6 Theories of Motivation

Mark Bridges
4 min readMar 5


Employees that are content, motivated, and inspired are vital to the success of a firm. Yet, reading the human psychology and knowing what motivates and pushes individuals to accomplish their goals is difficult for leaders and human resource professionals to comprehend. Here is where the data and results generated by the various Theories of Motivation come into play.

Research indicates that only a small percentage of workers feel motivated and involved in their individual firms. This further enhances the significance of knowing the Theories of Motivation. Employees who are engaged and satisfied have been proven to be much more productive and perform better than those who are not.

While each person is unique, there is no standard approach to encourage individuals. Motivational Theories are evaluative methods that aid managers in understanding what motivates a certain individual. Managers that devote time in getting to know their employees, comprehending their personalities, and analyzing their behaviors are more likely to develop outstanding teams and environments, accomplish goals, and make major contributions to the business.

Psychologists and professionals in Human Resource Management (HRM) have developed a variety of motivating theories. Six of these are particularly important and widely accepted across sectors and organizations:

1. Equity Theory

2. Two-Factor Theory

3. Hierarchy of Needs Theory

4. Three Needs Theory

5. Objective Setting Theory

6. Expectation Theory

It is the responsibility of immediate supervisors and line managers to determine which Motivation Theory works best for each of their team member. Let’s investigate some of these theories in further depth.

Equity Theory

Equity Theory, proposed by John Adams, asserts that individuals’ perceptions of fairness at their workplaces are heavily impacted by the perspectives and circumstances of their coworkers. Their emotions, dealings, and behaviors are influenced by their perceptions of how they are treated at the company relative to others. People are often more motivated when they perceive that they are being treated fairly. Similarly, people feel demotivated when they experience discrimination or when they learn that others are receiving a larger reward-to-effort ratio.

According to the notion, managers play a significant role in motivating their employees by assuring fair treatment across the board and addressing issues about inequity immediately.

Two Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg developed the Two Factor Theory based on several investigative studies. He identified the fundamental variables that inspire or dissatisfy individuals at work. Herzberg investigated the impact of 14 distinct elements on work satisfaction or discontentment of employees. He divided these elements into two main categories: Hygiene factors (or dissatisfiers) and Motivation factors (or satisfiers).

Hygiene factors (dissatisfiers) are employment-extrinsic and tend to lessen job discontent by addressing the urge to avoid conflict or problems. For instance, compensation, regulations and norms, administration, relationships with supervisors and coworkers, working circumstances, and the supervisor’s quality.

Motivation Factors (satisfiers) are essential and inherent to work satisfaction, since they meet the development and self-actualization goals of people. Examples include work, responsibility, performance, and accomplishment; opportunity for progression; acknowledgment; personal development; and employment status.

According to the theory, managers who want to encourage their teams should distinguish between employee happiness and demotivation and utilize work rotations and rearrangement to increase job satisfaction.

Hierarchy of Needs Theory

People may be motivated, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, by meeting their 5 basic needs. The 5 stages, illustrated as hierarchical layers inside a pyramid, are physiological (food, housing, clothes), safety (employment, health), social (friendship), esteem (recognition, freedom), and self-actualization (personal growth). The bottom 4 levels are referred to as “Deficiency Needs,” while the highest tier is known as “Growth or Being Needs.”

Interested in learning more about the other theories of Motivation? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on 6 Theories of Motivation here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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Mark Bridges

I blog about various management frameworks, from Strategic Planning to Digital Transformation to Change Management. https://flevy.com