If people did not have to work, what would motivate them to work?

If people did not have to work, what would motivate them to work?

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In industrialized countries around the world, "work" appears to be something that most people try to avoid as much as they can, dreaming of winning a lottery so they will never have to work again -- and be free to do nothing or do what they like. Money serves as a motivator for work, because in these cultures you need money to stay alive, or at least to live well.

Many social welfare states pay a basic income to people unable to find work. Despite the fact that usually this basic income is not unconditional but a transitional payment only and bound to the receiver's attempts to find a job, there is quite a lot of hostility from those who force themselves to their jobs each morning, towards those who appear to be happy with having little and prefer not to work.

Around the world there are proponents of an unconditional basic income that would free individuals from the necessity to take up work. I don't want to go into the whys and wherefores of such a freedom, or into how such an income could be financed, but want to ask you:

If everybody received an unconditional basic income that was high enough to make their lives reasonably comfortable, what would incite people to do the work (like baking bread) that needs to get done?

I am not lookig for opinions or theories here, those already abound on the net, but for empirical evidence for:

  • which percentage of a populace can be expected to busy themselves without need, and
  • how those that like to laze around can be motivated to work without need.

B.F. Skinner in his utopian novel Walden Two attempts to design a society where no-one is required to work more than four hours a day and unwanted jobs result in more credit points than desirable jobs, so that some people clean the toilet and then have more free time than those working at their dream jobs, but this concept relies on a virtual currency of points that you have to earn, so there is a need to work to earn your living, even if it does not have a payment of traditional "money".

In my question, the motivator for work must not be anything that has to be fulfilled, but something that does not take away the freedom not to work. Something that makes even the least desirable job attractive. In the case of the toilet it might be something simple like this being your toilet, and if you don't clean it, you'll have to use it anyway. But there are public toilets. What would work there?

If you take a look at games like minecraft, they have quite a lot of players who do not work (students, college students, etc). These people first mine thousands of blocks, then rearrange them in a creative way. There's absolutely no need to do so, it is entirely voluntary, yet people end up moving hundreds of thousands of blocks to do something creative or to fulfill their design.

Players of minecraft explore the game environment, make tools, extract raw resources and ultimately make virtual structures like in the image below.

Statistically speaking, minecraft has more players(11 million paid users) and instructional videos(with millions of views) on YouTube than any other game I know of.

From this, it appears that in a world without need to work, creativity, design and "market of 1 person" would motivate people to do something. Cleaning toilets is not such thing. Maybe painting toilets, or designing them is.

[This started as a comment but became really long, hence an answer.]

The hostility is real but the premise that more than a small minority of people forgo “working” by laziness is in fact very questionable, in several ways. People might dream of winning the lottery but there is very little evidence that they generally avoid “work”. In fact, with the same income, people who are unemployed report being less happy than people who have a job. There are however reasons to think that the eagerness with which someone looks for a work of the “traditional” salaried kind might be endogenous. If there is no job to be found, then you will stop looking for one and exposing yourself to constant humiliation (see this post by Chris Dillow for some evidence on this). This is unrelated to some pre-existing “preference for work” or fundamental psychological “laziness”. Psychologically, it could be related to “learned helplessness”.

Another obvious issue is that to the extent that unemployment benefits or basic income give an incentive not to work, it would only have a strong impact for people close to this level. There is no invariant threshold beyond which needs are met and whatever this basic income, there would therefore still be an incentive to earn more. In fact, people have been predicting that we would soon satisfy all our “basic needs” and work much less for quite some time (just came across one such prediction from Keynes, writing in the 1930s). In some sense most people today are richer than the elite of a few centuries ago (certainly in Europe) and yet this hasn't happened. We are very sensitive to our position in society, just create perceived “needs” all the time, etc. A static view of needs, incentives and motivation just isn't enough to account for that.

Also completely ignored is the problem of what counts as “work” in a society. Many people are already very busy doing things that aren't recognized as proper work. In fact, whether it is domestic production, charitable or creative activities or simply sports or “hobbies”, very few people if any are completely inactive, barring clinical depression or debilitating illnesses. The simple answer to the first question is therefore “100%”. There is no need for some “laziness” trait to explain being busy or not, the main issue is what activities are deemed productive or deserving in a particular society and about fairness in the distribution of income (“They are going fishing with our money”). Note that no matter how time-consuming they are, many activities regarding as feminine like caring for children or homemaking are still not considered “work”, not fully at least.

