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HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE WORK ORGANIZATION:

THEORIES AND IMPLICATIONS

Lamp Li

productivity. Generally, we judge managers by two

I. Productivity, Job Satisfaction, and Motivation

important
In a modern society, one of the central pro-

considerations

of

production

and

people, which in turn are based on the three factors

blems is to provide jobs for all those who want and

of

are able to work. But once people get jobs, it is

interpersonal

for the management of any organization, business

driven mainly by the need for self-actualization,

motivation, participative management, and


competence. Good managers are

or governmental, to worry about employee motiva-

and are deeply interested in both people and pro-

tion: because employee motivation or motivation of

duction. They are both high-task and high-relation-

organizational members is one of the critical func-

ship oriented. Average managers are concerned with

tions of a manager, and because there is a persist-

ego status, and are high-task, low-relationship

ently increasing pressure for increased productivity

oriented. Poor managers are preoccupied by safety

in order to meet competition, to best utilize scarce


resources, and to provide goods and services to

and ego-status needs, they are of low-task, lowrelationship kind of people. Their guides are

more and more people at less and less cost.

personnel manual and SOPs, and their goal is simply

In fact, employee motivation has been very

self-preservation.

popular in management circles. Motivation, in its


traditional

sense

among

management

writers,

Motivation is often mistakenly teamed with


job

satisfaction,1

resulting

in misconceptions

means a process of stimulating people to action to

about the relationships between productivity, job

accomplish desired goals. It is a crucial factor in

satisfaction and motivation.

judging management style as well as in determining


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Traditional views treat employee satisfaction

NEW ASIA COLLEGE ACADEMIC ANNUAL VOL. XIX


as an input that contributes to productivity. How-

Thus, employee satisfaction does not neces-

ever, researches by industrial relations people

sarily lead to high employee performance, while

since early 1950s suggest that it is rather an output

highly productive employees are not necessarily

in the short run, although in the long run a

the

minimum level of satisfaction is considered neces-

management can provide both productivity and

sary and should be maintained. This change in

satisfaction. In fact, productivity and satisfaction

thinking is best seen in the following theoretical

are determined by different sets of factors. This

model on productivity-satisfaction relationships as

may be seen from the following brief listing:

highly

satisfied employees.

But

effective

developed by Porter and Lawler. (See Figure 1 .)

Figure 1. The Performance-Reward-Satisfaction Model

Perceived equitable
rewards
Employee's perceptions
of both his worth and
rewards
Intrinsic rewards
(Rewards an employee gives
himself for doing a good job)
People like to do a good job;
The employee himself gives
and controls the reward;
so
Very closely related to
performance;
Extrinsic rewards
(Pay, promotion, employee
benefits, . . .)
Organizationally controlled;
Given through performance
appraisalwhich at best
is an art, so
Not so closely related to
performance as intrinsic
rewards

Adapted from: Edward E. Lawler, III and Lyman W. Porter,


Managerial Attitudes and Performance, Irwin,
1968, p. 165.

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HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE WORK ORGANIZATION

Figure 2. Determinants of Productivity and Job Satisfaction


Determinants of productivity

Determinants of job satisfaction

Resource utilized
Technology (plant, equipment, process, . . . . )
Raw materials

Job or work situation:


Pay and promotion
Degree of job specialization
Job level
Supervision
Recognition of ability
Fair evaluation of work
Work groups

Employee's job performance


Ability to perform:
Skills
Knowledge
Motivation to perform
Physical conditions
job layout, safety, lighting, ventilation, rest
periods, music,...
Social conditions
status and role, group dynamics, influence
systems, leadership,...
Individual's needs
physiological, social, egoistic, . . .

