Discover What Motivates Your Employees Today! | Adam’s Equity Theory

When it comes to life, a job is necessary to meet all our needs. However, one of the most stressful things in life can be a person’s job, mainly because more than just sometimes, we feel stressed out and demotivated to complete our tasks. There have been many theories discussed regarding the reasons for de-motivation, among them, one of the most traditional ones is Adam’s Equity Theory.

When in comes to the topic of Motivation in Psychology, many theories of motivation have been presented. Adam’s Equity Theory is a very well recognized one in the Process Theories of Motivation, which basically deals with how a person is motivated.

As said above, there have been many theories presented to explain what motivates and demotivates an employee in a work place. The two other most famous are Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. However, the most traditional style theory is John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory.

Adam’s Equity Theory, presented by John Stacy Adam, basically revolves around the balance between an employee and an employer. It talks of two factors which make up a whole working relationship: Input and Output. The balance and fairness is to be established between these two factors. The theory basically suggests that in order to increase a worker’s motivation for their job to their absolute maximum, one must establish an equity between his input and output.

Factors Included In Adam’s Equity Theory:

The two factors included in John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory are as mentioned above, Input and Output. Let’s take a look at what these are exactly.

Factor #1: Input:

The word Input, in Adam’s Equity Theory, basically refers to the effort a worker puts into a task. This means, in the simplest of words, the time, energy, creativity, stress-consumption and performance the person invests into the job. In other words, when a person is given a job or task to complete, everything that that they do and invest from that time till the completion of the job, is known as Input.

Inputs can include:

a) Effort.

b) Hard work.

c) Skill.

d) Ability.

e) Commitment.

f) Loyalty.

g) Determination.

h) Adaptability.

i) Flexibility.

j) Acceptance of co-workers.

k) Enthusiasm.

l) Acceptance or adjustment of the working conditions.

m) Time.

n) Trust in superiors.

o) Support of co-workers.

p) Personal sacrifices.

Factor #2: Output:

The word Output, in Adam’s Equity Theory, basically refers to the reward an individual receives for their performance. This means, in the simplest of words, the recognition, payment or anything needed by the individual, gained after the task is successfully accomplished. In other words, when a person is given a job or task to complete, they put in their effort and contribution to achieve it and then what they gain from doing this specific task is the Output or the end result.

Outputs can include:

a) Rewards in form of finance (salary, payments, paycheck, etc.)

b) Recognition.

c) Reputation.

d) Responsibility.

e) Publicity.

f) Praise.

g) Sense of achievement.

i) Higher sense of the self.

j) Stimulus.

k) Internal and personal growth or advancement.

l) Polishing of skills.

m) Job security.

What’s the Catch?

As we previously said, John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory aims to equalize the individual’s effort or input with the reward or output they receive to access their maximum motivation towards the given task. However, after seeing the list of outputs, we can observe that most of them are immeasurable values, and thus, a person studying this theory begs the question: “How do we equalize elements which cannot be measured?” The answer is simple: It all depends upon Perception.

An Employee’s Perception

So here we have, an employee working towards achieving a goal, contributing and investing into the performance to gain maximum rewards. However, how do we measure these rewards into being equal to the input the worker is investing into the job? The answer, as previously highlighted, is perception.

Each person has their own unique perception. In work places, the relationship of the worker’s input and that of his outputs depends largely on the perception one has about their “measurements”. The exchange relationship of efforts and rewards should be agreeable by both the parties, i.e. Employees and the employers.

Regardless, due to this perception, an employer may face complication in the context of the employee not agreeing to their exchange terms and demanding a much higher reward for his input as his individual, unique perception sees it fit. This complication can be efficiently tackled through communication between both the parties; both the parties getting to speak, present their views and then ultimately agreeing on the relationship terms.

Perception and Skills:

The individual skills and perception goes (or should go) hand in hand. A person must be accurately aware of the level of his skills, to demand a suitable reward. This aspect of Skills can also be used to tackle the complication mentioned above, as a detailed discussion of the worker’s skills can be thoroughly used to make a point.

Exchange Relationships:

There are three kinds of exchange relationship presented in Adam’s Equity Theory:

a) Overpaid Inequity:

This type of relationship, basically refers to when a person’s Input is less than that of the Output. This type can seriously conflict with the employee’s moral values and give birth to feelings of guilt, and thus, will lessen the motivation towards the completion of the goal.

b) Underpaid Inequity:

This type of relationship, basically refers to when a person’s Input is more than that of the Output. This type is by far, the most demotivating, as the individual feels that the job is not worth the effort.

c) Equity:

This type of relationship, basically refers to when a person’s Input is equal to that of the Output. This type of exchange relationship in John Stacy Adam’s Equity Theory is the most motivating. Here is when an employee’s motivation is maximized during the performance of the job, as neither is it conflicting with any moral values, nor is it demotivating as when the individual feels that the effort into the task is not worth the output.

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Halt! Here’s The Work Motivation You’ve Been Searching For | Vroom’s Expectancy Theory.