Incidentally, the appeal of the lottery and the reason some people might stop working after winning it is that it's not just making you comfortable, it's making you (what feels like being) filthy rich. It's therefore not a good model to understand ordinary decisions about work. Furthermore, as far as I can tell, people who are very rich (and not somewhere between a poorly paid job and welfare or even merely having above-average income) are not particularly inactive. Many work long hours although they could be “comfortable” working less or not at all, some work very late in life, others might engage in activities that would not be regarded as “work” but are pretty exhausting nonetheless (say golfing around the world). Some of these activities might be regarded as work, others might be classified as leisure, deserved or undeserved (i.e. “being lazy”), but in any case people do not engage in them merely to reach some comfortable income and stop there.

Finally, there is a direct contradiction between your notion that some works “needs” to be done and your search for a motivation “without need”. If nobody bakes bread and you want to eat some, then you need to bake it. In fact, no matter what monetary income you might provide, if nobody produces anything then this money is worth nothing and certainly won't be enough to buy bread and live comfortably. The “problem” therefore takes care of itself and it makes these things-that-need-to-be-done-but-that-nobody-needs-to-do purely theoretical. This is why “income high enough to make their lives reasonably comfortable” is kind of begging the question. We just live in a particular time, place, and society. You cannot meaningfully abstract that away and say anything interesting, let alone get “empirical” evidence on some abstract situation that bears no resemblance with actual human experience.

i think death is what motivates people to work:

working is doing something and trying to be remembered, much like Picasso, Einstein… Every human would want to do something in his life, something to be remembered for, everyone wants to make a change, make a difference, the ultimate dream of every human being able is to change the world. And that's why they work.

Every human on this earth is somewhat egoist, our ego tell us to work, be remembered, be one of the greatest ever been, we work for the hope that someone will remember us after dying, and not just disappear, like we have never existed.

Doing creative and unique(new) things will motivate you. But only if there is another person or living/virtual "creature" that can appreciate that or you can tell/show it to that "creature".

I don't consider taking drugs or other stimulants/inhibitors to make you do something, because it's a distorted will or changed behavior and not your own will.

Human brain will probably loose all reasons to continue supporting the body etc. when you start loosing the "purpose" of life. Which is basically to replicate (have children etc.) or help others.

E.g. when you are isolated very long time alone, you might start to have suicidal thoughts. That's why a lot of prisoners that are being sentenced to 20 or more years often commit suicides.

But every other answer to this question from others is valid too.

Feeling and being important is what is important ;)

The best managers delegate often and give their employees responsibility for delivering challenging work. If this doesn't happen in your workplace, consider two hard questions:

  • Do you trust your knowledge workers to do what they've been hired to do?
  • Do they have the right competence for the job to carry out the work with confidence?

So often managers underestimate the potential and ability of their employees to use their brains! If you answered yes to the questions above, be of the mindset to always accept that they can do the work. Then, give them the room to perform and support them with whatever they need to make them even better. This is how you motivate them to the rafters.

How to Motivate People to Do Things They Don't Want to Do

A reader recently asked me a pointed question: "I've read your work on creating user habits . It's all well and good for getting people to do things, like using an app on their iPhone, but I've got a bigger problem. How do I get people to do things they don't want to do?" Taken aback by the directness and potentially immoral implications of his question, my gut reaction was to say, "You can't and shouldn't!" To which his response was, "I have to it's my job."

This gentleman, who asked that I not disclose his name, is the corporate equivalent of the guy the mob sends to break kneecaps if a worker doesn't do as they're told. For the past decade, he has run the same methodical process of cajoling, and at times threatening, people to do things they don't want to do. "It's really unfair and mean. I know it is," he said. "But people have to comply or else people get hurt."

This man is an identity and access management auditor at a well-known public accounting firm. Not exactly Good Fellas, but high-stakes nonetheless. His Fortune 500 clients pay his firm to ensure managers complete lengthy inquiries involving hundreds of employees collecting thousands of pieces of information, usually on tight deadlines. "Ever since Sarbanes-Oxley, these user access reviews just have to get done."

