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Human Relations in the Organization: Theories of Motivation Study Guide

Updated on May 25, 2015

2.1 Theories of Motivation

  • Which of the following statements about the interaction between motivation, ability, environment, and performance is accurate?

Performance is best described as the result of the interaction between motivation, ability, and environment.

  • Which of the following scenarios shows evidence of motivation? Choose the BEST answer.

Meeting work deadlines—especially ahead of schedule—strongly suggests a motivated employee. According to the text, motivation is the desire to achieve a goal or a performance level.

2.2 Self-Assessment 3: Locus of Control

  • What did you learn about yourself from this self-assessment?


I learned a lot about myself from this self-assessment. The assessment taught me that I have a moderate internal locus of self-control meaning that I have an average or moderate view that my actions influence events. Prior to taking this self-assessment I had not considered my own thoughts towards whether or not my actions or fate/luck influenced events around me. After seeing my results I now know that I believe that my own actions influence event most of the time, but that fate/luck can also play a role in how events unfold. I feel that my moderate locus of control is beneficial to me because I have the benefits of having an internal locus of self-control without suffering the drawbacks which can come from having a strong locus of self-control.

2.3 A Motivating Place to Work: The Case of Zappos

  • According to the article, how does Zappos test the motivation of its new hires?

Zappos offers everyone going through company training $2,000 to quit, in the hope that it will persuade anyone who isn’t truly motivated to work somewhere else. In effect, this generous offer provides a good test of potential employees’ motivation.

  • In the view of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, which of the following is MOST responsible for motivating people?

Happiness is the driving force behind people’s actions, according to Hsieh, and he has accordingly structured his company to maximize happiness for his employees.


2.5 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  • Which of the following BEST summarizes Maslow’s theory of motivation?

Maslow’s theory is a hierarchy: after basic needs are satisfied, the higher-order needs become motivators. All needs are important, but they proceed in rank order, as it’s hard to improve your prospects of self-actualization if you are worried about lower-order needs like job security.

  • Imagine you have just started a new job that offers generous health benefits. Which of the following needs has been satisfied, in the view of Maslow?

Health benefits and retirement planning satisfy safety needs, as they will assure individuals that they will be cared for when they get sick or retire.

  • Imagine you have a friend who is struggling with his self-esteem. Which of the following actions is MOST likely to help him?

His esteem needs could be met by receiving praise from a friend. Joining a frisbee team would satisfy his social needs, renewing his contract would satisfy his safety needs, and eating breakfast would satisfy his physiological needs.

  • Samuel is a manager at a distribution facility, and he has noticed a lack of morale and camaraderie among his employees. As a result, he is concerned about their social needs. Which of the following could BEST satisfy his employees’ social needs?

A company-wide bowling tournament could satisfy Samuel’s employees’ social needs. Social needs are typically related to friendships and bonding with others, and the bowling event would allow this to occur more naturally.

2.6 Self-Assessment 4: Burnout

  • What did you learn about yourself from this self-assessment?


This self-assessment did not teach me that much about myself. I scored a 33 on the assessment which means that I may be at risk for burnout. Prior to this assessment I already knew that I was at risk for burnout because I have begun to experience a more negative view towards work lately. However this is not a big concern for me because as an after school counselor I have the summers off. This means that in a few weeks I will have plenty of time off to recover and recharge before going back to work next school year. The only thing I really did learn from this test is that I need to take care to remain even tempered and to not judge any situation harshly due to my being burnt out.

2.7 ERG Theory

  • The relatedness category, as proposed by Alderfer, includes which of Maslow’s needs?

Relatedness corresponds to Maslow’s idea of social needs.

  • Which of the following statements highlights the main contribution that ERG theory made to Maslow’s theory of needs?

ERG theory suggests that more than one need may be in play at a time, and each need is not necessarily fulfilled in order.

  • Dave is a coworker of yours, and he has repeatedly expressed his aggravation that he doesn't have many friends at work or outside of work. According to ERG theory, what need or category of needs may Dave focus on instead?

