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Motivation and Management

Updated on May 9, 2013

Motivation Theories

Today there are many forms of motivation theories available to a company. From Abraham Maslow’s theory of hierarchy to B.F. Skinner’s Reinforcing Behaviors there is a theory to fit any need. The problem for a manager is to find the right motivation theory to fit his or her company’s needs. This is especially true for a health care organization. The health care industry is filled with highly trained people each with his or her own motives. No one motivation theory will work successfully to motivate every employee the goal is to find the one theory that motivates the most employees while weeding out the employees who cannot be motivated. “In other words, as an administrator or manager, an individual cannot motivate his or her employees, but can provide a supportive environment in which motivation will thrive”(Skemp-Arlt2007, page 28).

Needs and Wants

Abraham Maslow’s theory is based on the basic needs and wants of people. His theory is broken down into five different motivations. This became known as Maslow’s hierarchy of motives. “A theory of motivation must include the study of ultimate human needs and goals appropriate to humanity’s full range of being” (Zalenski & Raspa2006, page 2). To help translate his theory the motivations are broken down into parts.. The first three could best described as what people need to be comfortable and the last two what people want out of life.

Physiological Needs

The lower needs are the physiological needs; these are the needs the body needs to sustain life. The book Health Care Management translates this into reasonable work hours, physical comfort such as air conditioning in the summer, and breaks for lunch. The first lower need or motivation can be traced back to primitive humans who before settling down were hunter and gatherers wondering nomads following the animal herds and seasons to feed themselves. This basically says if the employee is not comfortable at work than he or she will not be motivated to work hard.

Safety Needs

The second motive is the need for safety. This need could be best described as the need for order. It is interesting that even before the need for social needs humans desire the need to believe they are safe from one another. This is also true about how people think about his or her job. Before most people will speak out or raise questions he or she must understand that their jobs will not be forfeit if their view conflicts with the management unless the event or task in question affects their physiological needs.

Social needs

The third need in Maslow’s hierarchy is the need to belong to something. This covers any human interaction from one-on-one relationships to large social groups such as cities and countries. This is the first need that a company can use to motivate an employee without the use of fear. By offering an employee the ability to think he or she are a part of something bigger the employee will be willing to work for a higher purpose rather than just a paycheck. The book Health Care Management suggests that with interaction between customers, fellow employees, and pleasant supervisors the employee would be satisfied in his or her job and motivated to do well.


The second and last of the motivations could be best described as wants. They are what humans want out of their lives and work experience. Beyond the basic needs the one most basic want of mankind is to define his or her existence. This includes the biggest question of all what is the meaning of life.

Esteem wants

This is the desire of people to standout from the crowd. People want the ability to achieve goals, to build a reputation in a career where he or she is an expert. Once all the needs are meet people will look for a way to prove themselves to the company and themselves. With this a company can do the most for an employee. The company can provide challenges to an employee to overcome. The employee would be rewarded with promotions and recognition for a job well done. Doing this the company could help build an employee’s esteem both personally and professionally.

Self-Actualization wants

At the height of any grand society is the search for truth. To quote Monty Python, “Why are we here? What’s life all about? Is god really real or is there some doubt” (Goldstone, 1983). The search for meaning in what people do is the height of the human existence. A company can give its employees the ability to make decisions, to have a flexible job where an employee is free to creative in his or her work. By doing this the manager is “Empowering” the employee building his or her self-esteem and self-awareness.

Maslow’s theory

Maslow’s theory is broken down into two different principles. The first is the “deficit principle” where people themselves will work to fill their needs such as a person who does not have food will find a way to find food or a person will look for a group to belong too. The second is the “progression principle” where people will not look to fulfill the next need until the lower need is complete. This means that a man or woman would not look for job security if his or her basic need of food or housing is not meet. This can be seen in the people who will steal from an employer if the physical need is greater than the social needs. Maslow’s theory advises managers to recognize that blocked or deprived needs may negatively influence work attitudes and behaviors” (Bloom, Van Reenen, 2010 page, 280). A manager can help an employee, who has difficulty in his or her personnel lives with over time for more money or counseling for emotional trouble.

Two –factor theory

Fredrick Herzberg developed the two-factor theory to explain the two reasons for people’s motivations. In a study Herzberg found it is as much the elements around the job its self that dissatisfies the employee as the amount of pay. Paying well alone could not overcome poor working conditions. “When people feel dissatisfied with pay, they do not feel satisfied after a pay boost” (Lyons2007, page 4). Herzberg used this study to come up with two lists of “factors” covering the items people find disappointing and what they find appealing.

Herzberg wants to work to improve the work environment and sense of belonging within the company. The two factors are called the “Hygiene Factors” that cover the environmental and physical work conditions and “Motivators Factors” covering the factors that motivate people to work hard. This theory also says motivating factors cannot be achieved before the hygiene factors are. An employee working in a sweatshop would not look at an increase in responsibility as a chance to achieve within the company.