Though the auditor's job is unique, getting others to do uninteresting tasks (specifically those that are infrequent and involve work done outside normal responsibilities) is a common challenge.

A Shot In the Arm

I pondered this question and searched my mental database for examples of companies I've worked with or could reference as case studies. But instead, I thought about the last time I saw someone willfully doing something they didn't want to do my four-year-old daughter came to mind.

We had recently taken her to the pediatrician for a final round of shots before kindergarten and, to our surprise, she left the doctor's office with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. To a child, there are few things more terrifying than getting stuck with needles, and it was the closest equivalent I could think of to completing the auditor's "user access reviews."

What made my daughter's visit to the doctor so painless helps illustrate three tactics anyone can use to get people to do things they don't inherently want to do.

One Prick at a Time

When the nurse stepped into the examining room, my daughter knew something was up. On a small tray, she carried four intimidating syringes. But instead of showing them all to my daughter, she thoughtfully kept them out of view. At the appropriate time, she reached for a needle, one by one, careful to consider how her actions would be perceived by my daughter. She tamed the instruments of toddler torment through what designers call progressive disclosure to the nurse, it was just considerate common sense.

Staging tasks into small conquerable chunks is so basic yet so underutilized. Who wouldn't take the time to ease a child's fear with a little well-planned parsing? Yet in the office, it is all too common to lob large complex requests at our colleagues and be surprised by the ill-will we get in return. In the auditor's case for example, he admitted that his clients start by sending long memos accompanied by even longer spreadsheets detailing the entire tedious task. No wonder their emails are met with contempt.

Managers pushing down tasks know all the level of details and tend to think everyone else should, too. But that's just not the case. Most users just want to know what to do next, and flooding them with too much information induces stress and fear. Having the forethought to appropriately stage the work can reduce this fear, which ironically, in both children and adults, is often much worse than the prick of the needle itself. Image via StudioVin (Shutterstock).

Reduce the Pain with Progress

In the auditor's case, his requests were particularly painful because they were too infrequent to become skill-building routines. Whereas many tasks become easier with time as people improve their abilities, corporate fire drills are dreaded for many reasons. For one, they distract workers from their regular duties. They often require learning new processes or hunting down long-discarded information. And worst of all, they can last for an undefined period of time, providing little visibility into when the pain will end.

Just as parsing tasks into smaller chunks can make a job seem more achievable, providing greater insight into the progress made is another way to reduce cognitive stress. In the pediatrician's office, the thoughtful nurse asked my daughter to count to five as she administered each shot, giving my daughter an idea of how long the pain would last and creating a sense of control.

For years, game designers have utilized mechanisms to track advancement. Progress bars help players understand where they are in the game just as tracking and estimation tools could help workers better plan their work. These tools help inform how much time the next task should take and its relative place in the entire job. Providing a sense of progression is a form of feedback and is a key component of making unpleasant tasks more manageable.

Get Out the Treasure Chest

To our amazement, even after receiving four shots, my daughter left the doctor's office without shedding a single tear. The nurse used staged disclosure and eased the pain through progress indicators, but the final secret sat just outside the examination room.

There, on her way in, my daughter ogled a mysterious box she knew was filled with prizes. "After your visit," the nurse told her, "you'll get to pick anything youɽ like from the treasure chest." Offering prizes for the completion of certain tasks is effective in both children and adults, but beware, there is risk in rewards.

Numerous studies have shown that extrinsic rewards—incentives that are separate from the activity itself - often backfire. Reinforcing behavior this way tends to extinguish the pleasure of doing something for its own sake. For example, studies of children rewarded for doing activities they already enjoyed—like playing drums or drawing pictures —resulted in less motivation to do the activity later on.

Where long-term behaviors are the goal, more purposeful incentives are better. Self-Determination Theory , as espoused by researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, contends that people are motivated by deeper psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Clearly, making sure people know why their work matters is always the first step.

But while motivating through meaning is preferred, there are circumstances when prizes are in fact appropriate. When it comes to tasks people don't want to do, specifically infrequent and uninteresting assignments, utilizing extrinsic rewards is safe because there is no existing behavior to de-motivate or extinguish. Shots in a four-year-old's arm and the boring, routine work doled out by the auditor qualify as just such occasions.

