Differentiate between intrinsic motivators and extrinsic motivators, with reference to McClelland's motivational needs theory and Vroom's expectancy theory.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

McCelland's motivational needs theory and Vroom's expectancy theory are both rooted in management understanding how both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators play a role in the workforce.  Both theories are predicated upon management knowing their workers.  Some workers are impacted through extrinsic motivators while others are more intrinsically motivated.  Both models of motivation stress that management know which type of motivators will create the greatest incentive for their workers to be the most productive.

In McClelland's motivational needs theory, there are three basic motivators that drive the individual. These are achievement, affiliation, and power.  One can see how McClelland views the role of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators in each condition.  For example, McClelland's understanding of achievement is based on intrinsic motivation, such as wanting to accomplish challenging tasks and goals and receiving feedback on how work products can be improved.  In this aspect of employee needs, intrinsic motivation is critical.  From this point, there is a pivot into more extrinsic motivation, such as acknowledgement from others and group membership in the affiliation needs sector.  There is still that intrinsic motivation in order to seek a sense of community, but its externalization makes it also extrinsic.  Such a transformation moves into the extrinsic realm in the power aspect of McClelland's needs.  Status, recognition, and being seen as the focal point of success within the organization is where extrinsic motivators reveal themselves most clearly in McClelland's model.  In this configuration, management has to understand the desire of its workers, placing them in a position where intrinsic motivators appeal to specific workers and extrinsic ones appeal to others.

When Vroom studies organizational behavior, he understands that recognizing this balance of when extrinsic and intrinsic motivators is essential.  Vroom articulates this as critical to his analysis:

This theory emphasizes the needs for organizations to relate rewards directly to performance and to ensure that the rewards provided are those rewards deserved and wanted by the recipients.

In his Expectancy Theory, Vroom argues that “intensity of work effort depends on the perception that an individual’s effort will result in a desired outcome.”   The desired outcome might be intrinsic or extrinsic, and Vroom asserts that management has to understand which outcome is more appealing to its workers in order to gain the desired end.  Vroom's analysis focuses on the process of making decisions, and thus is more open ended about which motivator plays a larger role in the decision making process of the worker. Rewarding performance is a significant part of this and management plays a vital role in determining what this is.  Naturally, with the presence of any reward, there is some degree of extrinsic motivation.  However, this extrinsic aspect might be intrinsic, ensuring self- worth is validated or that accomplishment is its own reward.  Management must gauge where its workforce's expectation lies and in doing so, understands the motivating factor of its workers.