Dave may focus on his existence or growth needs, since his relatedness needs are not being met. ERG theory includes the frustration-regression hypothesis, which suggests that if someone is frustrated by their inability to meet a particular need, they will shift their focus to fulfilling other needs.


2.8 Two-Factor Theory

  • Which of the following BEST describes “hygiene factors”?

As the text explains, “hygiene factors” are the elements that make up a job’s environment, as opposed to the job itself. They include company policies, supervision, working conditions, salary, safety, security on the job, and so on.

  • Which of the following is a common criticism of Herzberg’s two-factor theory? Choose the BEST answer.

The issue of pay (and other factors) is complicated. Herzberg classified pay as a hygiene factor, but, as critics point out, pay may also have value as a motivator, because higher pay usually reflects an increase in an employee’s recognition and responsibility.

2.9 Acquired-Needs Theory

  • In the view of acquired-needs theory, which of the following jobs would be BEST suited for someone with a high need for achievement?

Entrepreneurship is a career best suited for someone with a high need for achievement. People with this need work best in careers that have explicit goals and provide a lot of feedback.

  • Imagine that Michelle is taking the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). She comes up with the following story about the above image: the woman is looking at a picture of her husband and family and is smiling because she can’t wait to be at home with them tonight. How will the test administrator likely evaluate Michelle’ test? Choose the BEST answer.

Michelle’s response to the image suggests that she has a need for affiliation, which means that she prefers to interact with others and be around friends.

  • Mark has just finished his TAT. In his story, he describes a woman who has sacrificed time at home with her family in order to work in a new executive position. The woman is an advisor to the CEO and wants to manage as many people in her company as possible. How will the test administrator likely evaluate Mark’s test?

Mark’s response to the image suggests that he has a need for power, because his story is focused on influencing others and making an impact on an organization.

2.11 Equity Theory

  • Imagine that you are the head of your company’s accounting department. Which of the following people at your company is an appropriate referent to you? Choose the BEST answer.

The head of the marketing department is an appropriate referent to you. It is important that referents be at a comparable level to and have similar goals and requirements as the person to whom they are being compared.

  • Which of the following statements BEST summarizes equity theory?

According to equity theory, individuals are motivated by a sense of fairness in their interactions.

  • Which of the following is an example of an input?

Computer skills are a good example of an input, which includes level of education, training, and skills.

  • Imagine you are the head of your company’s marketing department. You recently discover that you make $10,000 a year more than the head of the sales department. According to the text, how are you likely to react to this payment gap?

Though you might experience some slight initial guilt, research shows that individuals find ways to change their perceptions of the situation, such as believing that they bring more education and/or skills to the job than the referent.

2.12 Individual Differences in Reactions to Inequity

  1. From an equity theory perspective, which of the following descriptions BEST applies to a boss who expects a yearly bonus and salary increase even though he has not improved his performance in years?

The boss is “entitled,” an individual who expects generous compensation for comparatively little input.

  • Which of the following would be a good way to increase procedural justice within an organization?

Procedural justice argues that a company’s decision-making policies should be applied consistently and in a way that involves the employees. If company managers are soliciting feedback from employees before they make decisions that will affect the employees, they are practicing procedural justice.

  • Which of the following old sayings BEST captures the spirit of interactional justice?

“Treat others how you want to be treated” best describes interactional justice, which is concerned with fairness in the way people are treated.

  • Which of the following scenarios BEST captures the ideal of distributive justice?

After working overtime for the past three months, Rosa is given a promotion and a raise. Distributive justice refers to the degree to which outcomes received from an organization are perceived to be fair. A promotion and raise seems like a fair response to all of Rosa’s hard work.


2.13 Self-Assessment 5: Holmes Stress Scale

  • What did you learn about yourself from this self-assessment?

I scored a 29 on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale assessment; I learnt that this score means that I have only a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future. This self-assessment taught me that I do not have a lot of stress in my life that could cause me to become ill in the future. Prior to taking this assessment I thought that I would have scored in the 150-299 range because I thought that small every day stresses contributed a lot towards a person’s chance of getting ill.

