Interview Questions

Human Factors and Motivation


Motivation to work is very complex. There are many internal and environmental variables that affect the motivation to work. Behavioural scientists started to search new factsand techniques for motivation. These theories are termed as theories of motivation. The most important theories are explained below.

McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y

Different styles of management have a different bearing on the motivation of workers inthe organization. The style adopted by a manager in managing his subordinates is basically dependent upon his assumption about human behaviour. Theory X is negative, traditional and autocratic style while Theory Y is positive, participatory and democratic. Thus, the selabels describe contrasting set of assumptions about human nature.

Douglas McGregor has classified the basic assumption regarding human nature into two parts and has designated them as 'theory X’ and 'theory Y'.

Theory X: This is the traditional theory of human behaviour, which makes the following assumptions about human nature:

  1. Management is responsible for organizing the elements of productive enterprises -money, material, equipment, and people - in the interest of economic ends.
  2. With reference to people it is a process of directing their efforts, motivating them,controlling their actions, modifying their behaviour in order to be in conformity with the needs of the organization.
  3. Without this active intervention by management, people would be passive – evenresistant to organizational needs. Hence they must be persuaded, rewarded, punishedand properly directed.
  4. The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can.
  5. He lacks ambition, dislikes responsibility and prefers to be led.
  6. He is inherently self-centred, in different to organizational needs.
  7. He is by nature resistant to change.
  8. He is gullible, not very bright.

Theory Y: The assumption of theory Y, according to McGregor are as follows:-

  1. Work is as natural as play or rest, provided the conditions are favourable; the average human being does not inherently dislike work.
  2. External control and the thrust of punishment are not the only means for bringing about efforts towards organizational objectives. Man can exercise self-control and self-direction in the service of objectives to which he is committed.
  3. Commitment to objectives is a result of the rewards associated with their achievement. People select goals for themselves if they see the possibilities ofsome kind of reward that may be material or even psychological.
  4. The average human being, under proper conditions does not shirk responsibility, butlearn not only to accept responsibility but also to seek it.
  5. He has capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity andcreativity in the solution of organizational problems in widely, not narrowly distributed in the population.
  6. Under conditions of modern industrial life the intellectual potentialities of peopleare only partially utilized. As a matter of fact, men, have unlimited potential.

Maslow's Need-Hierarchy Theory of Motivation

According to Abraham Maslow, a U.S psychologist, man is a wanting animal. He has avariety of wants or needs. All motivated behaviour of man is directed towards the satisfaction of his needs. The theory postulated that people are motivated by multiple needs, which could be arranged in a hierarchy.

Maslow offers a general theory of motivation called the 'need hierarchy theory'.

The features of his theory are as follows:-

  1. People have a wide range of needs which motivate them to strive for fulfilment.
  2. Human needs can be definitely categorized into five types:
    • Physical needs,
    • Safety or security needs,
    • Affiliation or social needs,
    • Esteem needs and
    • Self-actualisation needs.
  3. These needs can be arranged into a hierarchy. Physical needs are at the base whereas self- actualisation needs are at the apex.
  4. People gratify their physical needs first, when the need is satisfied, they feel the urge for the next higher level need.
  5. Relative satisfaction of lower level need is necessary to activate the next higher level need.
  6. A satisfied need does not motivate human behaviour. It only triggers or activates the urge for the next higher level of needs.

Deficit and Progression Principles: In order to comprehend the full meaning of Maslow's theory, it is necessary to understand the deficit and progression principles.

Deficit Principle: According to Maslow, once a need is fairly well satisfied, it is no longer a stronger motivator of behaviour. People are motivated to satisfy only those needs that are perceived to be deficient.

Progression Principle: Maslow contends that the five categories of needs exist in ahierarchy. A need at a given level is not activated until the need directly below it is fairly well gratified. Thus, the person is expected to progress step-by-step up the need hierarchy.

The need-hierarchy theory must not be viewed as a rigid structure to be applied universally in all situations. The hierarchy represents a typical pattern that operates most of thetime.

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

Hertzberg's Theory of Motivation

Hertzberg developed a theory of motivation on the premise that human nature has two separate elements - The motivators and maintenance factors. According to this theory of motivation the items that determine job content are considered motivational factors

e.g.:- Achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement and the work itself. The elements that influence the job context are the hygiene or maintenance factors e.g.:-company policy, salary, inter-personal relations, working conditions etc. They must beadequate and if they are absent or inadequate, they will create dis satisfaction.

