Difference between Early and Contemporary Theories of Motivation
Motivation is the set of forces that prompt a person to release energy in a certain direction. As such, motivation is essentially a need- and want-satisfying process. A need is best defined as the gap between what is and what is required. Similarly, a want is the gap between what is and what is desired. Unsatisfied needs and wants create a state of tension that pushes (motivates) individuals to practice behavior that will result in the need being met or the want being fulfilled[^2^].
There are many theories of motivation that have been developed by psychologists, human resources specialists, and managers to understand, explain, and influence human behavior. These theories can be broadly classified into two categories: early and contemporary theories of motivation[^1^].
Early Theories of Motivation
Early theories are important as they represent a foundation from which contemporary theories have grown. Practicing managers still regularly use these theories and their terminology in explaining employee motivation. Early theories of motivation are based on the assumptions that people are motivated by economic incentives and that there is one best way to perform any job[^2^]. Some of the early theories of motivation are:
Hierarchy of Needs Theory by Maslow: This theory proposes that people have five levels of needs that they seek to satisfy: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization. According to Maslow, lower-level needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs can be addressed[^2^].
ERG Theory by Alderfer: This theory simplifies Maslow's hierarchy into three categories: existence, relatedness, and growth. According to Alderfer, people can pursue more than one need at a time and can regress to lower-level needs if higher-level needs are frustrated[^1^].
Theory X and Theory Y by McGregor: This theory contrasts two sets of assumptions about human nature and behavior at work. Theory X assumes that people are lazy, dislike work, avoid responsibility, and need to be coerced to perform. Theory Y assumes that people are self-motivated, enjoy work, seek responsibility, and exercise self-direction[^2^].
Two-Factor Theory by Herzberg: This theory distinguishes between two types of factors that influence motivation: hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors are extrinsic aspects of the work environment that prevent dissatisfaction, such as pay, company policies, supervision, and working conditions. Motivators are intrinsic aspects of the work itself that promote satisfaction, such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, and advancement[^2^].
Contemporary Theories of Motivation
Contemporary theories are more recent and represent the current state of the art in explaining employee motivation. Contemporary theories are based on the assumptions that people have different needs and wants, that they seek to fulfill them in different ways, and that they respond to different types of rewards[^1^]. Some of the contemporary theories of motivation are:
Acquired Needs Theory by McClelland: This theory proposes that people have three types of needs that they acquire over time: need for achievement, need for affiliation, and need for power. According to McClelland, these needs vary in intensity among individuals and influence their behavior at work[^1^].
Goal Setting Theory by Locke: This theory suggests that people are motivated by specific, challenging, and attainable goals that they set for themselves or accept from others. According to Locke, goals direct attention, mobilize effort, increase persistence, and encourage feedback-seeking behavior[^1^].
Self-Efficacy Theory by Bandura: This theory states that people's beliefs about their capabilities to perform a task affect their motivation and performance. According to Bandura, self-efficacy is influenced by four sources: past performance, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and emotional cues[^1^].
Reinforcement Theory by Skinner: This theory asserts that behavior is a function of its consequences. According to Skinner, people tend to repeat behaviors that are rewarded and avoid behaviors that are punished. Reinforcement theory identifies four types of consequences: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and extinction[^1^].