Personal characteristics:
Age
Sex
Education
Personality
Health
Social, cultural and situational environments:
Family relationship
Social status
Recreational outlets
Activities in the Organization (labor, political,
purely social, etc.)
Economic characteristics of the community
(poor or wealthy)

In general, productivity depends on 3 things:


resources utilized, employee's ability to perform,
and employee's willingness to work or motivation to
perform. Although motivation is not the sole
determinant of productivity, it is a determinant of
crucial importance. Without motivation, resources
and ability will be of little avail, or may even result
in undesirable behavior.
II. Motives Behind Human Behavior

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A theory on motivation-to-work must at


least answer the following questions:
Why do people work in the first place? (the
decision to work)
Why do people choose a particular occupation?
(the occupation choice)
Why do individuals join a particular organization? (the decision to join an organization)
Why do some individuals decide to use their
abilities to the maximum? (the decision

NEW ASIA COLLEGE ACADEMIC ANNUAL VOL. XIX


siological needs), sex (restaurant provides a meeting

to use abilities to the maximum)


Why do some people leave an organization in

place for extra-marital affair), status (you want to

search of other position? (the decision to

be seen in a prestigious restaurant), or else. Further-

leave an organization)

more, motivation is but one of the three psycho-

Each decision or

choice has its own set of

logical processes or causes that explain the human

behavior.

What we are interested in is employee motivation on

learning.

determinants which we will not elaborate here.


the job and in an organizational context.

The other two being perception and

The basic drives or motives behind human

Motivation is a general

behavior are needs.6 There are many kinds or

term applying to the entire class of drives, desires,

categories of needs. The first writer who related

What is motivation?

needs, and wishes. It is essentially a process by

human needs within a need-hierarchy framework is

which an individual attempts to satisfy certain

Abraham Maslow7 But this hierarchy refers to the

needs by engaging in various behaviors. A motivated

motivational scale of normal, healthy people living

behavior is goal-directed, sustained, and is a result

in a relatively highly developed society. Moreover,

from internal needs and drives. Not all behavior is

Maslow did not apply his need hierarchy directly

motivated, but most of work behavior is motivated.

to work motivation until about 20 years later.8

A motive is an internal drive that "arouses, directs,

In the meantime, his propositions have been subject

and integrates a person's behavior." Psychologists

to many criticisms and modifications.9 Despite this,

like to classify motives or drives into Primary,

his need hierarchy concept has been widely used as

General,

and Secondary

categories.

However,

a theoretical foundation for management approach

motives may be quite complex and often conflict-

to motivation, especially managerial motivation.

ing. They cannot be seen or observed directly, they


can only be inferred from the behavior, or simply

III. Theories of Motivation

assumed to exist in order to explain the behavior.

Based on the concept of needs, and employ-

But alas, motives cannot always be inferred from


the behavior.5 For example, you eat at a restau-

ing the valence-expectancy

rant, what is your motive? It may be hunger (phy-

process may be presented as follows:

formulation,

and

instrumentality

a basic model of the motivation

Figure 3. A Basic Model of the Motivation Process

Need
(motive,
tension)

<>

Valence (the strength of an individual's preference for a particular


outcome)
1
Perception and selection of outcomes
which have potential for need satis-
faction
t
Expectancy (probability that a particular action will lead to a particular
outcome)

Action r*

Motivation

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First level
outcomes
(rewards):
Pay
Recognition
Promotion
Internal
satisfaction

Instrumentality

Second level
outcomes
(need satisfaction):
Power
Security
Esteem
Social

HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE WORK ORGANIZATION

From this basic process which is more or less


generally accepted to-day, it should be obvious
that the important driving force is the degree to
which the individual values certain rewards or
second-level outcomes or, what needs are
operating at what strength to motivate the individual's behavior. Against the background of the
relatively highly developed Western societies,
modern behaviorists would say that the lower-level
(physiological and safety) needs are generally
satisfied in modern industry. What is neglected
or less explored is the higher-level needs, so they
put much more emphasis on higher-level need
satisfaction in the work organization.
But their approaches to or concepts about
motivators are different. Such differences are only
natural when we consider the fact that in the-study
of employee motivation, the role of money (compensation systems), leadership, technology, job
content, work environment, etc. have all to be
considered.10 Management literature abounds with
different formulations of theories and empirical
studies about motivation. While full descriptions of
them are readily available elsewhere, it may be
worth while to briefly note here some of the
differences, bearing in mind the important point of
agreement that individual employees attempt to
satisfy many needs through their work and through
their relationship with an organization.
Somewhat along the traditional line of viewing motivation as something imposed on an
employee, Douglas McGregor and Rensis Likert
put much emphasis on management style. They
opined11 that leadership (manager) behavior based
on Theory Y assumption or system 4 management
would lead to management practice that provides
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democratic leadership and employee participation,


