Motivation Theories for Managers


Every manager has to cope with different tasks, involving other employees and coordinating them on every step of the process. This is why managers must be able to motivate employees, to increase the efficiency of management, and make everything possible to achieve necessary goals of an organization.

First of all, what is motivation? It’s a psychological approach that directs somebody’s behavior towards certain goals, creating a purpose for some actions (Kreitner, 1995). It also means a predisposition to act in a certain way to satisfy certain needs (Buford, Bedeian & Lidner, 1995). Some experts consider motivation as a will to reach certain goals (Bedeian, 1993), and an internal mechanism that helps satisfy certain needs (Higgins, 1994).

All corporations have certain goals, and the mission of employees is to achieve these goals with the best efficiency. At the same time, people are more concentrated on individual goals; thus, to achieve organizational goals, managers must build relations between individual and corporate needs. Some people think that it’s enough for every employee to demonstrate best activity, and the whole organization will move towards best performance rates. In fact, a lot of companies lag behind, due to demotivated employees. Managers must understand this feature of human psychology, to build an effective management based on strong motivation.

Modern world changes all the time, creating new challenges every day. Now it becomes really important to introduce new motivational strategies, as well as to improve performance of the staff. According to statistics, motivated employees demonstrate much higher creativity and productivity.

There are many theories of motivation, and many of them are based on the Maslow’s pyramid, which is a list of basic human needs. According to Maslow, self-actualization is the main goal of human existence. This becomes possible only when all basic needs are fully satisfied. Such a pyramid includes five needs, sorted by priority, these needs are:

  • Basic physiological needs;
  • Safety;
  • Love;
  • Esteem;
  • Self-actualization as a final goal.

Another theory, introduced by Herzberg, states that there are two key factors that determine the level of motivation. First of all, he mentions the hygiene, as a factor that doesn’t help motivate employees. Obviously, a lack of the hygiene demotivates the staff. Herzberg points out the importance of a good environment, which helps increase performance and motivation of employees. Thus, two key factors are hygienes and motivators (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959).

Motivators are factors that illustrate our recognition and achievements. These factors increase satisfaction, unlike hygiene factors, such as security, which lead to dissatisfaction of an employee. According to McGregor, organizations must highly value employees and treat them as responsible workers. When employees are treated with respect, they want to do more for this company. Likert (1967) introduces a participative-group method, which requires managers to form certain groups with their leaders. In this case, a leader is someone who helps motivate others, getting rewards for it.

There are a lot of other theories that discuss motivation in the context of improving performance. According to Vroom, organizational performance directly depends on individual performance of every employee, as a part of an organization. If an organization is unable to maintain its performance on a certain level, it leads to losing the competition.

Motivation theories consider factors that are able to make an employee work better. These are theories for managers, who must be able to understand needs of employees, and introduce new methods of management depending on a certain motivation strategy. In turn, organizations must be able to retain employees and form their behavior. Obviously, the key reason of existence of any company is to increase profit levels. Significant labor turnover always leads to unnecessary wastes and negatively affects the level of profit. This all pushes us to considering the importance of knowledge management.

Without knowledge about methods of motivation, managers tend to consider monetary rewards as the only way to increase motivation of employees, which is completely wrong. It’s very important to take into account needs of each particular employee, since different people always have different needs. Some employees are looking for monetary rewards, and some are focused on their responsibility. Therefore, increasing their responsibility, we motivate them to demonstrate better performance. Another category of employees would appreciate more flexibility, having enough time for their family. Considering needs of each particular employee, companies are able to create a perfect environment, where all staff is focused on increasing the performance.

Organizations must consider employees as internal customers. According to marketing theories, best results can be achieved when needs of a customer meet needs of a company. In the context of motivation, such a theory may be presented in other words: satisfied internal customers produce more satisfied external customers. This is exactly what Vroom is talking about. Rewards must be chosen depending on needs of a particular employee, not on a manager’s opinion. This is a way to make individual goals a tool for achieving goals of the whole company. Without knowledge of motivation theory, managers will be unable to provide effective management. These theories help us better understand psychological features of staff, and use them to increase profits.

For many years, a lot of experts provided researches to understand how organizational performance can be improved. All these surveys and researches point to the fact that organizational performance directly depends on individual performance. In turn, individual performance consists of employee’s ability and motivation. To apply good systems of motivation, companies must be able to correctly estimate each one’s performance. Such systems of evaluation are called performance management systems. There are a lot of different performance management systems, which use different methods of evaluation, for example, bottom up evaluation, top-down evaluation, and so on. Using systems of self-evaluation, managers become able to provide necessary rewards, using both monetary and non-monetary methods.

Providing proper motivation, managers learn more about needs and achievements of employees. They stay in touch with staff, being able to complete necessary tasks faster. Managers stay up-to-date about all tasks completed by each employee, which helps estimate productivity and form new tasks, taking into account each one’s skills.

Summing up this information, we can write a list of tools that are able to motivate staff.

  • Recognition and praise;
  • Loyalty;
  • Job enrichment;
  • Respect;
  • Financial incentives;
  • Communication.

Generally, managers must understand human psychology and take into account key goals of the company. They must create proper environment that would lead to the increase in personal and organizational performance.


It becomes clear that managers must have necessary knowledge about motivational theories. Managers must take into account organizational performance, as well as individual performance. There is no single solution for all employees, everybody have different needs, and this fact can be used to reach goals of the whole organization. Satisfied employees work better and help organizations grow and develop.

Motivational theories help better understand needs of every particular employee, and so create a proper environment, and also implement necessary motivational methods. These theories help companies create competitive advantages, so it’s really important to provide managers with all necessary information about such an issue, in order to increase performance of the whole company.