What are appropriate rewards? Like everything in design, that depends on the person. Making a game out of the task doesn't necessarily mean giving away points and badges if the user doesn't find those incentives appropriate. However, utilizing other incentives, particularly those awarded with an element of variability , can be highly encouraging, just as long as they're used only in this very specific condition and not as part of day-to-day operations. Image via Boris Ryaposov (Shutterstock).

Better Behavior Design

Unfortunately, the corporate norm remains drawing up a long list of what needs to get done and throwing it over the email wall to be completed … or else! There will always be tasks people don't want to do. But there are better ways to motivate others, principally by designing conditions where people actuate themselves.

Fundamentally, people resist being controlled and both the carrot and the stick can be tools for unwanted manipulation. Instead, designing behavior by putting in the forethought to appropriately stage tasks, providing progress indicators, and finally, offering celebratory rewards under the right circumstances, are easy ways to motivate while maintaining a sense of autonomy.

Whether in the doctor's office or the corner office, it is the job of the person inflicting the pain to do their utmost to ease it. Not doing so is intellectually lazy, whether to a kid or to a colleague. Considering how the receiver could more easily comply with the request is at the heart of inspiring action.

Nir Eyal writes for TechCrunch, Forbes, Psychology Today, and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and Fortune 500 companies. He's a Lecturer in Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has sold two technology companies since 2003. At his blog , he writes about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business and encompasses user experience design, behavioral economics, and a dash of neuroscience. Follow him on Twitter @NirEyal .

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That nurse's action, and progressive disclosure in general, would have been the absolute worst thing you could do to me to make me feel calm. There's nothing I hate worse in a doctor's office than not knowing what is going to happen. Here's how I would look at it. I go into the office, I get a shot. Then I'm told there's a second shot. I think, "Finally, I can get out of here." Nope, there's a third shot. Now I can go and we're done. No, now there's a fourth. The would just wind me up more wondering what's next that they aren't telling me.

Same way with tasks at work. Don't tell me I need to get A done and then let me think I've accomplished my task before telling me, no, I really need to do B as well. How do I know when it will end.

For myself, Iɽ much rather know exactly what is happening. It gives me a measure of control because I can anticipate the next step and prepare. Iɽ much rather see all of the steps for even the longest and most tedious of jobs so I can plan.

But everyone is different and when it comes to working with biological units, there is no one right answer.

Critique on the Herzberg Two Factor Theory

The Two Factor Theory is widely used, but there are a few points issues with it. One issue is the fact that humans tend to look at the aspects of their work that they like and project them onto themselves when things are going well. When times are bad, external factors seem to play a larger part.

Another point of criticism is that the Two Factor Theory assumes that job satisfaction equals higher productivity. There are plenty of reasons to disagree, like external factors that might influence productivity. Herzberg didn’t take this into account while researching and coming up with his theory.

Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Herzberg's findings revealed that certain characteristics of a job are consistently related to job satisfaction, while different factors are associated with job dissatisfaction. These are:

Relationship with supervisor and peers

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review. From "One More Time: How do You Motivate Employees?" by Frederick Herzberg, January 2003. Copyright © 1968 by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation all rights reserved.

The conclusion he drew is that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites.

  • The opposite of Satisfaction is No Satisfaction.
  • The opposite of Dissatisfaction is No Dissatisfaction.

Remedying the causes of dissatisfaction will not create satisfaction. Nor will adding the factors of job satisfaction eliminate job dissatisfaction. If you have a hostile work environment, giving someone a promotion will not make him or her satisfied. If you create a healthy work environment but do not provide members of your team with any of the satisfaction factors, the work they're doing will still not be satisfying.

“A good challenge that I can sink my teeth into will not only get me up in the morning, but will keep me engaged well into the night as well. One downside to this, is that the challenge will also keep me up through the night as well, but that's a different challenge of its own. I've found that its less important about my interest in the challenge as the challenge itself! This transcends work and motivates my life in innumerable ways.”

- Bill Ibbetson, Senior Director of Technology | Lake Oswego, OR, USA

Leadership and Human Behavior Motivation Information

As a leader, you need to interact with your followers, peers, seniors, and others, whose support you need in order to accomplish your objectives. To gain their support, you must be able to understand and motivate them. To understand and motivate people, you must know human nature. Human nature is the common qualities of all human beings. People behave according to certain principles of human nature. These principles govern our behavior.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Human needs are an important part of human nature. Values, beliefs, and customs differ from country to country and group to group, but all people have similar needs. As a leader you must understand these needs because they are powerful motivators.

