Modern Theories of Motivation in Psychology

After the First World War, there was a shift in organizational studies due to the effects that psychological studies and human resources had on organizations. The initiation of the change is known as the Hawthorne effect. The effect focused on the motivation of teams and groups to the achievement of the targeted goals. According to Zagzebski (2004), the Second World War led to further shifts in organizational behavior because logistics and operations research had a different approach to organizational studies.

Recently, organizations have introduced qualitative study methods in their management. This has explained the problems experienced by human resources in civilized countries. It also explains the complexion of workers a combination of beliefs, altitude, and needs. It encourages employees in performing their duties (Miner, 2012).

However, Douglas Mc Gregor proposed two assumptions about human nature. In his ‘theory x’, he described human nature as pessimistic. Managers in the past used to see only the negative side of their workers. In ‘theory y’, human resources are positive. Management can effectively achieve the organization’s desired goals and objectives if they perceive their workers as committed, creative, responsible, and self energized. This encourages the management to use development approaches toward employees’ motivation (Madsen, 1974).

In the study of the organizational behavior and change, the impact of groups, individuals, and structures have a high impact on the organization. People should consider various factors as they interact within an organization. Organizational studies, like most of the modern sciences major on controlling, predicting and explaining the performance of workers and the organization in general. According to Taylor’s scientific management approach, there has been an argument on the ethical behavior of employee management. The modern organizational changes entail rejuvenating organizational management and building better concepts of achieving organizational goals (Madsen, 1968).

Herzberg defined motivation using the two-factor theory. In his argument, motivation within an organization is the emotional attribute that influences the human resources to act toward achieving desired organizational objectives, goals and controls. It essentially focuses on maximizing pleasure and minimizing the physical pain.

It can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is driven by pleasure in attempting the task itself and is inbuilt within a person rather than reliance on other pressures from outside. An individual enjoys undertaking the duty rather than the reward gained from the work done. Employees believe that the skills gained in undertaking a particular duty will enable them to gain knowledge suitable for the achievement of their set targets (Miner, 2012). Extrinsic motivation entails the performance of a duty to get an outcome.

This tries to achieve the energetic activation of the construct and a specified behavior that refers to the directional factor. It comes from external factors other than the individual’s character and desire. Examples of these factors include rewards like the achievement of high grades, financial rewards, and fear of punishment. Miner (2012) notes that competition is also a major extrinsic factor in business operations. There are various theories used in workers motivation and they include:

Incentive theory

It states that tangible or intangible rewards should be present after the performance of a particular activity to encourage the behavior to recur. This should be done by positive acknowledgment to the behavior, but a repetition of the action-reward grouping can be habitual. The theory applies the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation concepts. Ethical reinforcement is different from the theoretical construct of rewarding.

According to Weiner (1973), using the cognitive approach is the only proper method of employee motivation. This is because the rewarding system will be built negative character to the employees. Positive ethical reinforcement is demonstrated by the use of present determination to achieve future goals and objectives. Negative ethical reinforcement entails a change of stimulus by removing the aversive one. According to the incentive theory, motivation in the workplace is stimulated by distinguishing the intrinsic from the extrinsic factors (Weiner, 1992).

Within an organization, workers need something to do for them to be busy. Increasing the salary is not the only method to maintain workers within an organization. Employers must motivate their employees to improve their quality of work. Managers should use both the soft and hard sell strategies of motivation. The soft sell plans have rational appeals, psychological, opinions, and admiration whereas the hard sell strategies have pressure, outnumbering and rank.

Application of proper techniques in motivating employees deserves strategic management. When an organization is creating remuneration strategies, it is very easy to compensate one employee while hoping for the other and in the process, the organization can encounter harmful effects that can affect negatively on its goals and objectives (Madsen, 1968). In psychology, incentive theory argues that stimulus and entity conduct is influenced by way of life. For example, individuals may engage in the only profitable activities.

According to Skinner, in the idea of radical behaviorism, if individuals’ actions are perceived to be positive, they will act in a particular manner and if negatively perceived they will act in another manner. This is the concept of social ramification (Miner, 2012). The theory is different from other motivational theories in that the direction of motivation is not the same. It attracts employees toward its use unlike the drive theories, which push themselves toward the people. It ensures that its adoption makes the users happy but the drive theory has negative reinforcement.

Escape-Seeking Model

In this model, decisions making is subjective in seeking and escaping. Evading involves a change in individual’s lives each day habit while looking for is an eagerness to accomplish personal benefits. This theory explains that motivation has personal and interpersonal impacts. This relates to the troubles experienced among workmates and also the troubles in the family (Zagzebski, 2004).

Drive-Reduction Theory

This theory is derived from the concept that there exist particular biological drives. The potency of the drives has well-timed augmentation if not accurately fulfilled. Zagzebski (2004) points out that this deduction is based on various ideologies from the Freud theory to the feedback systems of control. The drive-reduction hypothesis has some insightful or folk legitimacy. Loopholes have been pointed out in the theory in that it does not elucidate how secondary strengthening reduces the drive. For example, financial remuneration does not directly satisfy physical and biological needs but helps in their satisfaction (Madsen, 1968).

