Drawing on older theories of motivation such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg's two-factor theory, and newer theories such as expectancy and equity theories, HR managers can gain insight into what might motivate employees to do their best work. Read this section to see how these theories can be used.
What if you spent thirty hours working on a class report, did everything you were supposed to do, and handed in an excellent assignment (in your opinion). Your roommate, on the other hand, spent about five hours and put everything together at the last minute. You know, moreover, that he ignored half the requirements and never even ran his assignment through a spell-checker. A week later, your teacher returns the reports. You get a C and your roommate gets a B+. In all likelihood, you'll feel that you've been treated unfairly relative to your roommate.
Your reaction makes sense according to the equity theory of motivation, which focuses on our perceptions of how fairly we're treated relative to others.
Applied to the work environment, this theory proposes that employees
analyze their contributions or job inputs (hours worked, education,
experience, work performance) and their rewards or job outcomes (salary,
benefits, recognition). Then they create a contributions/rewards ratio
and compare it to those of other people. The basis of comparison can be
any one of the following:
- Someone in a similar position
- Someone holding a different position in the same organization
- Someone with a similar occupation
- Someone who shares certain characteristics (such as age, education, or level of experience)
- Oneself at another point in time
What will an employee do if he or she perceives an inequity? The
individual might try to bring the ratio into balance, either by
decreasing inputs (working fewer hours, refusing to take on additional
tasks) or by increasing outputs (asking for a raise). If this strategy
fails, an employee might complain to a supervisor, transfer to another
job, leave the organization, or rationalize the situation (perhaps
deciding that the situation isn't so bad after all). Equity theory
advises managers to focus on treating workers fairly, especially in
determining compensation, which is, naturally, a common basis of