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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Behavioral Theories of Motivation

Explain behavioral theories of work force motivation and relevant issues. Discuss their implications for policies and practices in any organization your are familiar with.

Ans : Every reward or element or compensation / remuneration has a behavioral objective and seek to fulfill a need (physiological or psychological) and achieve a goal. Luthans argues that ‘motivation is a process that starts with a psychological or psychological deficiency or need that activates a behavior or a drive that is aimed at a goal.

Reward systems are aimed at compensating people for their skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions and motivating them for higher performance. Behavioral science theories are classified into three categories, content, process, and contemporary theories.


The content theories look at what motivates people at work. Maslow, Hergberg and Alderfer contributed significantly to content theories. These are very briefly outlined here:

HIERARCHY OF NEEDS : Abraham Maslow proposed a hierchay of five needs: Physiological (food, shelter, clothing which wages can buy), Safety (emotional and physical safety- health insurance, pension), Love (affection and affiliation – belongingness, social), Esteem (power, achievement status, etc.), and Self-actualization (personal growth, realization of potential). Individuals may seek fulfillment of higher order needs before their lower order needs are fulfilled. Mashlow suggests that a satisfied need is not a motivator. The exception, however, is the self-actualization need whose gratification increases in growth-motivated individuals.

TWO FACTOR THEORIES OF MOTIVATION : Two factor theory of motivation by Friedrich Hergberg classifies reward into two categories : intrinsic and extrinsic. These are also called motivators (satisfiers) and hygiene factors (dissatisfiers). Intrinsic rewards are motivators and satisfiers related to job content. They include achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, job enrichment and job enlargement. Extrinsic rewards are hygiene factors and job satisfiers. These include company policies and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations, working conditions; Hergberg’s theory oversimplifies the complexity of motivation. Pay can be satisfying if it is very low, but it can also be satisfying: A poster executive’s cabin reads thus : I like the pay, not the job!

ERG THEORY: Clayton Alderfer formulated his theory based on three groups of needs: Existence (survival or physical well-being), Relatedness (interpersonal) and Growth (personal development) (ERG) theory. These needs are a continuum , not necessarily in the same order, rather a hierarchical or compartmentalized categories. Based on a person’s background and cultural environment, one set of needs may precede over others.

The works of Maslow, Hergberg and Alderfer are referred to as content theories. They are useful, but have limited implications for policy and practice. Hergberg’s theory, however, provides insights for job design.


Process theories look at the cognitive antecedents that go into motivation or effort, particularly the way they relate to one another. We examine very briefly the work of Vroom (on valence and expectancy) and Porter & Lawer (performance-satisfaction linkage).

EXPECTANCY THEORY : Victor Vroom proposed expectancy theory based on the concepts of valence, expectancy and instrumentality. Valence refers to an individual’s preference for a particular outcome. For instance, most older workers might value retrial benefits against fewer if any, younger workers in today’s knowledge industry, Younger, single(unmarried) workers with fewer family obligations have less or no need for benefits like children’s education, health benefits, leave travel concession, etc. than older, married people with one or more children. A related phenomenon is salience which refers to whether the outcome (in case it could be reward or compensation) is considered significant or not. For instance, if management offers something as an incentive to its employees, it may not produce the desired behavior or impact if the latter consider it as insignificant or devoid of worth commensurate with the effort required.

Instrumentality could mean that an individual would be motivated to give superior performance (first-level outcome) in anticipation (expectation) of promotion (second-level outcome).

Expectancies are mental and cognitive. Although the concept of expectancy seems to be the same as that of instrumentality, expectancy relates efforts to first-level outcomes while instrumentality relates to first level and second level outcomes. In other words, expectancy is the degree of probability that a particular action or effort will lead to particular first level outcomes, instrumentality refers to the degree of probability that first-level outcome will lead to a desired second-level outcome. Put simply, Motivation is the function or valence and expectancy.

Vroom’s concept can be interpreted thus: individual gives company what it values, superior performance and expects, in return promotion. Promotion is the instrumentality that management uses to obtain superior performance. Vroom provides insights into the conceptual determinants of motivation. Though he does not offer specific suggestion on what motivates, and his theory is based on the assumption that people are rational and logically calculating, real life situation may not be so idealistic. But then, it could well be seen that the companies where the promotions are not based on superior performance, promotion policy and its administration could well become the demotivating factors.


EQUITY : J Stacy Adams, who proposed equity theory, argues that a major input into job performance and satisfaction is the degree of equity (or inequity) that people perceive in their work situation. Equity occurs when a person perceives that the ratio of his or her outcomes to inputs and the ratio of a relevant other’s outcomes to inputs are unequal.