When it comes to Psychology and Motivation, the increasingly pending question that one mainly faces is how exactly does motivation occur in an individual? The “how” question is dealt by the Process Theories of Motivation. Over the years many theorists, scientists and psychologists have tried to explain exactly what motivates an individual in a work place. One of these psychologist is Vincent Vroom with his Expectancy Theory.

Work place motivation is a very intriguing topic, for both the employees as well as the employers. Through the years, we have received Abraham Maslow’s Theory, Alderfer’s Theory, McClelland’s Theory, and more specifically, Fredrick Herzberg’s Theory when it comes to work place motivation. However, Vincent Vroom discovered that in a work-place, a person’s goals and motivation towards it wasn’t as simple as it was first concluded by other theorists, and so he bought forward his Expectancy Theory.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory and It’s Basic Idea:

Vroom’s Theory firstly stated that workplace behavior is a result of an individual’s conscious choices which they pick from other given alternatives. The basic purpose of this conscious choice is to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. Vroom’s Theory assumes that workplace motivation and behavior wasn’t as straightforward as it was first imagined to be, but rather states that an employee’s performance was a result of his personality, talents, skills, capability, knowledge and experience. This theory includes three elements which help make an individual decide on a conscious choice. The elements are: Expectancy, Instrumentality and Valance.

Vroom’s Motivational Force Formula:

Using the three elements in Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, Vincent Vroom presented a formula for Motivational Force:

Motivational Force = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valance

Elements in Vroom’s Expectancy Theory:

As mentioned above, Vroom presented three elements which make up the motivational force in employees when it comes to completing a task and the individual’s conscious choices.

   A) Expectancy:

This first element in Vroom’s Expectancy Theory is Expectancy. This basically refers to the belief of an individual that a higher quality of effort will result into a higher quality performance. Vincent Vroom lists three factors which affect this element:

a) The individual possessing the right material for the performance of the task or job.

b) The individual being equipped with the right skills in relation to the performance of the task or job.

c) The individual having or being granted the appropriate supervision for the support in the performance of the task or job.

   B) Instrumentality:

The second element in Vroom’s Expectancy Theory in Instrumentality. This element basically refers to the belief or confidence of the individual that they will be rewarded after the completion of the task in need of the performance. Vincent Vroom lists several factors which affect this element. They are as follows:

a) A simple, easy and clear understanding between the task and the reward.

b) Proper knowledge of the rules and regulations to attaining the said reward.

c) Transparency of the whole process.

   C) Valance:

The third and last element present in Vroom’s Expectancy Theory is Valance. This element basically refers to individuals own perception of the reward, i.e. the personal importance the person places on the reward. The higher the importance is of the reward to the individual, the better the motivation to perform the task efficiently, and the lower the importance is of the reward to the individual, the worse the motivation to perform the task efficiently. For example: on the reward as a car provided by the firm, over the completion of the task, an employee is who is lacking a good quality car will be extremely motivated to achieve the task efficiently as he has a personal importance placed on the reward. On the other hand, a person who already has the sufficient amount of cars will not be extremely motivated by the same reward.

Vincent Vroom believed that a positive relation between effort and the actual performance was a necessity to a high quality delivery of the task. The Expectancy Theory states that in order to improve the motivation in employees, there must be a clear understanding between the efforts they will put in into the job and the outcome they will receive, i.e. the reward. The greatest sense of motivation occurs in an employee when the individual has placed a personal value on the reward. Employees and employers both should be aware of the following process and perception of the worker:

a) Higher effort will result in a higher quality performance.

b) The higher quality performance will lead to achieving bigger and better rewards.

c) The bigger and better offered reward will be appreciated by the worker themselves.

In the case of a deficiency in any of the factors mentioned above, there will be a decline observed in the employees motivational force which in turn will lead to a lower rate of productivity. Out of the above factors, the last factor is thus by far, the most important as there should be a personal motivation involved in order to properly motivate an employee.

In conclusion, we all are constantly thirsting for some form of motivation when it comes to our work; we often tend to slack off of our tasks into misery and then worry about the upcoming deadlines – the constant ups and downs when it comes to our workplace motivation is considered a norm. However, through Vincent Vroom’s expectancy Theory, after realizing and recognizing the elements personal to us, we can help ourselves to achieve bigger and better.


Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG Theory.

For many years, psychologist and theorists alike have wondered, why does man do what he does? Why does a certain action take place? What is the motivation to perform a certain act? Finally, a psychologist, Clayton P. Alderfer answers these complicated questions with his ERG Theory.

Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG Theory comes under the very intriguing topic of Motivation in Psychology. It is a rather well known theory in the topic of theories of motivation, and more specifically, it’s Content Theories. Commonly, this theory goes hand in hand with Abraham Maslow’s Theory on the Hierarchy of Human Needs, as it is a condensed form of it. However, there are certain differences to the ERG and The Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory.

