain more recognition. Inequality can quickly override the motivation.

The theory of the Hiearchy of Needs is closely related to Mayo's theory. Abraham Maslow and Frederick Herzberg forwarded the idea the workers are motivated when their needs are met along many different levels ranging from basic needs to advancement recognition. Awards in this system vary depending upon the needs and expectation of the workers. This theory gives companies the greatest diversity in providing individual motivation to workers. It is an emerging motivation field seen in many companies such as Google with fringe benefits not seen in traditional office environments. The downside is the benefits can be costly and are the first thing to be cut during recession which can multiply demotivation among employees.

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