Hygiene Factors

The hygiene factors include any action management can take that can elevate dissatisfaction with a job. The factors include safe working conditions, adequate pay for job, and a sense of belonging within the company. Basically the idea is a person making minimum wage working in a sweatshop for a company who looks at the employee as replaceable is not as happy as a person making a completive wage in a safe work environment for an appreciative company. Herzberg’s theory says hygiene factors can only eliminate an employee’s dissatisfaction with the company. An employee will only lose his or her dissatisfaction with a job if paid more, but he or he will not gain a new sense of achievement. This means that pay alone is not a factor for satisfaction. For an employee to be satisfied with his or her job the manager must find ways to satisfy the employees motivating factors.

Motivating Factors

Motivating factors are the elements of a job that bring about an increase in the employees self-esteem and encourages a feeling of achievement. This can include giving an employee more control and reasonability for his or her work. People will work harder on a job if the job can provide a sense of fulfillment, recognition, and the ability to advance within the company.

Critics of this theory range from the scope of his study, the methods Herzberg used, the idea when tested would only work with one in three companies, and the very idea that satisfied people are harder workers. Despite this criticism many companies and governments have used this theory to their benefit. “Texas Instruments has a ‘plan-do-control ‘program for workers, which has reduced costly overtime, freed the supervisors from close supervision, and enabled the company to increase productivity” (Sultan, 2005, page 46).

Reinforcing Behaviors

B.F. Skinner in his book Contingencies of Reinforcement created the theory of Reinforcing Behaviors. The heart of the theory is the idea of reinforcing good behavior while disciplining bad behavior. This is not a new concept. Parents since the beginning of time have used this to train their children to live within society. A child who does well will receive a reward and when the child does something outside the social rules he or she is disciplined. In the book Health Care Management the theory is broken down into four strategies Positive reinforcement, Negative reinforcement, Punishment, and Extinction.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is any action done to express approval for an action done by an employee. This can range from a manager saying to an employee his or her work is exceptional to a company offering special acknowledgement for performance such as the title of employee of the month. By creating an ideal for the employees to work toward a manager can create an atmosphere where the employees are working to meet these standards.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is the opposite of positive reinforcement. To use negative reinforcement is to make the employee understand that his or her actions are not within the company’s rules or guidelines. The idea is to shame the employee into complying with work guidelines and meet company expectations for his or her work. For many companies the best way to express displeasure with an employee is to punish the employee for his or her actions or inactions.


Then a company’s desires to end an employee’s actions or inactions that does not fit with the company’s guidelines it the responsibility the manager to use some sort of punishment for the employees misdeeds. “As a reinforcement strategy, punishment attempts to eliminate undesirable behavior by making an unpleasant consequence contingent with its occurrence” (Bloom, Van Reenen, 2010 page, 291). This can range from a simple verbal warning, a written warning, to a reduction in pay, position to termination.


Extinction is basically the removal of positive reinforcement when an employee or group of employees does not act within the company’s guidelines. This form of reinforcement is different from punishment because it is the absence of approval rather than a direct consequence such as a verbal warning. In an employee looking to advance within the company the loss of praise or acknowledgment can be a greater rebuke than a real rebuke.

Reinforcement style of management

This Reinforcement style of management is similar to the way many companies have worked for years. By accentuating the positives in a person’s work and eliminated the negatives a manager can reinforce a good work ethic while eliminating a poor attitude. Reinforcing Behaviors would be the easiest for a company to start sense most managers are already using a form of this Most managers will just punish employees for infractions and overlook the opportunity to reinforce good behavior only acknowledging acts that go beyond what is expected by the employee.

Every theory has its pros and cons. It is the responsibility of the manager to review each theory and choose the one that fits his or her own particular situation. A manager could use multiple theories to motivate his or her employees to work hard. A manager could offer a chance to an employee to make choices in his or her job to help achieve a greater self-esteem all the while creating an achievement goal for the employee. The employee would have to understand with the new reasonability comes a chance for negative reinforcement if he or she fails. A manager can provide only the right circumstances to create motivation. Motivation has to come from the employee.


Bushardt, S., Lambert, D., & Duhon, D. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications & Conflict, 11( 2), 13.

Goldstone, J. (Producer). ( 1983). Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. [Movie] Universal City, CA: Universal

Lombardi, D., Schermerhorn, J., & Kramer, B. (2007) Health Care Management.

Skemp-Arlt, K. The Administrator's Role in Employee Motivation, 76(7), 28-34.

Sultan, K. (2005) Gurus on People Management

Zalenski, R., & Raspa, R. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 9( 5), 8.

sources Consulted

Lombardi, D., Schermerhorn, J., & Kramer, B. (2007) Health Care Management.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      My psych classes and management classes came flooding back. But It's really important to have a handle on the basics of motivation so that we can actually motive people.