Motivation, review of some important theories

Frank Vande Voorde
  • 2 Min de lecture
Theories in the field of Management

As motivation of their team members is so important for managers and leaders, it is not a waste of time to review, briefly, some of the most notorious theories in the field of Management. 

Psychology of humans has not changed that much in the last 80 years and all theories were developed earlier than that. The basics certainly remain applicable, it is just the interpretation that should be adapted to the ideas of today. 

My favourite is the theory of Maslow: “Hierarchy of Need”. Maslow states that once a level of needs is fulfilled, people need to be motivated on the next level.

It starts with basic needs, such as food and water, evolving to safety needs (a home, employment, healthcare, …). At the next level, people strive to belong to something: social contacts, friendship, affection, … After that, people need recognition, a status, … To finally evolve to self-actualisation needs which include autonomy, personal growth and development. 

An interesting theory is that of Adam (1963). It is called the equity theory and it states that people are motivated when they perceive that they are treated equitably when they compare themselves to their colleagues. 

Also interesting is Frederick Herzberg’s “two factors theory of Motivation-Hygiene”. Hygiene factors can result in people’s dissatisfaction with their work. These factors are interpersonal relationships, salary, the relationship between the supervisor and the employee, or even the work environment.

Motivational factors can lead to a person’s improved engagement. These are: recognition, responsibility, promotions, achievements. 

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to Douglas McGregor’s “Theory X and Theory Y”. He states that a leader’s assumptions about the team members can have a significant impact on their motivation. 

Theory X managers believe employees are not motivated and dislike their work. As a result, they will manage people with an authoritarian management style. There will be micro-management and motivation is very often by means of a “carrot or a stick”. This style seems to be out of fashion but some organisations still apply it (certainly some managers). 

The theory Y managers believe their team members are optimistic and positive. They manage in a more participative style which is trust-based. There is a tendency for open communication.

These were the theories I wanted to share. It is important to understand that a combination of the team members’ needs, the appreciation, helping them to achieve their personal goals, is today perceived as the better motivation cocktail.

There is, of course, much more to it, but if you start with understanding what these researches have revealed, you can start applying the basics in day-to-day practice. 

If you have any comments, ideas or experiences you want to share, please don’t hesitate.


Good luck.



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