Abraham Maslow felt that human needs were arranged in a hierarchical order (Maslow, 1954). He based his theory on healthy, creative people who used all their talents, potential, and capabilities. At the time, this methodology differed from most other psychology research studies in that they were based on observing disturbed people.

There are two major groups of human needs: basic needs and meta needs.
Basic needs are physiological, such as food, water, and sleep and psychological, such as affection, security, and self-esteem. These basic needs are also called deficiency needs because if they are not met by an individual, then that person will strive to make up the deficiency.

The higher needs are called meta needs or being needs (growth needs). These include justice, goodness, beauty, order, unity, etc. Basic needs normally take priority over growth needs. For example, a person who lacks food or water will not normally attend to justice or beauty needs.

These needs are listed below in hierarchical order. The basic needs on the bottom of the list (1 to 4) must normally be met before the meta or being needs above them can be met. The four meta needs (5 to 8) can be pursued in any order, depending upon a person's wants or circumstances, as long as the basic needs have all been met.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

8. Self-transcendence - a transegoic (see Note below) level that emphasizes visionary intuition, altruism, and unity consciousness.
7. Self-actualization - know exactly who you are, where you are going, and what you want to accomplish. A state of well-being.
6. Aesthetic - at peace, more curious about inner workings of all.
5. Cognitive - learning for learning alone, contribute knowledge.
4. Esteem - feeling of moving up in world, recognition, few doubts about self.
3. Belongingness and love - belong to a group, close friends to confide with.
2. Safety - feel free from immediate danger.
1. Physiological - food, water, shelter, sex.

Maslow posited that people want and are forever striving to meet various goals. Because the lower level needs are more immediate and urgent, then they come into play as the source and direction of a person's goal if they are not satisfied,.

A need higher in the hierarchy will become a motive of behavior as long as the needs below it have been satisfied. Unsatisfied lower needs will dominate unsatisfied higher needs and must be satisfied before the person can climb up the hierarchy.

Knowing where a person is located on this scale aids in determining an effective motivator. For example, motivating a middle-class person (who is in range 4 of the hierarchy) with a certificate will have a far greater impact than using the same motivator to effect a minimum wage person from the ghetto who is desperately struggling to meet the first couple of needs.

It should be noted that almost no one stays in one particular hierarchy for an extended period. We constantly strive to move up, while at the same time various forces outside our control try to push us down. Those on top get pushed down for short time periods, i.e., death of a loved-one or an idea that does not work, while those on the bottom get pushed up, i.e., come across a small prize. Our goal as leaders therefor is to help people obtain the skills and knowledge that will push them up the hierarchy on a more permanent basis. People who have their basic needs met become much better workers as they are able to concentrate on fulfilling the visions put forth to them, rather than consistently struggling to make ends meet.

Characteristics of self-actualizing people

• Have better perceptions of reality and are comfortable with it.
• Accept themselves and their own natures.
• Lack of artificiality.
• They focus on problems outside themselves and are concerned with basic issues and eternal questions.
• They like privacy and tend to be detached.
• Rely on their own development and continued growth.
• Appreciate the basic pleasures of life (e.g., do not take blessings for granted).
• Have a deep feeling of kinship with others.
• Are deeply democratic and are not really aware of differences.
• Have strong ethical and moral standards.
• Are original, inventive, less constricted and fresher than others

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Leadership

Transegoic means a higher, psychic, or spiritual state of development. The trans is related to transcendence, while the ego is based on Freud's work. We go from preEGOic levels to EGOic levels to transEGOic. The EGO in all three terms are used in the Jungian sense of consciousness as opposed to the unconscious. Ego equates with the personality.

In Maslow's model, the ultimate goal of life is self-actualization, which is almost never fully attained but rather is something to always strive towards. Peak experiences are temporary self-actualizations.

Maslow later theorized that this level does not stop, it goes on to self-transcendence, which carries us to the spiritual level, e.g.. Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dalai Lamao, or even poets, such as Robert Frost. Maslow's self-transcendence level recognizes the human need for ethics, creativity, compassion and spirituality. Without this spiritual or transegoic sense, we are simply animals or machines.