Maslow’s Theory vs. Alderfer’s Theory

   1) Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory:

Before Clayton P. Alderfer, another American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, explained the causes for behavior, or the motivation to perform: Basically, Motivation results from a demand of a need to be satisfied, and the act or performance it takes to satisfy that need is behavior. So, Maslow bought forward a theory called “The Hierarchy of Human Needs”, through which he explained, using a pyramid, that humans have five levels or stages of needs. The lower most stage is the most essential and demanding, followed by the one above, and so on. According to this theory, a person cannot satisfy a need if the one below it is left unsatisfied.

The stages in Maslow’s Pyramid includes:

  1. Physiological or Basic Needs.
  2. Safety Needs.
  3. Social Needs.
  4. Esteem Needs.
  5. Self-Actualization Needs.

The first stage, Physiological or Basic Needs, includes all the survival needs for a human, i.e. Food, water, shelter, sleep, excretion, etc. This need is the most demanding.

The second stage, Safety Needs, includes the need of an individual to feel secure and protected, i.e. need for security, laws, order, etc.

The third stage, Social Needs, includes the need of the whole human race for social interactions, i.e. Relations with other, intimacy, belonging need, etc.

The fourth stage, Esteem Needs, includes external esteem as well as internal esteem, i.e. self-confidence, high sense of self, respect from others, good reputation, etc.

The fifth and last stage in Maslow’s Pyramid is Self-Actualization Needs. This includes all personal growth needs where the person can recognize their potentials and accomplish them.

The first four stages are categorized as Deficiency Needs by Maslow, while the fifth is categorized as a Growth Need. Deficiency Needs basically refer to those need in which the absence of their satisfaction leads to anxiousness in a person.

   2) Alderfer’s ERG Theory:

As said above, Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG Theory is a condensed or concentrated form of Maslow’s Need Structure. Here, Alderfer has condensed Maslow’s five stages in just three: Existence Needs, Relatedness Needs and Growth Needs. The term “ERG” in the name of his theory refers to these three elements.

The first need in Alderfer’s theory is Existence Needs. This is basically a compilation of Maslow’s first two needs, i.e. Physiological or Basic Needs and Safety Needs. It includes all the factors which are necessary for human survival like: Food, water, shelter, air, sleep, excretions, safety and security, etc.

The second need in Alderfer’s theory is Relatedness Needs. This is basically a compilation of Maslow’s Social Needs as well as a part of Esteem Needs. It includes factors such as: Need to establish bonds with others, to belong in a group, respect from others, good reputation, etc.

The third and last need in Alderfer’s theory is Growth Needs. This is basically a mixture of Maslow’s Self-Actualization Needs as well as a part of Esteem Needs. This need is basically related to one’s internal and personal growth of potentials and a high sense of self.

  • The difference between both these theories is that in Maslow’s Pyramid, an individual has to satisfy the lower level needs before they can start on the higher levels. According to Maslow, only one level of need can be satisfied at a time. However, according to Alderfer and his theory, multiple needs can be satisfied at the same time.
  • Another difference between the two theories is that in Maslow’s theory, for each individual, the pyramid is built on the same Need sequence. While in Alderfer’s theory, the need order (higher-level and lower-level needs) can differ from each person to person. For example: an artist may put his Growth Needs before his Relatedness Needs.

Satisfaction Relationships in Alderfer’s ERG Theory:

There are three types of satisfaction relationships in Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG Theory. They are as follows:

   1) Satisfaction-Progression:

The first type of relationship in Alderfer’s theory is Satisfaction-Progression. This basically refers to satisfying a need and moving on to higher-level needs. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory, the whole process revolves around this relationship as according to Maslow, a person cannot move up to a higher-level need without satisfying the lower level need. However, in Alderfer’s theory, this is not the case. Here, if a person moves from satisfying his Relatedness Needs to his Growth Needs, it does not necessarily mean that his Existence Needs are satisfied.

   2) Frustration-Regression:

The second type of relationship in Alderfer’s theory is Frustration-Regression. This basically refers to when a person is unable to satisfy a higher-level need, they may regress to lower-level needs as they appear to be easier to satisfy. This relationship suggests that an already satisfied need can resurface and once again become active, if the need above it remains unfulfilled.

   3) Satisfaction-Strengthening:

The third and last type of relationship in Alderfer’s theory is Satisfaction-Strengthening. This basically refers to satisfying a current level of satisfied need again and again. This relationship suggests that a current level of need can be satisfied again and again when the individual fails to satisfy a higher-level need.

In conclusion we can say that Clayton P. Alderfer’s ERG Theory is a condensed form of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory. Apart from being concentrated, it challenges and solves all the criticisms Maslow’s Needs Theory had faced.


McClelland’s Theory of Needs: Discover what REALLY Motivates You.

There are over 7.4 billion people on Earth, each of them unique in their own way; possessing diverse mindsets, capabilities, skills and ambitions. Due to these individual differences, it’s safe to say that us humans are different even when it comes to our motivational drives. To solve the issue of recognizing exactly what is the most dominant motivational drive of a person, David McClelland, an American Psychologist, presented his Theory of Needs. 

