Work Motivation Theory Case Study

Table of contents


There are two issues related to work motivation in the sample case study. The first is that the focus of the case study concentrates on ‘what’ motivates workers, by providing samples of end goals as tools of motivation. The second issue that is apparent is that the object that motivates the workers is not universal across the surveyed countries and varies significantly depending on country. This was seen particularly for the items; good boss, good pay and friendly co-workers.


The use of an object as the method of work motivation indicates that content theory of motivation has been used as the theoretical foundation on which the case study is being undertaken. Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs is applicable to the case study and in order to reach self-actualisation which seeks personal fulfilment and peak experiences, one must first satisfy the lower levels of psychological, security, affiliation and esteem needs. Herzberg et al.’s (1959) two factor theory is also a relevant content theory for the case study. This theory asserts that both hygiene and motivation factors are necessary for work place motivation. Hygiene factors are those that are essential for motivation, such as pay and physical working conditions, while motivators are those which provide personal satisfaction. Alderfer’s (1972) ERG theory redefined Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in line with empirical evidence classing work motivation needs into existence, relatedness and growth needs.


It is clear that the assumption promulgated by the case study indicates that the lower levels of motivation in Maslow, Alderfer and Herzberg’s theories are satisfied as the questionnaire used to sample these indicators evaluate the importance of higher level needs that have to do with self-fulfilment and actualisation. This indicates therefore that these theories are applicable, as motivation has occurred at a higher level in the surveyed organisations. These theories however, do not necessarily explain how the higher levels of motivation interact with one another. This leaves one to assume that the content theories of motivation are only sufficient to an extent as they do not consider different levels of motivation at these higher levels. The differences in the importance of certain elements of the questionnaire in the case study according to the country of the subjects does not necessarily present a difficulty in the universal application of these theories, as differences will necessarily occur in a number of contexts depending on the organisational characteristics of the subject organisation.


Arguably, a more accurate theory of motivation to be applied is process theory, which seek to understand the process through which motivation occurs. Examples of process theories include expectancy based models (Vroom, 1964), goal setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990) and equity theory (Adams, 1963). These theories seek to understand the process by which motivation occurs and to identify motivators in this way rather than to understand it from a content approach. Importantly, process theories seek to motivate through establishing a balance between input and output of a worker and thereby attain the goals of that worker in terms of self fulfillment.


These theories provide a useful understanding of the factors that effect work motivation and the types of content or process which may be utilized in order to achieve maximum motivation. These theories can be applied to a complex set of organizational factors and are important in the context of organizational theory by allowing for a better understanding of creating a psychological contract affecting organizational behavior and culture.


Adams, J. (1963) Toward an Understanding of Inequity. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, pp. 422 – 436.

Alderfer, C. (1972) Existence, Relatedness, and Growth; Human Needs in Organizational Settings. New York: Free Press.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., Snyderman, B. (1959) The Motivation to Work (2ed). New York: John Wiley.

Locke, E. & Latham, G. (1990) A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Maslow, A. (1943) A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), pp. 370 – 396.

Vroom, V. (1964) Work and Motivation. New York: McGraw Hill.

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