Motivation refers to the driving force that assists people in realizing their objectives. It is the enthusiasm and strength of mind that makes one to endure to attain greater heights in performance in the activity one is undertaking. The zest and determination can be derived from either an internal or an external source (Bruce & Pepitone, 1999; Reeve, 2009).
Most motivation theories maintain that the driving force to achieve is based on the basic need to reduce physical suffering and maximize pleasure. Moreover, it can also be based on the desire to meet certain specific needs, for example, eating and sleeping. From the “Motivation Concepts Table,” this analysis is going to address Abraham Maslow theory of hierarchy of needs.
Abraham Maslow performed investigations in order to understand why people are driven by specific needs at specific occasions. He undertook a study to elucidate the difference in the behavior of individuals based on their needs and how a focus on meeting these needs can be used as a way of motivating them.
According to this theory, the needs of every person are arranged in a hierarchical manner and this explains a why, for example, one individual may use many resources on personal safety whereas the other individual may use the same amount of resources to gain respect of others. Maslow arranged these needs from the most pressing need at the bottom of the chart to the least pressing at the top, and they include psychological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.
It is important to note that these needs are met according to the level of importance, and, after meeting that specific need, it no longer becomes a motivator and the individual then makes efforts to meet the next pressing need.
Abraham Maslow theory of hierarchy of needs is applicable in a number of workplace situations. By paying attention on the five levels of motivation that Maslow recognized, this theory is an ideal way of enhancing the morale of the employees at the workplace.
Similar to the rungs of a ladder, employers have to meet every need of their employees before proceeding to the next level of the hierarchy, and, consequently reward them for their success upon achieving the established objectives. The first category of needs that Maslow realized has to be met are basic or physiological needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, and these are the survival needs that have to be dealt with before moving to the next levels of needs (Sapru, 2008, p.218).
This is applied at the work place through providing employees with food and water during the working hours, giving them intermittent breaks within the working period, and ample time for taking lunch. Further, to ensure that the workers remain motivated, employers give them adequate compensation to cater adequately for their basic needs.
The second level of needs appertains to meeting the safety or security needs of the employees. This entails focusing on both physical and psychological needs of the employees by ensuring that the work environment does not contain safety hazards, for example, broken equipment and live electric wires, and continually training the employees so as to solidify their position in the company as a knowledgeable, skilled personnel.
Next, social needs of the employees are met when they feel that they belong to an organization that accepts them and where they get companionship and friendship from one another.
Thus, a company may encourage social affiliation by introducing programs that allow the participants to interact freely with one another, for example, a “working lunch” whereby participants solve tasks in a group setting during lunchtime.
Another way in which the Maslow theory is applicable in the workplace is that when individuals reach the self-esteem level in the hierarchy, they feel that they are significant at the workplace and their contribution is valued. As such, a simple congratulation message like “Good work!” goes a long way in promoting the employee’s self-esteem.
And, lastly, self-actualization, which is the highest level in the hierarchy, can be achieved by providing tools and resources to ensure that the employees attain the organization’s goals in implementing the acquired skills. Introducing instruction lessons, training programs, and mentorship programs are also proven ways of realizing self-actualization in the employees.
Besides the workplace situations that the Maslow theory can be useful, there are also some situations in which it cannot be applied. Even though the theory makes sense instinctively, there is lack of solid proof to validate its stringent hierarchy. In an organization, the order in which the needs are imposed by the theory is most of the time not applicable as one need can be fulfilled before the other without necessary adhering to the hierarchal demands of the concept.
For example, an American company that wants to start doing business in China will more often start by addressing the social needs that they encounter in the new cultural environment. In this case, meeting social needs are considered to be more important than the others, and the Maslow theory is inapplicable.
In addition, the theory cannot be applied in an instance in which the needs are conflicting. For example, how does the management of an organization make a decision to either handle a grievance case presented by an employee (safety need) or attend to an employee who has lost his wife (social need)? Applying the Maslow theory in such a case may not be realistic.
Based on the irregularities of the Maslow theory, there is a need to come up with better models for championing employee motivation at the workplace, especially since the current work environment is ever changing. The new theoretical models will increase knowledge on the subject of motivation and consequently lead to the establishment of better practices in employee motivation at the work place.
Since to understand motivation requires an in-depth understanding of the simple, yet complex, concept of the human nature, the new models will inevitably increase knowledge in this area and result in effective management and leadership practices in today’s unpredictable work environment.
In conclusion, if the challenge of coming up with better theoretical models of motivation is not addressed, then dire ramifications might follow. Most importantly, they would be reduction on personal satisfaction and productivity at the work place, as the employees would lack the internal drive that makes them to work towards achievement of the goals of the organizations.
Further, the failure to address this challenge would result in reduced level of efficiency of employees, loss of credibility and goodwill of organizations due to inadequate stability of the workforce, and lack of optimistic and challenging attitude at the place of work.
Bruce, A. & Pepitone, J. S. (1999). Motivating employees. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion, 5th ed.. New York: Wiley Publishing.
Sapru, R. K. (2008). Administrative theories and management thought. New Dehli : PHI Learning.