This theory proved to be a successful contribution in the growing topic of Motivation in Psychology. Basically, in the Theory of Needs, McClelland categorized humans into three generalized personalities, equipped with their most dominant need and respective motivational drive. The three types of needs are: Need for Power, Need for Affiliation and Need for Achievement.

Categorization Over Stages:

Unlike, Abraham Maslow, McClelland chose categorization of needs, rather than stages of needs. In McClelland’s theory there are three types of generalized personalities, in which all humans fit.

Personality Types in McClelland’s Theory:

As mentioned above, the three types of need personalities are:

  1. Need for Power.
  2. Need for Affiliation.
  3. Need for Achievement.

   1) Need for Power:

Those with a dominant need and motivation for power constantly work towards it. This type of people are split into two further sub-categories: Personal and Institutional need for power. Those with a personal need for power aim to aim to establish their control over other, while people with an institutional need for power, aim to lead a group or team to the top.

  • Personality traits of those in need for power:

This type of people aim to establish control over others; aim to influence or lead; Commonly like to win arguments; enjoy competitions, winning, status and recognition; are demanding and outspoken; present their views, etc.

The people with a dominant need for power are constantly and mostly motivated to keep climbing up the ladder to acquire power, and since power is endless, they constantly keep climbing up higher and higher.

A person with this type of personality would shape all their goals and ambitions around their most demanding need (Need for Power in this case) and so, in any situation if anyone would like them to deliver their best and maximum results, they should try methods which would encourage a person thirsting for power and recognition.

   2) Need for Affiliation:

The second type of people, with a need for affiliation, basically have a need to establish bonds with others in a positive regard. This type of people’s most dominating motivational drive results from their need for being liked and to “belong”.

  • Personality traits for those in need for affiliation:

This type of people in essence aim to be liked by others. Their most common characteristics include: want to belong to a group; want to be liked; often found going with the flow of the group; unlike the people in need for power, this type prefers collaboration over competitions; favors low-risk.

The people with a dominant need for affiliation are constantly motivated to be liked by their fellow peers, or others in general. A person with this type of a personality will shape all their ultimate goals and ambitions around this dominant need, and thus, if anyone wishes to motivate them to deliver their absolute best and their maximum, they should try working with their motivational drive through their most dominant need i.e. Need for Affiliation, in this case.

   3) Need for Achievement:

This last category of people, are strongly motivated to work towards and achieve their goals and tasks through their very dominant need for achievement. This type of people are generally very ambitious and receive their maximum pleasure from achievement.

  • Personality traits for those in need for achievement:

This type of people, aim to achieve in their tasks and goals; they prefer challenging but not impossible tasks; they are accustomed to taking calculated and minimum risks; they prefer proper and regular feedbacks concerning their progress and achievements; they often like to work alone as they feel that others won’t give the tasks their maximum; on performing a task they deliver their 100%.

The people with a dominant need for achievement are constantly motivated to keep on achieving and to keep on progressing. Their thirst for achievement is so great and immense that it is their strongest and most dominating motivational drive, and thus, if anyone wishes to motivate this type of people, they must try methods which go along with their need for achievement.

Application of McClelland’s Theory of Needs to Real Life:

If you are an employee looking for motivational methods to apply to your employees, or even if you are here looking for motivation for your own-self, then follow the few simple steps listed below:

Step 1: Recognition of Dominant Need:

As McClelland’s theory suggests, every person can be generalized into three basic categories of personality type and characteristics, thus, the first step to finding where one’s strongest motivational drives lies, they must try to recognize which category of personality type from McClelland’s theory they belong to.

The easiest way includes:

  • try jotting down all your priority ambitions along with their reasons.
  • with a clear mind, try accessing your demand of life.
  • recognize your traits.

Try matching the results with the characteristics of McClellands personalities, and the personality which your answer matches the most with is your type.

Step 2: Channeling The Motivational Drive:

Once you are aware of the group of personality you belong to, you know your most dominant motivational drive. But the question remains, how to channel this drive into achieving all tasks? The answer: Try relating the task at hand to your most dominant need (power, affiliation or achievement) and keep on reinforcing the idea that achieving the task at hand will in one way or another, lead to the satisfaction of the need.

*Usage of the Theory on others:

For maximum results, let the people with a Need for Achievement work alone as they prefer. Similarly, allow the people with Need for Power to lead on the task and lastly, let the people with a Need for Affiliation work in groups.


Herzberg’s Motivation Theory & How It Can Help YOU Find Motivation For Your Job!

Based on the design of our economy system, work is necessary to live a fulfilling life. However, there are rarely any people who truly love their jobs, and thus, more often than not, we find ourselves feeling truly miserable when it comes to work. In 1959, an American psychologist, Fredrick Herzberg aimed to study exactly what factors bring about motivation in an employee in work-places. The theory he presented is now known as the Herzberg Motivation-Hygiene Theory. 