In addition, just as there are peak experiences for temporary self-actualizations there are also peak experiences for self-transcendence. These are our spiritual creative moments.
While the research of Maslow's theory has undergone limited empirical scrutiny, it still remains quite popular due to its simplicity and being the start of the movement that moved us away from a totally behaviorist/reductionistic/mechanistic approach to a more humanistic one. In addition, a lot of concerns is directed at his methodology: Pick a small number of people that he declares self-actualizing read and talk about them and come to the conclusion about self-actualization. However, he did completely understood this, and thought of his work as simply a method of pointing the way, rather than being the final say. In addition, he hoped that others would take up the cause and complete what he had begun.

Herzberg's Hygiene and Motivational Factors

Herzberg developed a list of factors (Herzberg, 1966) that are based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, except his version is more closely related to the working environment.

Hygiene or Dissatisfies

Working conditions
Policies and administrative practices
Salary and Benefits
Job security
Personal life

Motivators or Satisfiers

Job challenge

Hygiene factors must be present in the job before motivators can be used to stimulate that person. That is, you cannot use motivators until all the hygiene factors are met. Herzberg's needs are specifically job related and reflect some of the distinct things that people want from their work as opposed to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which reflect all the needs in a persons life.

Building on this model, Herzberg coined the term "job enrichment" to describe the process of redesigning work in order to build in motivators.

Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor developed a philosophical view of humankind with his Theory X and Theory Y (McGregor, 1957) , which are two opposing perceptions about how people view human behavior at work and organizational life. McGregor felt that companies followed either one or the other approach.

People have an inherent dislike for work and will avoid it whenever possible.
People must be coerced, controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment in order to get them to achieve the organizational objectives.
People prefer to be directed, do not want responsibility, and have little or no ambition.
People seek security above all else.
Note that with Theory X assumptions, management's role is to coerce and control employees.

Work is as natural as play and rest.
People will exercise self-direction if they are committed to the objectives (they are NOT lazy).
Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement.
People learn to accept and seek responsibility.
Creativity, ingenuity, and imagination are widely distributed among the population. People are capable of using these abilities to solve an organizational problem.
People have potential.

Note that with Theory Y assumptions, management's role is to develop the potential in employees and help them to release that potential towards common goals.
Theory X is the view that traditional management has taken towards the workforce. Many organizations are now taking the enlightened view of theory Y. A boss can be viewed as taking the theory X approach, while a leader takes the theory Y approach.

Notice that Maslow, Herzberg, and McGreagor's theories all tie together

• Herzberg's theory is a micro version of Maslow's theory (concentrated in the work place).
• McGreagor's Theory X is based on workers caught in the lower levels (1 to 3) of Maslow's theory, while his Theory Y is for workers who have gone above level 3.
• McGreagor's Theory X is based on workers caught in Herberg's Hygiene Dissatisfiers, while Theory Y is based on workers who are in the Motivators or Satisfiers section.

Existence/Relatedness/Growth (ERG)

Clayton Alderfer's Existence/Relatedness/Growth (ERG) Theory of Needs (Alderfer, 1969) postulates that there are three groups of needs.

Existence - This group of needs is concerned with providing the basic requirements for material existence, such as physiological and safety needs. This need is satisfied by money earned in a job so that one may buy food, shelter, clothing, etc.

Relationships - This group of needs center upon the desire to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. Since a people normally spend approximately half of their waking hours on the job, this need is normally satisfied to some degree by their coworkers.

Growth - These needs are met by personal development. A person's job, career, or profession provides significant satisfaction of growth needs.
Alderfer's ERG theory states that more than one need may be influential at the same time. If the gratification of a higher-level need is frustrated, the desire to satisfy a lower-level need will increase. He identifies this phenomenon as the "frustration & shy aggression dimension." Its relevance on the job is that even when the upper-level needs are frustrated, the job still provides for the basic physiological needs upon which one would then be focused. If, at that point, something happens to threaten the job, the person's basic needs are significantly threatened. If there are not factors present to relieve the pressure, the person may become desperate and panicky.