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

This theory was brought forward by Leon Festinger. In his argument, he described cognitive dissonance as occurring when an individual experiences physical suffering as a result of an incongruity between two cognitions. These are the views about the surrounding environment and their personal feelings. The difference between consumer feelings and attitude causes dissonance.

It explains that people have to be motivated to reduce dissonance. The cognitive theory makes people justify things to be simple for them to put minimal efforts in doing them. They change their actions, beliefs, and attitudes to deviate from mental stress from the probable challenges in future (Zagzebski, 2004). The management should understand the employees’ needs to ensure that they are well motivated. There are various theories explaining the hierarchy of human resources.

Need Hierarchy Theory

There are two theories explaining the hierarchy of human needs. They include Abraham Maslow and the Herzberg theory. In his book, ‘Hierarchy of Human Needs’, Abraham Maslow came up with five basic hierarchic classes. According to Abraham Maslow, human needs are extremely complex because human beings are aggravated to attaining discontented needs. The basic needs, which consist of physiological and safety needs, are to be considered first before the upper-class needs.

This theory applies to worker enthusiasm (Weiner, 1992). A manager should motivate employees at an early stage with the basic and safety needs because when they lack the basics, there will be a lack of motivation to do work. However, not every employee is contented with the same needs, therefore, a good manager should study and understand the needs suitable for a particular group of individuals. The management can move to the provision of social security for their employees after ensuring that they are physiologically motivated. The fourth level consists of the psychological needs whereas the ladder comprises the self-actualization at the top (Zagzebski 2004).

Alderfer’s ERG Theory

He extended on the Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs by using the ERG theory that states that there exist, three main groups of basic needs that are existence (E), relatedness (R) and growth (G). An organization should provide basic commodities to the employees. They include the basic (physiological) and the security needs needed for the employees’ existence.

He grouped the second stage of goods as that of relatedness. This is the desire individuals have on the maintenance of interpersonal relationships. Zagzebski ( 2004) points out that each employee deserves an opportunity to interact with others either through a communication or through other activities. Personal interaction with others is essential for employees because they need to satisfy their social status. He isolates growth from Maslow’s self-actualization because he considers it to be an intrinsic motivator for personal development (Madsen, 1974).

Self-Determination Theory

In their theory of self-determination, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan focused on the need for intrinsic stimulus in human resources within an organization. Using Maslow’s theory and other related theories, self-determination theory depicts a natural tendency towards growth and development. It states that motivation deserves natural environment. It considers autonomy, relatedness, competence feedback as the major contributors to motivation to ensure growth and development (Miner, 2012).

McClelland’s Achievement Need Theory

In his book, McClelland identified the three basic requirements by individuals who developed and acquired from their lives experiences. These needs include that of power, achievement, and affiliation (Zagzebski, 2004).

Needs for Achievement

An employee with this need is focused on achieving challenging goals. He is very much concerned about the feedback on the duties he undertakes. He is in a position to undertake personal responsibility to accomplish what is required of him (Madsen, 1974).

Needs for Affiliation

An employee with the need for affiliation requires harmonious social relationships. He is much concerned about his reputation to the people rather than the task itself.

Needs for Power

The workers with this need are interested in giving commands to other people. This is common within managers within organizations unlike in entrepreneurs who usually dominate high level of achievement needs (Miner, 2012).

Adams’ Equity Theory

Equity theory suggests that if an individual considers the reward received as equitable as compared to that of others within or outside the organization, the individual are satisfied. He argues that human resources seek to uphold equity between the various inputs they bring to the organization and the outcome they receive like compensation as compared to others within or outside the organization. Motivation is therefore important to these employees (Zagzebski, 2004).

In conclusion, management should ensure proper motor skills to manage effectively the available knowledge within an organization as a vital tool in product invention and innovation consequently ensuring company growth and development. Both the new and the old employees should be motivated by giving non-financial incentives, using appraisals to retain old employees, making employees encounter new challenges different from their work and appreciate their hard work (Madsen, 1974).

In addition, they should be offered regular rewards and incentives, friendly, supportive patterns for the old employees and organizing events for them to reduce monotony. In addition, management should make a key effort to make sure that employees are offered competitive remuneration and other forms of rewards, wholly understand the duties in the entire organization before taking any corrective or disciplinary action toward an employee and ensure availability of machines, tools, and resources to facilitate proper training.

However, combination or rotation of the worker’s assignment should be regular for employees to gain competence in every field of operations (Madsen, 1968). When there are problems in performance, they should investigate the cause and understand whether it is due to poor motivation, inadequate skills or lack of resources.


Madsen, K. B. (1974). Modern theories of motivation: a comparative metascientific study. Michigan: Wiley publishers.

Madsen, K. B. (1968). Theories of motivation. Califonia: The Royal Danish School of Educational Studies.

Miner, J. B. (2012). Role motivation theories. New York, NY: Routledge press.

Weiner, B. (1992). Human motivation: metaphors, theories, and research. New York, NY: Sage publishers.

Zagzebski, L. T. (2004). Divine motivation theory. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.