Approaches / Theories of Motivation – Early theories, Content theories and Process Theories

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 5: Motivation

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Approaches / Theories of Motivation – Early theories, Content theories and Process Theories

There are many different theories that try and help explain motivation. Scientists have been studying the topic of motivation for over a century and have made tremendous progress for explaining motivation which can be interpreted into the workplace. The following are some theories that have been proven and accepted by society.

The study of motivation attracted some attention in the early part of the 19th century. However, it became popular only with the work of William McDougal and Sigmund Freud, and later with the development of theories of learning, it came to occupy a central position. When psychology began its application to the field of industry, it became evident that the motivation as a process is highly significant in doing any work and achieving excellence. 

Scientific Management

Fredrick Winslow Taylor (1910)

In general scientific management is defined as the use of the scientific method to define the “one best way” for a job to be done. It was believed that Worker is a well oiled machine and management should find the most efficient methods for performing any work. This model focus on finding most efficient methods of production, scientific selection and training of worker, proper distribution of work and achieving cooperation between workers and management. At its most extreme, this view postulates the following:

  • People dislike work
  • People will only work for money
  • People are not capable of controlling their work or directing themselves
  • Simple, repetitive tasks will produce the best results
  • Workers should be closely supervised and tightly controlled
  • Extra effort must lead to greater reward
  • People will meet standards if they are closely controlled
  • Firm but fair supervision will be respected

Human Relation Model

Elton Mayo (1927 - 1932)

Elton Mayo was one of the critics of scientific management’s emphasis on monetary reward and efficiency at work. He emphasized the role of communication, participation and leadership in industry and proposed that Individuals perform better when they receive personal attention and made to feel important or being observed. John Dewey and Kurt Lewin also contributed in development of human relation model. The main tenets of this view are as follows:

  • People want to be made to feel valued and important
  • People want recognition for their work
  • People want to be controlled sensibly
  • Managers must discuss the plans they make for staff
  • They must take any objections on board
  • They must encourage self-regulation on routine tasks

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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