The Motivation-Hygiene Theory quickly became a rather major point in the topic of Motivation in Psychology, specially in the context of work-place motivation. This theory falls under the most basic theories of motivation, more specifically its Content Theories.

MORE: Lacking motivation and feeling miserable? Here is all the motivation you need.

During his research, Herzberg asked a group of employees about their good and bad experiences related to work. He was surprised to know that people’s good experiences were in no way connected to their bad experiences and vice versa. This gave Herzberg the two factors related to motivation in a work-place: Hygiene and Motivation. Due to this, his theory is also known as The Herzberg Two-Factor Theory. 

What are Hygiene and Motivational Factors?

Hygiene or Maintenance Factors, according to Fredrick Herzberg, are basically the conditions in a work-place. These are secondary factors to the work and its working conditions, and while their presence fails to bring about any motivational change in the employee, their absence leads to a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction in the workers. This factor is sometimes also known as the Dissatisfaction Factor.

On the other hand, Motivational Factors are those which bring about long-term and a long lasting positive effect on the employees. These factors are those which bring the real motivational force when it comes to workers and their productivity level or output. Motivational Factors are positive in nature and their absence doesn’t bring any change in the employees behavior, however, their presence leads to increased productivity levels.

1) Hygiene or Maintenance Factors:

As said above, these factors revolve around the conditions in which the job has to be performed and their absence leads to dissatisfaction in employees. The factors most commonly include elements such as: salary; job benefits; job security; decent working conditions; comfortable conditions i.e. absence of extreme temperatures and comfortable seating; company policies; relationship with colleagues, etc.

The factors mentioned above, if present, don’t necessarily lead to any rise in productivity levels, however, once these factors are removed, it will lead to a job dissatisfaction which will decrease motivation.

Motivation comes after a person is truly and well-satisfied, i.e no external factors are becoming a hindrance. In other words, satisfaction leaves room for motivation to come into being and to grow, thus, a person feeling dissatisfied due to the secondary conditions (like having to work in a really cold room) will have his mind preoccupied and amidst this dissatisfaction, the individual will not be delivering the desired results needed. Thus, if employers seek maximum productivity rate and minimum dissatisfied employees, they must not have an absence in their Hygiene Factors.

2) Motivational Factors:

Motivational Factors in a job, as previously discussed, are those factors which with their presence, bring forward a remarkably long-lasting and positive motivation in employees. This factor can improve the productivity levels in employees drastically, as well as keep the workers motivated on their jobs for a long while.

Motivational Factors include six elements:

  1. Advancement.
  2. Recognition.
  3. Achievement.
  4. The work itself.
  5. Personal growth.
  6. Responsibility.

Once the workers feel like an appreciated, respected and an important member of the team, they are motivated to keep performing better and better, to keep up with their reputation as well as grow in the field. Having been given enough responsibility leads to them feel proud of their achievements and in turn, the responsibility motivates themselves to keep on excelling. However, in this scenario the work itself is also a rather important element as the work should be under one’s capability and interests. Just mere payment doesn’t necessarily lead to long term fixes of motivation, the motivational factors are an essential when it comes to motivation in work-spaces.

The Different Combinations of Job Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction:

There are four kinds of different combinations when it comes to work and the workers satisfaction and dissatisfaction. These combinations are in relation to Herzberg’s Motivation Theory. They are as follows:

   1) High Hygiene and High Motivation:

In this type of combination, the worker’s Hygiene Factor is completely present and thus, he is not feeling dissatisfied. On the other hand, his Motivational Factor is also high and thus, this employee is motivated to his absolute maximum with his maximum production level. This is the ideal combination.

   2) High Hygiene and Low Motivation:

In this type of combination, the worker’s Hygiene Factor is completely present and thus, he is not feeling dissatisfied. On the other hand, his Motivational Factor is low and thus, though the worker has no complaints, he isn’t really motivated to perform and rather just views his job as a paycheck.


   3) Low Hygiene and High Motivation:

In this type of combination, the worker’s Hygiene Factor is absent and thus, he is feeling dissatisfied and finding complaints. On the other hand, his Motivational Factor is high and thus, he is motivated but rather finds the job unsatisfactory or challenging.

   4) Low Hygiene and Low Motivation:

In this type of combination, the worker’s Hygiene Factor is absent and thus, he is feeling dissatisfied. On the other hand, his Motivational Factor is also low and thus, neither is he motivated nor is he feeling any sort of job satisfaction. This is the worst combination.

We can conclude that an employer who wishes for a maximum productivity rate should firstly eradicate all dissatisfaction from the job and try increasing the employees motivational forces.

Now, if you find yourself slacking off and possessing close to no motivation to do your job, read and reflect on Herzberg’s Motivation Theory – or just send this link’s article to your boss anonymously, whatever you prefer.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Its Examples

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory is well famous among those who are familiar with the topic of Motivation in Psychology. It simplifies the most diverse world of human needs to just five levels, and through it, the theory enables one to accurately point out their own needs and channel their motivational energy into the right direction.