  1. Hygiene Factors: Hygiene factors represent the need to avoid pain in the environment. They are not an intrinsic part of a job, but they are related to the conditions under which a job is performed. They are associated with negative feelings. They must be viewed as preventive measures that remove sources of dissatisfaction from environment. Hertzberg believed that hygiene factors createda zero level of motivation and if maintained at proper level prevents negative typeof motivation from occurring.
  2. Thus, hygiene factors, when absent, increase dissatisfaction with the job. When present, help in preventing dissatisfaction but do not increase satisfaction or motivation.

  3. Motivators: Motivators are associated with positive feelings of employees about the job. They make people satisfied with their job. Motivators are necessary to keep job satisfaction and job performance high. On the other hand, if they are not present they do not prove highly satisfying. Motivational factors or satisfiers are directly related to job content itself, the individual's performance of it, its responsibilities and the growth and recognition obtained from it. Motivators are intrinsic to the job.

Thus, when motivators are absent, prevent both satisfaction and motivation. When, motivators are present, they lead to satisfaction and motivation.

To apply the two-factor theory to the workplace, Hertzberg suggests a two-step process

  1. The supervisor should attempt to eliminate the hygiene factors that are found to be more basic than factors that lead to satisfaction.
  2. Once the dissatisfies have been some what neutralized, the supervisor may be ableto motivate workers through the introduction of motivational factors.

Victor Vroom's Expectancy Theory

Expectancy Theory was developed by Victor H Vroom. It is based on the notion that human behaviour depends on people's expectations concerning their ability to perform tasks and to receive desired rewards. The expectancy theory argues that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends in the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of the outcome to the individual. It includes three variables which Vroom refers to as -

  1. Valance: Valence means the strength of an individual's preference for a particular outcome. A valence of zero occurs when the individual is indifferent towards the outcome. The valance is negative when the individual prefers not attaining the outcome to attaining it.
  2. Instrumentality: Instrumentality refers to the relationship between performance and reward. It refers to a degree to which a first level outcome (e.g.:-superiorperformance) will lead to a desired second level outcome (e.g.:- promotion). If people perceive that their performance is adequately rewarded the perceived instrumentality will be positive. On the other hand, if they perceive that performance does not make any difference to their rewards, the instrumentality will be low.
  3. Expectancy: People have expectancies about the likelihood that an action or efforton their part will lead to the intended performance. Workers will be motivated by the belief that their performance will ultimately lead to payoffs for them. Expectancyis the probability that a particular action will lead to a particular first level outcome.

In sum, Vroom emphasizes the importance of individual perceptions and assessments of organizational behaviour. The key to "expectancy" theory is the "understanding of an individual's "goals" - and the linkage between "effort" and "performance" between "performance" and "rewards" and between "rewards" and "individual-goal satisfaction".

It is a contingency model, which recognizes that there is no universal method of motivating people. Because we understand what needs an employee seeks to satisfy does not ensure that the employee himself perceives high job performance as necessarily leading to the satisfaction of these needs.

McClelland's Need for Achievement Theory

David C McClelland, a Harvard Psychologist, has proposed that there are three major relevant motives most needs in work-place situations. According to him, the motives are:-

  • The need for achievement i.e., strives to succeed.
  • The need for affiliation i.e., warm relationship with others.
  • The need for power i.e., controls other people.

According to McClelland, every motive is acquired except striving for pleasure and avoiding pain. He proposed that people acquire these needs for achievement, power and affiliation through experiences over the time. On the job, people are motivated by the seneeds, and the manager can learn to recognize these needs in workers and use them to motivate behaviour.

McClelland used the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) to study human needs. The TAT process involves asking respondents to look at pictures and write stories about what they see in the pictures. The stories are then analysed to find certain themes that represent various human needs. From his research, McClelland found that, achievement motive is a "desire to perform in terms of a standard of excellence or to be successful in competitive situations". They (employees) seek situations where:

  1. They can attain personal responsibility for finding solutions to problems.
  2. They can receive immediate feedback information on how they are progressive towards a goal.
  3. They can set moderately challenging goals.
  4. They find accomplishing a task intrinsically satisfying.

"High achievers" differentiate themselves from others by their desire to do things better.

Evaluation: Achievement motivated people is the back bone of any organization. Assuch considerable time and attention must be devoted to constructing ways of developing the achievement motive at the managerial level. Organizational climate must be conduciveto high achievement. Managers must try to raise the achievement need level of subordinates by creating the proper work environment, increasing responsibility and autonomy and rewarding excellence in performance.

Pragna Meter
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