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Process And Content Theory Of Motivation And How They Apply To The Work Place

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The term motivation can be described in many different formats and views, but according to Dr Stephen P. Robbins, this is the process that account for an individuals intensity, direction and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal (S. P. Robbins, Organizational Behaviour 9ed, p.155). However, I will describe motivation as any factor which will cause an increase in my normal input into doing something, and with the knowledge and hope that a reward will be gained afterwards.

Below are a description of what a process and a content theory of motivation are, their features and how each applies to the workplace.

A process theory define motivation as a rational cognitive process occurring within the individual e.g. Adams’ Equity theory. While on the other hand, a content theory define motivation in terms of need satisfaction, e.g. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory.

Both of these theories defer in a significant way because each one recognises motivation and it features differently to the other.

The two main types of motivational theories, I will be discussing below are, Victor Vroom’s Expectancy theory which is a Process theory, its features and how it applies to the workplace. Further more, Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG theory which on the other hand is a content theory, its features and how it also applies to the workplace.

According to Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory, motivation is “the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual” (S. P. Robbins, Behaviour 9ed, p.171)

So in other words, by researching into motivational theories for my essay, not only will I benefit from it now, but I am likely to benefit from it in my future employment.

This theory also coincide with Alderfer ERG theory (Fincham and Rhodes, Organizational Behaviour, 3rd Edition), which emphasis that people who do not need to work, still do, due to what he describes as a chronic need. This is a motivational behaviour which leads to a long term goal being fulfilled.

Putting these two theories in practice, a very rich person who craves for social need is likely to still be working, due to the knowledge that having a job is likely to satisfy their social need, as the opportunity for working in teams and meeting new colleagues will be of high interest to them.

The main features of Dr V. Vroom Expectancy theory are: Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence (Vroom, 1964). Dr Vroom believed that these features are instrumental to individual’s motivation and whether they are high performers or not.

According to Vroom, Expectancy is “the probability ranging from 0 to 1 that a particular action or effort on your part will lead to a particular first level outcome being” fulfilled (Armstrong & Dawson, p 96-97).

This in actual context means that the level of effort I will contribute to a course or project, will be based on whether the return is of value to me and if yes, by how much?

However, I think that what Dr Vroom did not take into consideration with his theory, is team working.

My main objection is that teams perform for the actual group, and so how can individuals measure their expectation (Expectancy)? And even if they could, it is likely that the performance of the group will be looked at as a whole, therefore rewards will also be distributed evenly. Lastly, will this mean that individuals will not contribute greatly within teams, and if that was the case, why are large multinational companies such as McDonald’s, Sema Group UK limited integrating their workforce into it?( from Past working experience)

Instrumentality on the other hand is when an individual believe that by performing, there is a high probability that a reward will be followed afterwards. This means that instrumentality is based on perception, because it is based on the individual’s thoughts.

Adding to this, it is very crucial that managers do acknowledge that different people are motivated by different factors.

An example is that an employee with large income is less likely to be motivated by money, and will be highly motivated by career development and social needs. Lastly, Valence is the strength of an individual’s preference for a particular outcome (Armstrong, & Dawson, p97 & 98).

The importances of these features are essential to work place motivation, because firms rely on a motivated workforce to sustain the business position, to survive or reach the business objective(s).

Adding to the above, a study by Stolovitch, found that tangible incentives i.e. perks greatly increases employees performance, and workers are likely to be motivated by this.

He also stated that incentives destroy personal, intrinsic interest in work and long term incentives programs have a stronger impact than short-term ones. (Anonymous, Sept 2004, Pg.1-4)

Further to this, if an employee does not value the reward for a certain performance highly enough, it is likely that he or she is unlikely to will not increase their performance level.

In terms of looking at Dr Vroom’s expectancy theory, the main critic is that his model only indicates the conceptual determinants of motivation.

His work does not provide an actual answer to how workers are motivated, but gives a set of guideline for managers to follow in a way that by knowing that each individual within an organisation is unique, different solutions could be implemented by managers to deal with each individual needs and personal goal (Armstrong, & Dawson, 1996)

The ERG theory by Clayton P. Alderfer, consist of Existence need, Relatedness need and Growth need (Alderfer, 1972, pg 1-3)

According to Dr Alderfer, he believed that “Long before behavioural science developed in the twentieth century, social philosophers … asked themselves about the nature of men.” And it is with this in mind that he decided to answer some of these questions, e.g. what was a human’s primary wish? (Alderfer, 1972)

The main concept of the ERG theory is based on “Hierarchy of Needs” by Dr A. Maslow, but the significant difference between the two theories is that according to Maslow, all individuals follow a similar motivational



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