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation categorizes needs into five stages, with the bottom-most need demanding the most immediate satisfaction. The stages include:

  1. Physiological Needs.
  2. Safety Needs.
  3. Social Needs.
  4. Esteem Needs.
  5. Self-actualization Needs.

Categorization Of Needs In Maslow’s Pyramid:

In Maslow’s Pyramid, the bottom-most need requires the most immediate attention and satisfaction, followed by the one above it and so on. However, Maslow has categorized his five needs as a whole into two parts: Deficiency Needs and Growth Needs.

Difference Between Deficiency Needs and Growth Needs:

As the name suggests, Deficiency Needs are those needs which without their satisfaction, leads the person to feel severely anxious and “out of place”. Their presence is necessary for survival and also a healthy living experience, while their deficiency brings forward feelings of complete unsatisfactory. The rate of how unsatisfied a person feels in the absence of a deficiency need is related to how close the need is to the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. The shorter the distance between the need and the bottom, the greater the feeling of unsatisfactory. These needs are the first four (or the bottom four, according to the pyramid) existing of Maslow’s stages, i.e. Physiological, Safety, Social and Esteem Needs.

On the other hand, Growth Needs are those referring to internal, personal growth of a person. This need is not necessary for survival, nor does its absence lead to any sort of dissatisfaction. However, the need results from a person’s wish to expand or grow mentally, in their capabilities and skills, recognizing and achieving their full potential. This category includes the last and fifth stage of Maslow’s pyramid, i.e. Self-actualization Needs.

The Five Stages And Their Motivational Forces:

As we know, Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid targets to understand a person’s behavior by recognizing which need stage they are on, as an individual act to satisfy needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory consists of five human need stages, which are as follows:

   1) Physiological or Basic Needs:

These are the most basic of survival needs for a human, and since they require the most immediate satisfaction, they are situated at the most bottom of the pyramid. Physiological Needs include Food, Water, Shelter, Sleep, Excretion, etc. A person stuck in this stage of needs will only be motivated to satisfy his physiological needs, rather than worrying about the satisfaction of the needs existing in the other stages.

   2) Safety Needs:

The second level in Maslow’s pyramid is a person’s need for safety. Safety Needs include: a sense of security of the self, laws, order, policies, job-safety, etc. A person stuck on this level of needs will be entirely motivated to fulfill or satisfy his safety needs, rather than giving thought to the satisfaction of the needs on other levels.

   3) Social Needs:

Man is a social animal. We humans are programmed to live together while being the only species with the ability to effectively communicate. Thus, we have Social Needs as well, including: the need to make and maintain strong bonds with other humans, develop relationships along with romantic relationships, etc. A person stuck on this level will be motivated to find bonds and relations which will satisfy his social needs.

   4) Esteem Needs:

For an average person, a good sense of self or a healthy rate of self-esteem is a necessity if one should wish to live a healthy life. This stage in Maslow’s Need Theory includes both self-esteem and respect from others; it includes self-confidence, respect, good reputation, etc. A person stuck on this level will be motivated to work towards increasing all these factors; their actions will be influenced by their need for esteem, i.e. they will be motivated towards performing such tasks that will that will increase their own self-esteem, as well as the respect they receive from others.

   5) Self-Actualization Needs:

After the person has completely achieved all their deficiency needs, he will enter his final stage in Maslow’s theory of motivation. Now, this person will have a need to expand into himself, i.e. realize all his potential and work towards achieving them. Their motivation will revolve around finding ways to achieve these potentials and keep on growing.

Maslow’s Hierarchy And Everyday Life:

So, we have read and discussed about Abraham Maslow’s theory in detail, but the question remains, how can we really link it to everyday life? Following are some real-life examples, revolving around Maslow’s Theory.

Physiological Needs basically means that a person should have enough or the satisfactory amount of food, water, shelter, sleep, etc. Most homeless persons, or those denied of their rights are the subjects stuck in this level. For example: During the Holocaust, the people in Auschwitz were barely given any food or water and neither did the women have much place for any bodily excretions. They settled for eating and drinking anything that they could find, regardless of it being clean or unclean, and even excreted their bodily wastes into their food bowls.

In Safety Needs stage, after the person has their basic needs fulfilled, they look for a secure place to stay. For example: A victim of abuse running off and hiding at a safe place, well away from their abuser.

An example for Social Needs is: A well-fed and well-settled person now looks for people to connect with for feeling of belonging. They search for friends in order to be “a part of” something.

An Esteem Needs example: A person, well satisfied in all their previous need stages, now looks for a positive reputation and respect from others as well as from their own-self.

Lastly, an example for Self-actualization Needs: A person satisfied in all his previous levels, now looks to improve his own self and his ways of thinking.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs & Its Relation to Motivation.

Humans; complicated organism structures, over 7.4 billion currently living on Earth – each and every one of them unique in their own way of thinking and behaving. The philosophers and great minds alike, dare to ask the question: “Why do humans behave and do the things they do?”, and in 1943, Abraham Maslow answers this question with his theory on the Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory was a breakthrough in the world of Psychology, and the still developing concept of Motivation. The theory, in essence, pointed to different stages of needs in humans, along with the respective motivation to fulfill the said need, and thus, this theory is also known as Maslow’s Theory of Motivation.