2.14 Expectancy Theory

  • Which of the following BEST summarizes the idea of expectancy theory?

According to expectancy theory, individual motivation to put forth more or less effort is determined by a rational calculation in which individuals evaluate their situation.

  • Which of the following BEST describes valence, according to expectancy theory?

Valence is the anticipated satisfaction that comes from achieving an outcome, and can be positive or negative. If you would find the outcomes enjoyable, you have a positive valence; if you find the outcomes undesirable, you would have negative valence.

  • Imagine you are a manager and you are interested in increasing the instrumentality perceptions of your employees. Which of the following is the BEST way to proceed?

Consistently giving rewards to high performers is the best way to increase the instrumentality perceptions of your employees. Instrumentality is the perception that performance is related to outcomes, like rewards; connecting rewards to performance using bonuses, merit pay, and other award systems is a great way to achieve high instrumentality.

  • You have always made good grades in school, believing that if you can keep your GPA above 3.5 that you will be able to find your dream job. Which of the following BEST describes your perception of your GPA?

High instrumentality describes your perception of your GPA. Instrumentality is the perception that performance leads to positive rewards.

2.15 Reinforcement Theory

  • You are an excellent student and do well in your classes. You study for tests weeks in advance and often ask the instructor for help. After the term is over, your final report card is marked with all A’s. As a result, you decide to continue studying the same way next term. This is an example of what type of reinforcement?

This is an example of positive reinforcement, which means that positive behavior is followed by positive reinforcement.

  • Which of the following BEST exemplifies Steven Kerr’s quote about “the folly of rewarding A while hoping for B”?

A manager who decides to reward an employee who cuts corners to make a project deadline exemplifies Kerr’s statement, which describes rewarding behaviors that lead to certain positive outcomes but are achieved in undesirable or unethical ways.

  • Which of the following actions BEST exemplifies extinction?

Extinction is used to decrease negative behaviors by not rewarding them. If an employee is disrupting office productivity because his desk is in the front of the office and he feels compelled to speak with everyone who walks by, moving his desk to a place with lower foot traffic should end his disruptive behavior (and increase office productivity).

  • Sam is a manager who has decided to reward his employees every time his branch reaches a 5-percent profit increase per year. What type of reinforcement schedule is Sam utilizing?

He is utilizing a continuous schedule, which means that good behavior is rewarded every time it occurs.

  • Consider the following scenario: Reginald, who is a manager, discovers that some of his employees are stealing their coworkers’ lunches. During which step of his organizational behavior modification program would he look at the causal factors of this undesirable behavior?

During step 3, analyzing behavior antecedents and outcomes, Reginald would look at causal factors. Why are the lunches being eaten? Are the lunch-eaters being unintentionally rewarded for their behavior?

2.16 The Role of Ethics and National Culture

  • According to the research cited in this section, what motivates employees to act ethically (or unethically)?

The research presented on this page argues that ethical behavior is a learned behavior. If an employee is surrounded by ethical coworkers and managers, it is more likely that he or she will behave ethically at the office.

  • In the experiment mentioned at the beginning of the page, why did the participants stop behaving unethically?

Participants stopped behaving unethically after they were threatened with punishment.

  • Which of the following is a true statement regarding culture and motivation theories?

Fairness is relative to each culture. All cultures value justice and fairness, but what is considered fair depends on the culture.

  • Which of the following statements about the ways different cultures interpret Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is MOST accurate?

The text says that in industrialized nations like the United States, esteem needs are more powerful motivators than physiological needs.

2.17 Motivation in Action: The Case of Trader Joe’s

  • Think back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Which level of needs does the work environment at Trader Joe’s seem to strive to fulfill? Choose the BEST answer.

The happy, motivating work environment at Trader Joe’s seems to strive to satisfy the self-actualization level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

  • Which of the following is a way that Trader Joe’s motivates its employees to do a good job?

According to the reading, Trader Joe’s has been able to motivate its employees by promoting an environment of collaboration and autonomy. It also pays its employees generously and provides them with regular feedback.

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