Organisational Behaviour: Motivation Theories

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Motivation refers to a person’s reason for doing an activity, which can be interpreted as desire, personal needs or interests. Different people have different motivations. There are also many different understandings of motivation. Managers need to understand employees’ motivation to reasonably encourage them to complete their work better. This report will present and discuss two motivational theories, describing their definition and practical content in detail. And will also provide my personal experience of actual events to illustrate how managers motivate employees. It also describes the definition and characteristics of intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation and their differences and how they manifest themselves in different employees. I also give personal examples of both motivations.

Motivation theories

1. Maslow’s Hierarchy

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory contains five levels of human requirements for their own needs. From the bottom of the hierarchy crossing, the needs are physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Generally speaking, people can only pursue higher level of satisfaction after meeting the low-level needs. Each phase of requirements has different content.

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Physiological Needs: It’s just the lowest stage, and this stage of need is related to whether people can basically meet their living conditions, such as water, food, breathing, sleep and clothing,

Safety Needs: In the second stage, when people solve the problem of survival after just want to let his own life order under control when they demand adequate food and clothing, such as personal safety, health and resources.

Love and belonging: The third stage belongs to higher-order Needs. The love and belonging in Maslow’s hierarchy include such things as love, acceptance, and belonging. At this level, the need for emotional relationships drives human behavior. People need not only self-satisfaction but also care and communication from others.

Esteem: Is appreciation and respect for the needs of the fourth stage, this stage is more able to play a role in motivating behavior. Everyone has vanity, we all need to get others’ recognition and attention, when we master a field or make a contribution to it and get applause and recognition, this makes our own vanity, so they are more willing to make efforts in order to realize personal value.

Self-actualization: At the very peak of Maslow’s hierarchy are the self-actualization needs. According to Maslow: ‘What a man can be, he must be.” Referring to the need people have to achieve their full potential as human beings. People at this stage have a very clear idea of who they want to be and have achieved or are on their way to achieving what they want. (Cherry, 2019) (McLeod, 2018) (Hopper, 2019)

For Maslow’s hierarchy, first of all, it is not a rigid, unchanging criterion, but flexible based on external or individual differences. But according to the priority order of demand, people must at least meet some basic needs rather than all. Most people’s behaviors are multi-motivated, that is, behaviors that are determined by more than one basic need at the same time.

2. Theory X and Y

Theory X and Theory Y were first explained by McGregor in his book “The Human Side of Enterprise”, they are two management styles, entitlement and participation. Managers decide how to manage employees based on their characteristics.

Theory X: Theory X is aimed at managers whose employees are inherently pessimistic. They lack motivation, ambition, don’t like work and don’t take responsibility. So, they have to use coercive methods, such as rewarding them when they do work, punishing them when they don’t, or monitoring them all the time to make sure they get their work done on time and in volume.

Theory Y: The staff of Theory Y managers are positive about their work, they love their work they not only want to make money but also hope to make achievements in their work, understand what they are doing and what their goals are, take the responsibility actively and cooperate with colleagues. They are creative and challenging. Managers don’t have to worry too much about this type of employee, just tell them exactly what needs to be done, and they may even do better than expected. (the mind tools content team, n.d.) (Juneja, n.d.)

Managers motivate employees

My parents used to have a hot pot restaurant in China. It was open for ten years. According to my conclusion, the restaurant’s ability to maintain a long running time is closely related to employee incentives, which can be summarized as follows:

1. Good promotion channel

This restaurant makes it very clear for employees to know the direction of working in this restaurant from various aspects, such as development and treatment. The restaurant guarantees a fair working environment and treatment for all employees. If they are diligent, loyal and honest, the company will pay more attention to them. This measure enables employees to set their own goals and strive for them, meet the needs of self-realization, and motivate employees to pursue a better future.

2. Unique assessment system

The restaurant is rigorous in its staff assessment. In addition to the staff must be familiar with their own business content, there are their own unique insights into the restaurant innovation, staff passion, customer satisfaction, backup cadre training, etc. Other things that are not easy to evaluate have their own evaluation criteria. For example, the boss will check from time to time to see if the employees pay attention to the customers and observe their work efficiency and enthusiasm. If the employees do not meet the requirements, the manager will be held accountable. The unique assessment system not only standardizes the management behaviour of managers, but also enables managers to mobilize the enthusiasm of employees through different systems.

3. Respect and love, create a harmonious family

In the restaurant, respect and kindness to the staff is always the first rule. Since all management staff are promoted from the most basic level, they have experienced the working conditions and psychological state of grassroots staff. They will care and understand grassroots employees from the bottom of their hearts, and give support and help to subordinates in work and life. Such personal care is what employees really need. They have more trust and loyalty to the restaurant. In addition, the restaurant also employees assigned lodging and meals, if the employee cannot work because of illness, the restaurant will be specially providing them with medicine and food. In addition to the basic salary, employees are encouraged by monthly bonuses for performance. In such a harmonious cultural atmosphere and work atmosphere inspired by, all employees of the restaurant as close as the family, their enthusiasm will be growing. These incentive measures not only meet the basic needs of employees, but also meet the needs of respect and self-realization of employees, and stimulate the sense of ownership of employees.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation means that your actions are driven by your internal desires. This gives you inner satisfaction, not because of external forces.

Example of intrinsic motivation

I love painting, but the cost of learning art is very high and unrewarding. But in order to learn painting, I have done a lot of coordination and communication with my parents, just to enjoy what I like to do, which makes me feel satisfied and fulfilled.

Extrinsic motivation

When your motivation is external, your behaviour is external. Because you want to be rewarded for your actions, or just avoid punishment.

Example of Extrinsic motivation

In my spare time, I will do some short time jobs, such as working in restaurants and supermarkets. During my working hours, I will not be late and leave early in order not to be deducted from my salary. I try my best to finish my work, but I don’t feel like enjoying my working time because I just want to earn pocket money.

Difference between Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

The difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation is the reason and motivation for doing something. If a person’s motivation for doing things is inner satisfaction and enjoyment rather than for profit, then his motivation is intrinsic motivation. But if a person does things only for profit and honor, or just to accomplish things without emotion, then his motivation is extrinsic motivation. (Bernazzani, 2017) (Cherry, Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?, 2019) (Parenting For Brain, 2019)


In summary, the two motivational theories are Maslow’s rank and theory X and Y. Maslow’s grade is divided into five stages of desire, they are physiological needs, security needs, love and belonging, self-esteem and self-realization, and each stage has different requirements. Theories X and Y are two different types of management employees, Theory X is for employees who are not passionate about work, and Theory Y is for employees who enjoy work. The personal management experience provides a lot of ways to give employees motivation. Intrinsic motivation means that employees work to satisfy their personal desires, but the external motivation is to work for the desire to satisfy interests and profits. For different employees, managers must first know what is driving them to work, and tempting and urging employees to do their jobs better.


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  3. Cherry, K. (2019, 7 21). The 5 Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from verywellmind:
  4. Hopper, E. (2019, 2 25). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Explained. Retrieved from thoughtco:
  5. Juneja, P. (n.d.). Theory X and Theory Y. Retrieved from managementstudyguide:
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  8. The mind tools content team. (n.d.). Theory X and Theory Y Understanding People’s Motivations. Retrieved from mindtools:


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