making employees feel real responsibility for organization's goals. This management (leadership) style
is asserted to produce better results in productivity
and job satisfaction, as it motivates the subordinates
to achieve job objectives. Several points need be
made clear here. First, Theory Y is not permissive!
In fact, it is even sterner than Theory X because
it has to achieve what Theory X achieved, and then
do a good deal more. Secondly, while leadership
style and management practice influences employee
motivation, the latter also influences the former.
Thirdly, Likert's motivational forces include both
economic rewards and the higher-level needs.
Indeed, his approach embraces the entire need
hierarchy and considers the whole man. And he
cautioned that application of the basic principles
of system 4 management should take into account
the differences in the kind of work, industry tradition, and skills and values of employees of a particular company.
Similar in nature to, but broader in scope
than, the above line of thinking is the call for an
organization structure and work environment that
would provide opportunity for internal and external
integration, employee participation, self-expression,
and self-actualization. Authors like Bakke, Argyris,
Bennis, Litwin and Stringer12 opined that the
traditional structure of rigid specialization, welldesigned jobs, and standard operating procedures
(so-called bureaucratic-mechanistic structure) can
hardly provide such work environment whose
basic ingredients consist of nature of task (involving technology and social and psychological processes), work group, and leadership. Only an
adaptive-organic system can provide a high degree

NEW ASIA COLLEGE ACADEMIC ANNUAL VOL. XIX


of job flexibility, initiative, variety, and enrichment

nally

to match the varied interests and multiple talents

behavior on the job, but not "motivate" behavior.

of modern man.

13

installed

generators,

they

"determine"

This adaptive-organic structure

Without proper provisions for them, they will cause

and environment is especially suitable for organi-

job dissatisfaction or negative motivation. However,

zations using dynamic technologies.

even with adequate provisions, they can only

On the other hand, there are behaviorists

prevent dissatisfaction, but cannot lead to positive

who seek to search for the inner forces which

and persistent motivation. So they are "dissatis-

energize and move the individual into goal-directed

fiers" by nature. The motivators, on the other

behavior. Among them, Frederick Herzberg is

hand, are the inner generators and are strongly

perhaps the most widely known author.

motivating. Since they are strongly motivating,

Herzberg differentiated two sets of needs:

they can't also be demotivating when they are not

Animal need and uniquely human need. He applied

provided. So they are "satisfiers" by nature. 14

these sets of need to work situations and made a

Herzberg's framework may be shown in the follow-

clear-cut

ing figure:

distinction

between

motivators

and

hygiene factors. The hygiene factors are the exterFigure 4: Herzberg's Two-Factot Theory of Motivation
Uniquely human need

Animal need
corresponds to

corresponds to

Maslow's lower-level needs

Maslow's higher-level needs

taken care by

taken care by

Hygiene or maintenance factors


(Dissatisfiers):
Company policy & adm.
Quality of supervision
Interpersonal relationship
Working conditions
Salary & fringe benefits
Status
Security

Real motivators
(Satisfiers):
Achievement
Recognition of achievement
Intrinsic interest of the work
Job responsibility
Growth or advancement

Related to

Related to
Job content: directly related to the job
itself

Job context or job environment: peripheral


to the job

Herzberg's theory has been subject to heavy

criticism by academicians, and evidence against his

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HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE WORK ORGANIZATION


theory
for

seems

to

evidence

become a widely known theory that describes the

it. For one thing, his theory is strictly

motivation process (refer to Figure 3), and has been

uni-dimensional:

be

factor

than

either be

supported by most of the studies that have tested

a satisfier or a dissatisfier, but cannot be both.

it. The theory takes into account individual differ-

But

there are

ences in the prediction of motivated behavior, but

job factors which lead to both satisfaction and

it offers little help for actually motivating employ-

dissatisfaction. Money and inter-personal relation-

ees.