The Abraham Maslow Theory consists of a five-story pyramid. Each story or level consists of a category of need, along with the bottom-most being the most immediate need of a human, followed by the one above it and so on. This basically aimed to discuss and point out that on each level, the person’s primary motivation and behavior results from the thirst to satisfy that need. The stages include:

  1. Physiological Needs.
  2. Safety Needs.
  3. Social Needs.
  4. Esteem Needs.
  5. Self-actualization Needs.

The first four (or bottom four, according to the pyramid) are known as the Deficiency Needs, while the fifth is known as Growth Needs. 

Deficiency Needs and Growth Needs:

As we know, the bottom-most four needs are also known as Deficiency Needs. This is because a deficiency in the satisfaction of these need will lead a person feeling anxious and “not whole”, as these needs are necessary to sustain a peaceful, pleasant and positive living experience.

As for the Growth Needs, the last need is termed as this due to the fact that it highlights an inner growth in the perception of one’s capabilities, skills, etc. This need is not necessary to sustain a healthy living experience, but rather it requires a higher mental capability.


A Breakdown of All Five Stages:

   1) Physiological Needs:

The first or the bottom-most stage in the pyramid is termed as the Physiological Needs or Basic Needs. It consists of all those basic survival needs which include food, water, air, warmth, etc. Without the satisfaction of these needs, human survival will be at a continuous risk, and thus, this is the most immediate need, thirsting for immediate satisfaction in humans.

   2) Safety Needs:

The second need, listed in Maslow’s theory of motivation, is the Safety Need. This need, as the name suggests, is the need for safety or security of the individual, including laws, order, stability, etc. In work-places it can also include job-security, etc.

   3) Social Needs:

Man is a social animal, and so, it is a great need of ours to socially interact with others, creating bonds like friendships, relations, intimacy and being “a part” of a group. For this reason, it is also termed as Belongingness Need.

   4) Esteem Needs:

This refers to both our self-esteem and esteem from others. Our need of self-esteem includes confidence, dignity, independence, a pleasant sense of the self, etc, while our need for esteem from others include respect, a good reputation, etc.

   5) Self-actualization Needs:

This refers to the need for one’s personal growth. It includes realizing one’s full potential and capabilities and working towards achieving them.


Maslow’s Pyramid And It’s Relation To Motivation:

Up till now, we have gathered that Maslow’s theory highlights human needs in stages, however, the question remains: How is it linked to Motivation in Psychology?

First, lets look at what motivation is: Its a driving force which pushes us forward to accomplish a certain task. Over the years many psychologist and theorists have tried explaining this phenomena, and thus many theories for it were presented, which are now known as the Theories of Motivation. One of the theories of motivation is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory, and comes under the section of Content Theories which basically aims to theorize what motivates us.

We have seen and discussed every stage present in Maslow’s Pyramid, individually; we have stressed on how these needs demand to be satisfied as they are important to sustain a healthy living experience. So the force which pushes us forward to meet these needs in each stage is known as Motivation, and thus, because this theory highlights exactly what is motivating us in which stage of life, it comes under theories of motivation, and more specifically its Content Theories.


Stages And Their Respective Motivational Forces:

A person stuck in the first stage, Physiological or Basic Needs, will be constantly motivated to somehow acquire shelter, food, water, etc, as he is aware of the needs for survival. Here, the individual wouldn’t be motivated to satisfy other needs like social and esteem needs, because as explained above, his main concern will be for the stage he is in.

An individual in the second stage of Safety Needs, will be motivated to acquire safety of his own personal self.

The motivational force of a person stuck on the third level, Social Needs, will revolve around trying to establish healthy relations with others as friends and potential romantic partners, along with a motivation to acquire intimacy and sexual relations.

A person stuck on the fourth level, Esteem Needs, will be motivated satisfy his need for respect, a good reputation, self-confidence, etc and so he will engage in actions which strengthen the above said needs.

Lastly, a person stuck on the last level, Self-Actualization Needs, will be motivated to discover his inner-self; his potential and capabilities. Once discovering, the person will be motivated towards the satisfaction of excelling his potential.

*Additional Stages Added to Maslow’s Pyramid:

In the more updated version, three more stages are added in Maslow’s theory, in the section of Growth Needs, which include: Cognitive Needs, Aesthetic Needs and Transcendence Needs.


We conclude that Maslow’s Theory on Hierarchy of Human Needs is a break-through in the world of Psychology, and with enough understanding, perhaps we can accurately pin-point our current needs and motivational forces, and use it to our advantage.


Content Theories: What Really Motivates Us.