People feel unhappy not only when they receive less than what they consider they deserve, but also when they receive more than what they consider they deserve. When an employee receives more than what he/she considers I fair, they begin to wonder whether others too are receiving more than what they deserve. If it is indeed the case the next question that comes to their mind is compared to what they are getting, whether the others are receiving much more than what they deserve.

Adams proposal can be represented as follows:

Person’s outcomes < Other’s outcomes
Person’s inputs           Other’s inputs

Person’s outcome > Other’s outcomes
Person’s inputs          Other’s inputs

Equity occurs when
Person’s outcome = Other’s outcomes
Person’s inputs          Other’s inputs

Related issues : Equity can be internal or external. Internal equity refers to the pay differential between and among the various skills and levels of responsibility. For instance, a skilled worker could get more than the unskilled worker. Whether a blue collar worker should get more or less than the white collar depends not only in relative skill differentials and difficulties in working conditions, etc, but but also on the demand and supply of those skills and the dominant occupational preferences of the people in the society. When in one engineering fabrication industry gas cutters (welders) were getting less than grass cutters (gardeners) it was perceived by the technical staff that it was a glaring instance of internal equity because in that industry welding is considered to be a highly rated technical trade and should command higher wage rate. Internal equity is established through job evaluation. Pay satisfaction surveys also provide insights into it. Job evaluation can be done not only for manual jobs, but also or managerial jobs. Collective bargaining pressures have, however, substantially eroded the pay differentials based on skill differentials. In many industries, dearness allowance and other employee benefits constitutes the bulk of the pay packet and basic pay; which is supposed to be based on job evaluation constitutes only a small portion of the total pay packet.

External equity refers to concerns how wage / pay levels for similar skill levels in one firm compare with those in other firms in similar or same industry and location/region. For instance, if welders in one firm get the same as welders in other firms in the industry/region there is perceived external equity. External equity is assessed usually through pay surveys and pay satisfaction surveys. Companies which pays significantly less than the market rates, would find it difficult to attract, retain and motive people to perform better. Therefore, it is possible that low wage rates may not always be associated with low wage costs.

Non-discrimination should be an important consideration in pay politics. International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention No-100 concerns equal remuneration for work of equal value. For similar skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions pay should be similar. It is difficult to translate this principle into action because in reality pay differentials are based not only on these four factors but also on the demand for and supply of labour with relevant skills, the relative power of the trade union in collective bargaining which varies widely across sectors/ industries and egions, the capacity to pay of the firm/industry and the employer policies concerning pay on whether to lead or lag the average pay trends in the industry/ location.

Alfred Marshal’s iron laws of wages suggest that the relative power of unions is dependent on four factors :

  1. the substitutability of the inputs of labour
  2. the subsitutalility of the output of labour,
  3. the proportionate cost of labour
  4. the cumulative impact of the preceding three factors.

As a result, for instance, the textiles workers power to obtain higher wages could be less than that of say, airline pilots.

In India the principle equal remuneration is upheld, partly though Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. The legislation is aimed at ending discrimination in remuneration based on sex. It does not, however, speak about equal remuneration for work of equal work. The legislation affords protection against discrimination for women workers who are covered by definition of ‘workman’ under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Numerous judgments by courts limited the application of the concept of non-discrimination only to men and women doing similar work with similar qualifications in the same organization.

ATTRIBUTION : Fritz Heider and Lewin and Festinger contributed significantly to attribution theories. It assumes that people are logical and rational in their behavior and that both internal and external forces combine additively to determince behavior. People will behave differently if they realizes that their outcomes are controlled more internally than externally. This theory has great potential for understanding organizational behaviour and provides deep insights on goal setting, leadership behavior and diagnosing causal factors of employee performance.

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It makes sense for companies/ organization to review not only how much they spend on their employees salaries and benefits but also how they are actually spending it on various items. If they ask their employees how they wish eXi amount to be distributed across various items and compare how the company is actually spending, variations, if any, between the actual spending by the company and the employee preferences on how they wish the amount to be distributed will give insights on how companies could maximize the pay satisfaction without increasing the cost to the company on accounts of employees pay and benefits. This is one of the reasons why several private sector organizations have conceived and operationalised cafeteria type benefit programmes for their employees, particularly in executive cadres. A fixed ‘ethali’ type menu means employees have no option to choose and some may be forced to leave many items on offer because they could not avail them due to their personal and family circumstances and preferences. In contrast ala Carte or cafeteria method enables employee to choose items for their choose within a certain range of amount to which they become eligible.


Unknown June 19, 2012 at 5:38 AM  

behavior theory relevant or not for situation like this..?

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