many

a job

greater

can

research findings show

ship are good examples. Even fear of punishment


continues to be a strong motivator. Also, his theory

IV. Practical Implications

assumes that the motivator and hygiene factors

From the foregoing, we may say that needs

operate in the same fashion for everyone. This is

are the origin of much of human motivation. Motiv-

just not true. Furthermore, his theory is somewhat

ators are the inner generators of an employee. The

method-bound (he used the critical incident tech-

generators have to be incited or ignited by an

nique which generate results supporting his theory).

appropriate organizational climate.17 The logic of

Despite these criticisms, his theory has made some

all this sounds rather simple, but the implications

major contributions toward our understanding of

for action are quite complex and delicate. In what

motivation by applying need hierarchy concept to

follows, the author will attempt to raise some

the work setting. Indeed, he is the one who is

questions in regard to the translation of conceptual

truly concerned with the role of job content in

knowledge into practice.18

employee

of job

First, exactly what are the motivators? There

principles may be over-simplifying

is no definite answer despite Herzberg's assertion

matters, but they do provide practical ways for

to the contrary. It would depend on different

enrichment

motivation.

His applications

motivating employees, and have greatly influenced

societies, different individuals, and different organi-

managerial practices in the modern business world.

zational or job levels. There is probably no universal

Victor Vroom, after criticizing Herzberg's

motivator for all mankind, nor is there a single

theory as merely a theory of job satisfaction, deve-

motivating force for any one individual. It is a

loped an alternative valence-expectancy theory of

problem of what mixture of needs for what kind of

motivation. According to Vroom, the strength (or

people in what kind of society. In Hong Kong, for

force) of the motivation to act or to behave is a

example, there is no doubt that money is a predo-

function of the algebraic sum of the products of

minant motivator with regard to both the lower-

valences multiplied by expectancies or probabilities

level need satisfaction and the fulfillment of status

(i.e., SViPi). The valence refers to one's feelings;

and achievement goals.

it may be zero, negative, or positive, depending on

Secondly, in motivating employees, managers

the individual,15 In recent years, there have been

have to identify the operative needs and job-related

many

goals of the employees. Or, they have to devise

elaborations

Vroom's theory.

16

or

reconceptualizations of

Generally

speaking, it has

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some goal-setting process with employees' partici-

NEW ASIA COLLEGE ACADEMIC ANNUAL VOL. XIX

pation. This is already a formidable job. Moreover,


after the operative needs and job-related goals are
identified in a particular situation, there is the
problem of availability of rewards to satisfy the
needs through goal fulfillment. In other words,
does each and every employee perceive the rewards
as available, not just what management says is
available? Many rewards necessary to insure
employee motivation and goal-fulfillment just do
not exist in many organizations. In such organizations, rewards are provided for, or focused on, lower
level needs, so that the higher level needs never
become active.
A closely related problem is how consistent
is the linkage between high performance and the
attainment of desired rewards. If the linkage is
inconsistent and the employee sees a low probability of achieving a desired reward, a motivation
problem will arise and performance-related
behavior will be reduced, even though the reward is
clearly shown as available by the management.
Thirdly, achievement is generally recognized
as an important motivator for higher level performance. But in many organizations, there are no welldefined, achievable task objectives set by management or mutually agreed upon between management and employees, nor is there clear identification of group task objectives and their linkage to
task-responsibilities of individuals in the group.
Under such circumstances, the employee would
lose his direction and his achievement motivation
would be deprived of its very pre-requisite. Moreover, employee's performance must be evaluated
against the set task objectives, and there must have
open, accurate, specific (not generalized) feedback
available to the employee as to how he is doing.

