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The Human Psychology and Factors That Drive Human Motivation

Updated on June 15, 2020

Nohria, Groysberg, & Lee (2008) explain that there are four emotional needs that human beings desire, which are to acquire, bond, comprehend and defend. The authors explain that organizations and leaders need to understand these drives and appeal to them equally in order to motivate employees, leading to better performance for the good of the organization. By considering these four drives, a leader can analyze various emotional needs that employees look to have fulfilled by their manger and work environment.

Employees strive to gain; they always desire to have recognition and rewards for their performance. “Reward systems that truly value good performance fulfill the drive to acquire” (Nohria et al., 2008). Authors’ theory of “drive to acquire” correlates with Dubrin’s (2007) “expectancy theory”, which says that “the amount of effort people expend depends on how much reward they expect to get in return” (p. 292). By keeping in mind the “drive to acquire”, a leader can motivate employees by using Dubrin’s (2007) “expectancy” and “goal” theories and providing rewards and recognition to improve employees’ performance to achieve desirable targets.

Crother-Laurin (2006) explains that a manager’s inclination towards controlling with power leads to employees’ frustration, fear and uncertainty, conflicting with employees needs. Crother-Laurin describes that these managers “are often poor communicators who are insensitive to morale issues; they tend to be viewed as mistrustful, over-controlling, and micromanaging” (Crother-Laurin, 2006). She explains that their inability to understand motivational drives leads to ineffective teams, low morale, poor performance and high attrition. Crother-Laurin (2006) describes that it is the responsibility of a leader to create an environment where employees can correlate with the organization’s vision and contribute effectively as an individual or in teams. Nohria et al. (2008) describe that employees prefer to be associated with an organization that promotes openness and collaboration. The authors explain that in order for a leader and an organization to fulfill this desire of “bonding”, they have to develop a culture that promotes teamwork, collaboration, openness and friendship (Nohria et al., 2008).

Nohria et al. (2008) explain that employees aspire to comprehend. They want to understand, relate their efforts and make a meaningful contribution to the organization. Employees are motivated by jobs that challenge them and help them learn and grow. The authors’ concept of “drive to comprehend” corresponds with Dubrin’s (2007) theory of “leader actions that foster teamwork”. He describes that if leaders create urgency, demand performance and provide direction, then employees perform better (p. 270). Mr. Durbin (2007) explain that if team members believe there is urgent work that needs to be completed, then they become challenged and more dedicated to achieving the outcome. He explains that teams develop motivation when leaders create an open environment in which they share facts and information with the team to help them accomplish a specific target (p. 270). Dubrin (2007) also suggests that “practicing open-book management” by sharing company finances and business goals with employees instills a self-belief in them as company business partners who become dedicated to performing better for the good of the company (p. 274).

The fourth need described by Nohria et al. (2008) is a supportive environment where employees can present their ideas freely and openly. Employees gain confidence and feel secure when organizations and leaders deliver a fair, transparent and trustworthy environment. This concept also relates to Dubrin’s (2007) theory on teamwork. He explains that a leader’s role is to “establish a climate of trust”; if team members do not trust each other then they will not work effectively in a team. He suggests that encouraging employees to communicate openly about problems and sharing information with them will help leaders to create a trust environment (Dubrin, 2007, p. 266).

Nohria et al. (2008) argues that an organization doesn’t have complete control over an employee’s motivation; the employee’s direct manager has an equal role to play. Employees understand that there are needs that a company cannot fulfill; however, a manager can bring changes into the areas of the work environment that are within his control in order to keep them motivated. Employees praise their managers for their good work even when the organization can not fulfill their four needs.


Crother-Laurin, C. (2006). Effective Teams: A symptom of healthy leadership. Journal for Quality & Participation, 29, 4-8. Retrieved November 11, 2009, from Business Source Premier database.

Dubrin, A. J. (2007). Leadership: Research findings, practice, and skills. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

Nohria, N., Groysberg, B., Lee, L., E. (2008). Employee motivation. Harvard Business Review, 86, 78-84. Retrieved November 9, 2009, from Business Source Premier database.


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