Notice that Alderfer's ERG theory is built upon Maslow's, however it does differ. First he collapsing it from five needs to three. And unlike Maslow, he did not see these needs as being a hierarchy in which one climbs up, but rather being more of a continuum.

While there has not been a whole lot of research on Alderfer's theory, most contemporary theories do tend to support it.

Expectancy Theory

Vroom's Expectancy Theory states that an individual will act in a certain way based on the expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual. This motivational model (Vroom, 1964) has been modified by several people, to include Porter and Lawler (Porter et. al., 1968). Vroom's Expectancy Theory is written as a formula:
Valence x Expectancy x Instrumentality = Motivation
∑ Valence (Reward) = the amount of desire for a goal (What is the reward?)
∑ Expectancy (Performance) = the strength of belief that work related effort will result in the completion of the task (How hard will I have to work to reach the goal?)
∑ Instrumentality (Belief) = the belief that the reward will be received once the task is completed (Will they notice the effort I put forth?)
The product of valence, expectancy, and instrumentality is motivation. It can be thought of as the strength of the drive towards a goal. For example, if an employee wants to move up through the ranks, then promotion has a high valence for that employee. If the employee believes that high performance will result in good reviews, then the employee has a high expectancy. However, if the employee believes the company will not promote from within, then the employee has low instrumentality, and the employee will not be motivated to perform better.


Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row.
Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the Nature of Man. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.

McGregor, D. (1957). Proceedings of the Fifth Anniversary Convocation of the School of Industrial Management, The Human Side of Enterprise. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (April 9, 1957).

Alderfer, C. (1969). An Empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Needs. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, vol. 4, pp. 142 - 175.

Vroom, V. (1964). Work and Motivation. New York: Jon Wiley & Sons.

Porter, L. & Lawler, E. (1968). Managerial Attitudes and Performance. Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press.

6.3 Motivating Employees Through Goal Setting

Goal-setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990) is one of the most influential and practical theories of motivation. In fact, in a survey of organizational behavior scholars, it has been rated as the most important (out of 73 theories) (Miner, 2003). The theory has been supported in over 1,000 studies with employees ranging from blue-collar workers to research-and-development employees, and there is strong support that setting goals is related to performance improvements (Ivancevich & McMahon, 1982 Latham & Locke, 2006 Umstot, Bell, & Mitchell, 1976). According to one estimate, goal setting improves performance at least 10%–25% (Pritchard et al., 1988). Based on this evidence, thousands of companies around the world are using goal setting in some form, including Coca Cola Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd., Nike Inc., Intel Corporation, and Microsoft Corporation, to name a few.

Obsession is unhealthy, whereas peace is just around the corner once you remove competition from the equation. By focusing on improving yourself instead of beating others, you are well on your way to the inner peace everyone craves, even if some of them don&rsquot know it. That hunger to win by those who compete is usually an emptiness in their hearts that they need to fill. Unbeknownst to them, the real way to fill it is to live and let live, removing as much competition from life as they can.

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

Trending in Communication

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Motivation and aspiration: what’s the point?

Who wouldn't be motivated to obey a man who says austerity is essential while at a white-tie dinner surrounded by gold and an uninterested Lord Mayor? Photograph: Tal Cohen/EPA Photograph: TAL COHEN/EPA

Who wouldn't be motivated to obey a man who says austerity is essential while at a white-tie dinner surrounded by gold and an uninterested Lord Mayor? Photograph: Tal Cohen/EPA Photograph: TAL COHEN/EPA

Last modified on Wed 14 Feb 2018 21.24 GMT

David Cameron has recently pointed out that the reason there are so few non-white, non-middle class people in top jobs is because they don’t have sufficiently high aspirations. Never mind crushing inequality, obvious prejudice and a stranglehold on well-paid jobs by the privately educated. All of this would be irrelevant if those from less affluent backgrounds just wanted to succeed more.

If aspiration and motivation to succeed is all that’s needed, this would argue in turn that those who do have the big jobs, largely private-school educated white males, have them because they aspired to them, and were more motivated for them than anyone else. This suggests that financial security and a wealthy lifestyle causes people to work harder and achieve more. So, logically, if David Cameron and the rest of the government really did believe these claims, then they’d give those in poverty more financial support, in order to get the best out of them. And of course, that’s definitely happening. Right?