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Many managers and company managements have


failed in the implementation of employee motivation, because they failed to recognize the importance of goal or objective setting and performance
feedback as motivational tools.
Lastly, something need be said about the
motivational possibilities intrinsic to the work
itself. This is the job enrichment theme, so much
stressed by Herzberg and associates and also so
popular and controversial. 19 Job enrichment is to
enrich the job content by providing more varied and
challenging content in the work so as to change
employee's behavior directly. Its essential elements
are: (1) Design the work module to give the
employee or work group a natural unit of work and
responsibility, (2) Considerable or complete control
of the work module by the employee or work
group, (3) Sufficient direct feedback of work
results to the employee or work group, and (4)
Appropriate standards for measuring performance.
While job enrichment programs have been widely
applied in many countries and industries, management writers and practitioners still question their
real effectiveness.
Conceptually, job enrichment, by itself alone,
provides only a partial answer to the innovative
efforts to re-design the total work organization, and
has typically failed in its limited objective because
the organizational system often returns to its earlier
equilibrium.20 Moreover, individuals differ vastly.
Many employees prefer low-level competency,
security, and relative independence to responsibility, growth, and team participation. To them, job
content is' not automatically related to job satisfaction, and motivation not necessarily a function
of job satisfaction. They often find higher-level

HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE WORK ORGANIZATION

need satisfaction outside the work environment.


Also, there is the difficulty of continuously
supplying "challenges."
Practically, there are many questions about
implementation. Managers often do not know what
is necessary to implement a job enrichment program, or don't like (resist) to change their role or
thinking. Since many meaningful tasks must be
added and boredsome ones removed, good, intellectualized learning (e.g., training programs and
classes) cannot be the substitute for practice and
experience. Do managers carefully study what kind
of work can be enriched? Are key, responsible
individuals assigned to attack the many tough
issues involved beforehand? Have the employees
participated in the work re-design project so that it
is not imposed on them? Has the work itself not
actually changed after the redesign due to resist-

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ance, confusion, or bureaucratic practice? Does the


top management gives support and commitment
such as budget overruns, rewards for extra efforts,
. . . ? Is there systematic and continuous evaluation
of the work re-design project once it is undertaken?
Such questions are very crucial to the success of
any job enrichment program, even if we concede
conceptually that job enrichment is the most
effective motivating technique.
The author has briefly reviewed several motivation theories and discussed some of the practical
implications for managerial action. It seems that the
difficulty lies not so much in theorizing as in
actual implementation. Thus what is the appropriate approach and action program toward
employee motivation in a particular organization
remains therefore the toughest job for its
managers to accomplish.

NEW ASIA COLLEGE ACADEMIC ANNUAL VOL. XIX

'Job satisfaction refers to the feeling(s) which an employee has about his total job situation, including other job alternatives available besides his present job.
2
See Dunn and Stephens, Management of Personnel, Manpower Management and Organizational Behavior, McGraw-Hill,
1972, pp. 164-174.
3

Some psychologists classify three main categories of behavior:


Motivated behavior characterized by persistent goal orientation;
Frustration-instigated behavior or behavior without a goal;
Reflexes and automatic behavior determined only by neural connections.
"Primary - unlearned and physiologically based, such as hunger, thirst, sleep, sex.
General also unlearned, but not physiologically based, such as motives for competence, curiousity, manipulation,
activity, affection.
Secondary - learned and most relevant to organizational behavior, such as power, achievement, affiliation, security,
status.
5
Ernest R. Hilgard & Richard C. Atkinson in their Introduction to Psychology (4th ed., Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967,
pp. 141-142) summarized 5 reasons for this difficulty:
The expression of human motives differ from culture to culture and from person to person within a culture.
Similar motives may be manifested through unlike behavior.
Unlike motives may be expressed through similar behavior.
, Motives may appear in disguised forms.
Any single act of behavior may express several motives.
6

But recent studies by biological scientists indicated that needs are not always the cause of human behavior, but a result
of it. They say behavior is often what we do, not why we do it.
'Abraham Maslow, "A Theory of Human Motivation," Psychological Review, July 1943, pp.370-396; also,Motivation
and Personality, Harper & Row, 1954.
8

See Maslow, Eupsychian Management, Irwin & the Dorsey Press, 1965. In a very rough manner, Maslow's need
hierarchy theory can be converted into a content model of work motivation, as follows:
Needs:
Contents:
Self Actualization \
Ego needs
Social needs

