Motivation is regarded as one of the most important functions of management. Importance of motivation can hardly be overemphasised. Highly motivated people can make things happen in organisations. On the other hand, poorly motivated people can nullify the sounded organisations. [Allen] The importance of motivation is summarised in the following points :

In the words of Clarence Francis, “You can buy a man’s time and physical presence but you cannot buy enthusiasm, initiative and loyalty. You have to earn these things.” These can be earned through the process of motivation. Effective motivation system inspires employees to do work or to take action. It prepares them to do their work with full devotion. It creates willingness among the employees to perform their work with great enthusiasm, zeal and loyalty.

Highly motivated employees perform better and higher as compared to the employees with low level of motivation. Motivation is the mainspring of performance. Without motivation, the other contributors to performance become rather irrelevant. [Gray and Smeltzer]

Motivated employees can use their skills and organisational resources more efficiently and effectively. This ultimately results in higher productivity of all the resources of the organisation. David Holt has rightly remarked that “productivity is achieved through excellence and excellence is achieved by having an organisation of highly motivated individuals.”

A proper motivation system is key to the effectiveness of all managerial functions. Effectiveness of all managerial functions will go for naught if employees cannot be motivated to fulfill their responsibilities. Planning and organising cannot be successful if the employees are not properly motivated.

Motivation is core of management. Through motivation, managers encourage employees to direct their energies for achieving organisational goals. Thus, motivation helps achieve organisational objectives. Brech has rightly stated that “the problem of motivation is the key to management in action; and in its executive form, it is among the chief tasks of the general manager. We may safely lay it down that the tone of an organisation is a reflection of the motivation from the top.”

Motivation help develop human resource in an organisation. Through motivation, employees can be directed to enlarge their job skills. In order to maintain a continual reservoir of well trained and highly motivated employees, a sound motivation system should be in place. A sound motivation system ensures proper supply of motivated human resource. Such a system in an organisation can also ensure the satisfaction of needs and aspirations of individuals. Thus, it can attract and retain satisfied human resource in the organisation.

Morale refers to the attitude and feelings of employees about their work and work situation. Through motivation, employee attitudes and feelings towards work can be improved. This in turn boosts employee morale. A proper motivation system promotes close ties between the enterprise and its employees. Employees begin to feel that enterprise belongs to them. Hence, employees become more concerned about the well being of the enterprise.

Satisfied employees tend to stay longer and remain regular in the organisation. This, in turn, reduces employee turnover and absenteeism.

It is a research based fact that properly motivated employees are more receptive to new things and ready to accept change. This attitude facilitates introduce change and keep the organisation on the path of progress.

Motivated employees concentrate on finding new and more effective ways of doing a job and utilising resources. Poorly motivated employees usually avoid work and misuse resources. Thus, effective utilisation of resources largely depends on the level of employee motivation.

A good motivation system creates congenial work environment and job satisfaction. Employees tend to work with cooperative spirit and in a disciplined manner. Management also offers them better wages and incentives. Hence, chances of conflict are greatly reduced. All this leads to better industrial relations. An organisation with motivated staff commands reputation in the business world and the society. Such organisations can easily obtain talented persons whenever the need arises.

Motivated employees can innovate and develop new technology and products for the organisation. There are many organisations where talented employees carry on research regularly and innovate.

They develop new technology and products which are essential for the well-being of the organisation and the society as a whole.

There are several theories of motivation. A few important theories are as follows

  1. Maslow’s need hierarchy theory.
  2. McGregor’s theory X and theory Y.
  3. Herzberg’s two-factor theory.
  4. William Ouchi’s theory Z.
  5. McClelland’s achievement theory.
  6. Vroom’s expectancy theory.
  7. Adam’s equity theory.

A.H. Maslow, a noted psychologist, propounded the need hierarchy theory of motivation. It is one of the best known theories of human motivation. According to Maslow, within every human being there is a hierarchy of five needs which are as follows:

  1. Physiological needs.
  2. Safety needs.
  3. Social needs.
  4. Esteem needs.
  5. Self-actualisation needs.

Physiological needs are concerned with the basic biological functions of the human body. These needs relate to the essentials for survival. These include the needs for food, water, clothing, shelter, rest, sexual satisfaction, recreation etc. These needs are inherent in the nature of a human body.

Physiological needs are the most powerful motivators as no human being can survive without them. These needs are at the lowest level in the hierarchy of needs. Hence, these needs have to be satisfied before higher level needs can be pursued. Therefore, an extremely hungry person can never think for things other than food. He dreams food, remembers food, perceives only about food and wants only food. Freedom, love, and respect are useless since they fail to fill his stomach. [A.H. Maslow]

Safety needs are concerned with protecting the person from physical and psychological harm as well as the assurance that physiological needs will continue to be met. These include the needs of job security, economic and social security, e.g. pension, insurance etc. There needs can be satisfied by making provisions for pension, group insurance, provident fund, gratuity, safe working conditions, job security and so on. Safety needs begin to doormat when the physiological needs of a person are fairly met.

Social needs relate to the desire to have social interaction, friendship, affiliation belongingness with groups, acceptance, affection, support from others and so on. Such needs become motivators when physiological and safety needs have been fairly satisfied.