No, it isn’t. Inconsistency, in the claims of politicians? You probably need a few minutes to come to terms with this revelation, so take your time. Here, I’ll hold your coat.

Motivation is quite complex. It can be summarised as “the desire to do things”. Aspiration, in this context, can be seen as a “long term hope”, or “goal”. Your aspirations can motivate you to work hard and get things done to achieve this goal, whatever it is. But, scientifically, what actually motivates us?

Motivation takes many forms. Most basically there are the biological functions. Hungry? Then you’ll be motivated to find food. Full bladder? Then you’ll be motivated to find a toilet, or at least a private place. This is the main point of the (now largely obsolete) drive theory. This theory declined when it became apparent that (most) people aren’t slaves to their basic biological needs. For example, diets exist.

Operant conditioning, another basic form of learning, imbues a sense of motivation in humans and non-humans by pairing certain behaviours with rewards or punishments in certain ways. The subject then learns to perform or avoid that behaviour, and thus can be said to be motivated to do or refrain from certain actions. Again, this is quite a fundamental effect, and human complexity can override it. One example of operant conditioning in humans is gambling addiction, but people can still break these addictions using higher cognitive “motivators”.

Many people separate motivation into intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic stems from internal factors, eg playing a video game purely because you enjoy it, despite there being no wider-world ramifications. Extrinsic is the opposite, where external factors (avoiding punishment from others, gaining the approval of your peer group) are what motivate you.

It can get confusing. Things in the external world can cause intrinsic motivation. For example, yesterday my car was stolen with my son’s pushchair and car seat still in it. I found myself strongly motivated to stalk the streets armed with a meat tenderiser looking for the thief and explaining to him my feelings via the medium of a vicious beating. I’ve never fought anyone in my life, I know I’d be bad at it and that what I wanted to do was illegal, but still, the motivation was strong. Anger at injustice and other forms of arousal are other strong motivational factors.

A more comprehensive theory of motivation is the humanistic, incorporating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This acknowledges various “levels” that motivation can occur at, from basic physiological like food, sex or excretion (not simultaneously) to cognitively complex concepts like self-esteem and self-actualisation. These can be strong motivators too. For example, some may want to show how funny and clever they are by posting this “updated” version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There’s a good chance they’ll be so motivated they’ll post it in the comments section before reading this bit.

This being said, a lecturer on motivation and emotion I recently spoke to compared Maslow to Freud in terms of well-known-but-outdated theories. So there’s that.

It’s clear that motivation is a complex process, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are countless attempts in the business world to “increase motivation”, there is such a thing as motivational speakers and so on. It’s debatable as to how valid these are. While it’s good to emphasise that motivation is a complex cognitive process, you can’t just expect people to be more enthusiastic about their job when faced with poor prospects, low wages, bad management etc. just because a stranger tells them to. Many people I’ve spoken to who have been to these motivational seminars/exercises have reported the effect being the opposite of what’s intended.

Motivation is said to have three components: activation, intensity and perseverance. Activation initiates the action, intensity is the amount of effort given to that action, and perseverance is how long that intensity can be applied in the face of obstacles. The last part is important, because some things have more obstacles than others. A privileged person has far fewer obstacles than someone from a marginalised, impoverished group when it comes to obtaining important roles and jobs. A private school student might only have 10% the motivation to succeed as a state school student, but the state school student may have 30 times the obstacles to overcome, so the private school student still comes out ahead.

Motivation and aspirations alone are not enough to succeed. Many people in the ancient world were strongly motivated to defend their homes and families, but motivation didn’t cut the mustard against the resources, organisation and training of the Roman army.

So Cameron can say less privileged people should raise their aspirations all he wants, but it takes more than enthusiasm and motivation to succeed when the odds are so overwhelmingly against you.

Also, studies show that getting students to raise aspirations doesn’t make a difference. I could have told you that to begin with, but then you wouldn’t be motivated to read the rest of this post.

Dean Burnett provides regular inspiration and motivational messages on Twitter, @garwboy


  1. Shermarke

    Here it is yes!

  2. Upton

    Now everything has become clear, many thanks for the explanation.

  3. Crayton

    YES, this intelligible message

  4. Yotaxe

    I am here by chance, but especially registered in the forum, in order to participate in the discussion of this issue.

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