“Error 404: Motivation not found.”, “Can I buy motivation on Amazon?”, “For my next birthday please gift me some motivation, thank you.” These are the type of messages we most commonly receive during exam week, and the type that a student’s life is over-flowing with. That being said, a pending question keeps looming over our heads – What really motivates us? Before we put on our ancient robes to ponder over the answer in front of an Aristotle statue, let us tell you that its already researched upon and is now known as the Content Theories of Motivation.

In Psychology, Motivation is categorized into two parts: Content Theories and Process Theories, which are the what and how of Motivation, respectively.

Through the years, there have been many theories presented, rejected and criticized. However, today, we have for you, four of the most basic of accepted content motivation theories in Psychology. They are as follows:

  1. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.
  2. Alderfer’s ERG Theory.
  3. David McClelland’s Theory.
  4. Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.


1) Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory:

Maslow’s theory is quite famous when it comes to Humanistic Psychology, however, this theory plays a major role in Motivation theories as well. In essence, this theory consists of a five-story pyramid, having five different levels of needs respectively. The bottom most leveled need is considered the most important, following the one above it and so on. The needs are as follows: Physiological Needs, Security Needs, Social Needs, Esteem Needs and Self-Actualization Needs.

As said above, an organism’s first level of need is which requires an immediate satisfaction, and so a person stuck on the first level will be highly motivated to find food and shelter, rather than being motivated to find other factors of life which come later in the pyramid like respect, friends and self-esteem. Once the person achieves the first level and keeps it maintained, he moves towards the second one, where he would be motivated to satisfy the demanded needs of the level.

Through this pyramid, we can properly derive what exactly the person is motivated to do at that very moment or stage in life, and the individual can act upon his needs efficiently through his motivation.


2) Alderfer’s ERG Content Theory of Motivation:

Clayton Paul Alderfer proposed a theory which was a condensed form of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. Here, he concentrated Maslow’s five level needs into just three levels, which include: Existential Needs, Relatedness Needs and Growth Needs.

Existential Needs are the first and the most pressing need in Alderfer’s theory. This level focuses on needs necessary for survival. Referring to Maslow’s theory, Existential Needs is a compilation of Physiological and Security Needs, i.e. food, water, shelter, air, security, etc. Aldefer has grouped both the levels into one due to their rather same nature and function.

Relatedness Needs is the second level in Alderfer’s theory; it comprises of Maslow’s Social and a touch of Esteem Needs, i.e. friends, relationship, respect, a good self-esteem, etc. It’s named “Relatedness” needs due to a person’s need on establishing positive relations with other humans (as man is a social animal) along with their need to be liked, respected and loved.

Growth Needs is the last level of needs and its related motivation in Alderfer’s theory. It is a condensation of Maslow’s Esteem and Self-Actualization needs i.e. needs for respect and esteem, along with realizing and fulfilling one’s full potential. This is the reason as it is termed as “Growth” needs, because it suggests internal positive growth of one’s capabilities.

3) David McClelland’s Content Theory of Motivation:

McClelland too in his theory, categorized human needs and their adequate motivation into three types: Need for Power, Need for Affiliation and Need for Achievement. However, his theory did not include levels or stages of human needs, but rather it talked for three kinds of people in general with their personality type and its respective needs and motivation.

People with a Need for Power are motivated to fulfill that demand. Their basic traits include leadership skills, authoritative personality, influential auras and a demanding vibe. They are generally outspoken and present their views on every turn. They have an immense need for power, which motivates them to always work and get to the top of the ladder, and since power is endless, they are constantly motivated to keep climbing up the ladder.

Exhibit A: Cersei Lannister. [People with this need DO NOT equal to being evil. Cersei is only here for the sake of the meme and reference.]

The second type of people in McClelland’s theory are those with a Need for Affiliation. These type of individuals derive their maximum happiness and satisfaction from maintaining positive relations with others, and thus, they are constantly motivated to build these relations to fulfill their need to be pleasing, likable, loved and appreciated by others.

[Again, Ser Bronn is not here to demean anyone with this need. He is only here for the sake of the meme.]

The last type is the people with a Need for Achievement. This category of people receive their maximum satisfaction from working towards and achieving their goals. They are usually very calculated and choose to take the minimum level of risk for maximum results. These people give their absolute best into any task and often require feedback to keep clear track of their progress. People with a need for achievement remain motivated to efficiently achieve every task that their is.


4) Herzberg’s Two-Factor Content Theory of Motivation:

Fredrick Herzberg’s motivation theory basically deals with work-place motivation. His studies revolved around researching exactly what motivated workers to progress and he found of two factors: Hygiene and Motivation.

Hygiene or Maintenance Factor is directly related to the conditions in which a job has to be performed. These conditions include payments, benefits, comfort, company policies, job security, etc. These conditions’ absence leads to a significant dissatisfaction and the person is motivated to get them back, however, the presence of these factors doesn’t really contribute to any rise in motivation.

Motivational Factor is which creates a durable and positive motivation in the workers. This factor includes: Advancement, achievement, recognition, work-itself, possibility of growth and responsibility.

Now, put away your philosophical robes, and if anyone asks you for motivation, educate them though these four theories or forward them this article – whichever works best.