Psychological Theories of Motivation to Increase Productivity

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Psychologists have studied human motivation extensively and have formulated a variety of theories about what motivates people. Needs-based theories include Maslow’s hierarchy of need, Aldersfer’s theory, Herzberg’s two factor theory and McClelland’s acquired needs theory. Another approach focuses on external factors and their role in understanding employee motivation (e.g. Skinner’s reinforcement theory). Theories based on intrinsic factors focus on internal thought processes and perceptions about motivation (e.g. Adam’s equity theory, Vroom’s expectancy theory, Locke’s goal setting theory).

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In the health care field, attaining health objectives in a population depends to a large extent on the provision of effective, efficient, accessible, viable and high-quality services. The health workforce, present in sufficient numbers and appropriately allocated across different occupations and geographical regions is arguably the most important input in a unique production process and has a strong impact on overall health system performance. The lack of explicit policies for human resource management has produced, in most countries, imbalances that threaten the capacity of health care systems to attain their objectives.

We all want to be more productive but getting motivated enough to actually get things done can seem impossible. Social scientists have been studying motivation for decades, trying to find out what motivates our behavior, how and why. Dozens of theories of motivation have been proposed over the years. Here are some popular theories of motivation that can help you increase workplace productivity.

Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

The Two- factor theory of motivation otherwise known as dual-factor theory or motivation-hygiene theory) was developed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s.

Analyzing the responses of 200 accountants and engineers who were asked about their positive and negative feelings about their work, Herzberg found 2 factors that influence employee motivation and satisfaction…

a) Motivator factors – Simply put, these are factors that lead to satisfaction and motivate employees to work harder. Examples might include enjoying your work, feeling recognized and career progression.

b) Hygiene factors – These factors can lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of motivation if they are absent. Examples include salary, company policies, benefits, relationships with managers and co-workers.

According to Herzberg’s findings, while motivator and hygiene factors both influenced motivation, they appeared to work completely independently of each other…

While motivator factors increased employee satisfaction and motivation, the absence of these factors didn’t necessarily cause dissatisfaction. Likewise, the presence of hygiene factors didn’t appear to increase satisfaction and motivation but their absence caused an increase in dissatisfaction.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The Hierarchy of Needs theory was coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

The crux of the theory is that individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher level needs.

The hierarchy is made up of 5 levels:

  1. Physiological – these needs must be met in order for a person to survive, such as food, water and shelter.
  2. Safety – including personal and financial security and health and wellbeing.
  3. Love/belonging – the need for friendships, relationships and family.
  4. Esteem – the need to feel confident and be respected by others.
  5. Self-actualization – the desire to achieve everything you possibly can and become the most that you can be.

According to the hierarchy of needs, you must be in good health, safe and secure with meaningful relationships and confidence before you are able to be the most that you can be.

Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne Effect was first described by Henry A. Landsberger in 1950 who noticed a tendency for some people to work harder and perform better when they were being observed by researchers.

The Hawthorne Effect is named after a series of social experiments on the influence of physical conditions on productivity at Western Electric’s factory at Hawthorne, Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

The researchers concluded that employees became motivated to work harder as a response to the attention being paid to them, rather than the actual physical changes themselves.

The above are the some of the main theories which talks about employees’ motivation. Even though employers try to motivate people in working in the organization, there are many factors and problems which makes the employees from being motivated. Some of the motivational problems faced by employees are as follows:

Motivational problems:

Motivational problems can lead to performance issues that cost a business thousands of dollars in losses each year. A lack of motivation can lead to delays in the employee’s completion of work and simple but expensive mistakes. Unfortunately, several issues may sap an employee’s motivation and leave him unproductive and a minor contributor to the bottom line.

Low Self-Confidence:

Confidence enhances an employee’s motivation; he believes that he can perform the tasks necessary to achieve his goals. Confidence contributes to his willingness to persevere and complete tasks. If the employee lacks confidence, he feels unworthy and is unable to make decisions or remain motivated until an objective is accomplished.

Low Expectations for Success:

Positive expectations of success enhance an employee’s motivation. Low expectations ensure the employee will remain unmotivated and will not perform as well as the employer expects. In addition, an employer who has low expectations in regards to an employee is less likely to provide the tools and equipment necessary for the employee to accomplish a work task, further diminishing the employee’s motivation.

Lack of Interest in Subject Matter:

An employee exhibits motivation as an interest or a driving force that persuades him to take action. An interested employee will be curious about a task and attempt to perform it well. Lack of interest can lead to decreased motivation and the failure to accomplish a goal. If an employee is not interested in particular tasks, he will not fully engage in his work. Instead, he will focus his attention elsewhere, not fully participate in the activity at hand and perform poorly.

Achievement Anxiety:

Employees who experience achievement anxiety are sensitive to punishment, including criticism or the loss of something they value. As a result, achievement anxiety can inhibit employee behavior. Anxious employees may be less interested in tasks and less motivated to achieve. For example, the employee may begin an activity but stop before he completes the task, if he becomes anxious about potential negative feedback.

Fear of Failure:

If an employee fears failure, he fears a lack of success and will avoid work that he lacks the confidence to complete. The employee perceives a lack of success as a failure, which he believes is confirmation that he is flawed in some way. The more the employee fears failure, the less motivated he will be to perform work or attempt to accomplish goals because it is easier to avoid tasks than experiencing shame due to his failure to complete a task.

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