Groups in Organizations: Motivational Theories

Herzberg developed the two-factor theory of motivation in 1959 with the aim of identifying the reasons for satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the workplace and discovering the options for increasing corporate productivity (Gagné, 2014). This theory is associated with hedonic or pleasure motivation theories. The first group composed of hygienic factors relates to the environment in which the work is performed.

Among the most important hygiene factors, there are a company and administration policy, safety, comfortable working conditions, adequate salary, etc. The second group is represented by motivating factors or motivators, that refers to the essence of the work activity and its nature. This factor helps to increase the level of satisfaction with work and is viewed as an independent group of needs, including public acceptance, interesting content of activities, the opportunity to grow professionally, degree of responsibility, and so on.

The practical application of Herzberg’s theory implies that the manipulation of the mentioned factors allows one to influence the satisfaction of the staff with their work. In order to effectively use this theory, it is necessary to make a list of hygienic and, most importantly, motivating factors and provide employees with the opportunity to identify and indicate what they prefer (Gagné, 2014). The activation of motivating factors is able to ensure the maximum possible participation of personnel in the affairs of a company from taking independent and responsible decisions at their workplace to complicity in the company’s innovative programs. This is a harmonious system of staff motivation as all the possible conditions for productive work are created.

As for the weaknesses of the theory, one may note that the source of motivation can be both motivating and hygienic factors, which depends on the needs of a person. The lack of motivators can lead to a state of dissatisfaction with the workplace, and well-formed hygiene factors can lead to the satisfaction that depends on the specific situation. Thus, Herzberg made a significant contribution to the understanding of human motivation, but in his theory, he did not take into account a set of variables that determine situations related to motivation.

Adams developed another motivational theory in 1963 and called it the equity theory. In terms of the cognitive theory, it assumes that fairness is the key to success in employee motivation. The essence of this theory is that people subjectively determine the ratio of remuneration received in response to their efforts and then correlate it with those of other people performing similar work (Gagné, 2014). If they find uncertainty about the evaluation of their work, they tend to reduce their intensity. In case they learn that personal remuneration is higher than that of others for similar work, in most cases, this does not have a positive incentive effect on increasing the intensity of their work. Practically, in order to increase the motivation of employees, it is necessary to remove the tension that has arisen and restore justice, eliminating the imbalance.

The key strong points of the equity theory are the unification of an organization, loyalty, commitment, and confidence to management. However, the term of equity is rather relative and, thus, cannot be determined accurately (Jex & Britt, 2014). To apply this theory, a leader should find out needs to be addressed and actions to take to motivate employees. The declaration of the binding of the given remuneration to work done can be useful. In addition, a leader can try to hold meetings on a regular basis with his or her subordinates, where the setting of goals and the personal development of each employee will be discussed. Every employee should learn to set goals in the framework of his or her work and make a plan for personal development. This will have a positive impact throughout the organization as employees will share their achievements, activities, and contribution, raising the level of motivation.

Vroom’s expectancy theory of motivation (1964) is one more paradigm that is essential to discuss and implement in practice. According to this theory, the motivational effect is based not on the needs of people, but on the very cognitive process, in which an individual evaluates the reality of achieving the goal and obtaining the desired reward (Jex & Britt, 2014). The theory of expectations confirms the dependence of the efforts made by an individual on the realization of the reality of achievement of the set aim and the desirability of achieving it.

As the strength of the model, the positive motivation arises when there is an expectation that concrete actions will produce the desired result, and negative motivation arises when there is an expectation that specific actions will cause some undesirable results. The disadvantage of the model relates to the spread of estimates and expectations that are rather high. Therefore it is difficult to formalize the model and, accordingly, to find instrumental methods for its implementation. The following method of application of the model in an organization may be used:

  • establishment of an open and trustful relationship between management and employees and a strong link between the results of work and compensation;
  • formation of a high yet realistic level of results expected from employee;
  • promotion of self-esteem, responsibility, and professional knowledge in employees.


Gagné, M. (2014). The Oxford handbook of work engagement, motivation, and self-determination theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Jex, S. M., & Britt, T. W. (2014). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.