Achievement feeling
\

Titles, status symbols, promotions, banquets


\

Safety needs
Basic or physiological needs

Formal & informal work groups


\

Seniority plans, union, severance pay


\

Pay

Maslow estimated that 85% of basic needs, 70% of security needs, 50% of belonging needs, 40% of esteem needs, and 10% of
self-actualization needs are satisfied in organizations generally (in western societies).
'The following indicate some of the criticisms and modifications:
The specific 5-category system and its internal ordering have little empirical validity, not every one follows exactly
that pattern;
The theory tells us very little about how to activate motivation;
Some management writers classify needs into "higher needs" and "lower needs" (M.A. Wahba and L.G. Bridwell),
or "achievement need" (n Ach), "power need" (n Pow), and "affiliation need" (n Aff) (D.C. McClelland and associates); or "existence," "relatedness," and "growth" (C.P. Aldefer); or "animal need" and "uniquely human need"
(F. Herzberg).
'"See E.E. Lawler, 111,Motivation in Work Organizations, Brooks/Cole publishing Co., 1973, pp. 5-7.

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HUMAN MOTIVATION IN THE WORK ORGANIZATION

11

"See Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprises, McGraw-Hill, 1960. pp. 47-49; Rensis Likert, The Human
Organization, McGraw-Hill, 1967.
12
See, for example, E. Wight Bakke, "The Function of Management", in E.M. Hugh-Jones (ed.) Human Relations and
Modern Management, North Holland PubL Co., 1958; Chris Argyris, Personality and Organization, Harper & Row, 1957;
Warren Bennis, Changing Organizations, McGraw-Hill, 1966; G.H. Litwin and R.A. Stringer, Jr. Motivation and Organizational Climate, Harvard Business School, 1968.
13
For a comparison of some of the characteristics between the adaptive-organic organization structure and the mechanistic-bureaucratic structure, see Ralph M. Hower and Jay W. Lorsch, "Organization Inputs," in John A. Seller, Systems Analysis
in Organizational Behavior, Irwin, 1967, p. 168.
14
See Frederick Herzberg, Bernard Mausner, and Barbara Snyderman, The Motivation to Work, Wiley, 1959, pp. 20-62,
141; Frederick Herzberg, Work and the Nature of Man, The World Publishing Co., 1966, pp. 92-129; "One More Time: How
Do You Motivate Employees?" Harvard Business Review, Jan. Feb. 1968.
15

Victor H. Vroom, Work and Motivation, Wiley, 1964, pp. 14-15, 128.

"See John Camphell, Marvin Dunnette, Edward Lawler III, and Karl Weick, Managerial Behavior, Performance, and
Effectiveness, McGraw-Hill, 1970; Anthony Biglan and Terence Mitchell, "Instrumentality Theories", and Terence Mitchell,
"Expectancy Model of Job Satisfaction, Occupational Preference and Effort: A Theoretical, Methodological and Empirical
Appraisal,"Psychology Bulletin, 82, 1974.
17

Organizational climate is a set of properties of the work environment perceived directly or indirectly by the employees.
Its important dimensions include: leadership patterns, goal-direction, size and structure of the organization, communication
networks, amount of challenge and responsibility, degree and nature of conflict, nature of reward and punishment systems,
etc. There is no unique set of organizational climate dimensions, nor is there one best value for each of those dimensions.
18

In this connection, the reader may refer to "Motivation: Good Theory Poor Application," by Joel K. Leidecker and
James J. Hall, Training and Development Journal, June 1974.
"See, for example, Paul, Robertson and Herzberg, "Job Enrichment Pays Off," Harvard Business Review, Mar.-Apr.
1969; Robert Ford, "Job Enrichment Lessons from AT & T," Harvard Business Review, Jan.-Feb. 1973; William Reif and
Fred Luthans, "Does Job Enrichment Really Pays Off?" California Management Review, Fail 1972; and J. Richard Hackman,
"Is Job Enrichment Just a Fad?" Harvard Business Review, Sept.-Oct. 1975.
2

"See Richard Walton, "How to Counter Alienation in the Plant," Harvard Business Review, Nov.-Dec. 1972.

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