Self-esteem needs constitute the fourth level in the hierarchy of needs. These needs arise when physiological, safety and social needs have been fairly satisfied.

According to Maslow these needs are of two types :

  1. Need of self-respect or self-esteem, and
  2. Needs for esteem from others or public esteem.

Self-respect means the respect in the eyes of oneself. Self respect needs include the needs for self-confidence for competence, for independence and freedom, for achievement, and personal strength. Esteem from other means the respect or image in the eyes of others. The needs of esteem from others includes the needs for prestige, recognition, acceptance, attention status, reputation and appreciation from others.

The four needs described above motivate people by their absence. In other words, when people feel lack of food, clothing, shelter, security, social relationships, self-respect and respect from others, they are motivated to do something or take action. But self- actualisation needs are the needs and aspirations for growth. Such needs motivate people by their presence.

Self-actualisation needs concern the needs for maximising the use one’s skills, abilities, potential to become everything that one is capable of becoming. Such needs relate to realisation of one’s full potential for development growth arid fulfilment. This category of needs is placed at the apex of the ‘need hierarchy’ and hence are the highest level of needs.

It is pertinent to note that self-actualisation need is a distinct one. Each person’s journey towards self-actualisation is distinct and unique. Therefore, every person finds his own ways for satisfying such needs.

Maslow’s need hierarchy theory is based on the following propositions or assumptions:

  1. A man is perpetually wanting animal. As soon as one of his wants or needs is satisfied, another appears in its place. This process goes on in every one’s life.
  2. An unsatisfied or fresh need motivates influences behaviour. Satisfied needs.
  3. Needs can be arranged in an order or a hierarchy. In this hierarchy, physiological needs are at the lowest and most basic. These needs are followed in ascending order by the safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation needs.
  4. There is always a sequence of emergence of needs. Higher level needs do not emerge or motivate unless all lower level needs have been fairly or minimally satisfied.

  5. Higher level needs can be satisfied in more than one ways. But the ways to satisfy lower level needs are very limited.
  6. Maslow separated the five needs into higher-level needs and lower-level needs. According to him physiological and safely needs are lower-level or lower-order needs whereas social, esteem and self- actualisation needs are higher level needs. Maslow believed that lower-level needs are mainly satisfied externally whereas the higherlevel needs are satisfied internally.
  7. The first four needs (physiological, safety, social and esteem needs) motivate people by their absence. In other words, when people feel a lack of food, clothing, sex, security, social relationships, respect etc., they are motivated to work. But self-actualisation needs motivate people by their presence.
  8. Maslow believed that no need is ever fully satisfied. Needs can be largely or substantially satisfied.

For motivating someone, a manager should understand that person’s level of need in the hierarchy and focus on satisfying needs at or above that level. It is the job of the manager to lift employees from lower-level needs to higher level needs. Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory is best-known theory of motivation. It has received a wide recognition. It has been highly appreciated on the following grounds :

  1. It is a logical theory because it recognises that an individual do something to fulfil his diverse needs.
  2. It clearly states that satisfied needs are not motivators. Therefore, managers can easily concentrate on unsatisfied needs of their subordinates.
  3. It clearly states that a person advances to the next level of the need hierarchy only when the lower level need is minimally or fairly satisfied.
  4. It offers useful ideas for understanding human needs and ways for satisfying them.
  5. It helps to find out the reasons that influence behaviour of a person. Thus, it explains the reasons why people behave differently even in the similar situations.
  6. It is a dynamic model because it presents motivation as a constantly changing force. It considers that every individual strives for fulfilment of fresh and higher-level needs.
  7. It is a positive theory. It assumes that man is a healthy, good and creative being, capable of working out his own destiny.
  8. It is a simple and humanistic theory.
  9. It is based on reasonable assumption and has been substantiated by several research studies.

Maslow’s theory suffers from the following limitations :

  1. It is a simplistic theory and cannot be tested and validated in practice. It lacks empirical testing. It is difficult to interpret and analyse its concepts.
  2. Maslow’s theory is based on a small sample of subjects. It is a clinically derived theory which may not be accurate in real life.
  3. Some criticise on the ground that hierarchy of needs does not exist. Individuals unlikely to behave in such a neat, step-by-step manner while perceiving and satisfying their needs. Moreover, all the needs are present at a given time. For instance, an individual motivated by selfactualisation needs also has the physiological needs. Hence, the need hierarchy is artificial and arbitrary.
  4. Need hierarchy may not be the same among all the employees. Generally, socially, culturally and economically advantaged employees have higher-level needs whereas the socially and economically disadvantaged employees have lower-level needs.
  5. There are some who argue that there is no evidence that a satisfied need is not a motivator.

  6. Similarly, there is no evidence that satisfaction of one need automatically activates the next need in the hierarchy.
  7. Human beings are not motivated by their needs alone but also by many other things. Therefore, it is doubtful weather deprivation of a need motivate an individual.

In spite of these limitations, the need hierarchy theory of motivation is important because of its rich and comprehensive view of the needs. The theory is relevant because need hierarchy helps managers to understand the behaviour of people. In the words of Fred Luthans, “The theory does make a significant contribution in terms of making management aware of the diverse needs of humans at work. The number or names of the levels are not important, nor is the hierarchical concept. What is important, is the fact that humans in the work-place have diverse motives.”

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