The word motivation derives from the Latin word “movere” which means “to move”. Motivation is defined as an inner drive that activates and directs behavior. The term motivation theory deals with the processes that describe why and how human behavior is activated and directed. It is considered one of the most important fields of study in the field of organizational behavior. There are two different categories of motivational theories, namely content theories and process theories. Although there are various theories of motivation, none of them are universally accepted.
The content theory of motivation, also known as needs theory, focuses primarily on the intrinsic factors that stimulate and guide human behavior. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Alderfer’s ERG theory, Herzeberg’s motivator hygiene theory (Herzeberg’s two-factor theory), and McClelland’s learned needs or three-needs theory are some of the most important content theories.
Of the different types of content theories, the most famous content theory is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Maslow introduced five levels of basic needs through his theory. Basic needs are categorized into physiological needs, safety needs, love needs, self-esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.
Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, ERG theory explains existential, connectedness, and growth needs. Through the dual factors theory, Herzeberg describes certain factors in the workplace that lead to job satisfaction. McClelland’s Learned Needs, or Three Needs, Theory uses a projective technique called the Thematic Aptitude Test (TAT) to assess people based on three needs: power, achievement, and belonging. People with high power needs act in ways that affect the behavior of others.
Another form of motivation theory is process theory. Process theories of motivation offer a way to understand thought processes that influence behavior. Key process theories of motivation include Adams’ equity theory, Vroom’s expectation theory, goal setting theory, and reinforcement theory. Expectation, instrumentality, and valence are the key concepts explained in expectancy theory. Goal setting theory suggests that individuals are motivated to achieve set goals. It also requires that the goals set should be specific. Reinforcement theory deals with controlling behavior by manipulating its consequences.