Organizational Behavior Course Notes – Motivation Theories


Class notes from my core MBA Organizational Behavior (OB) course. These focus on theories of motivation .

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

  • Physiological needs: The most basic needs – food, water, and sex.
  • Safety needs: The need to provide/have a safe and secure physical environment that is free from threats to continued existence.
  • Belongingness needs: The need to be accepted by one’s peers and develop friendships.
  • Esteem needs: The need to have a positive self-image and to receive recognition, attention, and appreciation from others for one’s contributions.
  • Self-actualization needs: The need for self-actualization; developing one’s full potential as an individual – being all you can be without necessarily joining the Army.

Premise is that people are motivated by a desire to satisfy certain specific types of needs, and that these needs are arranged sequentially in a hierarchical form. Once lower-level needs are satisfied, the individual moves up the hierarchy one level at a time and attempts to satisfy the next higher-order level needs..

Expectancy Theory

  • Expectancy – The strength of a person’s belief about whether a particular outcome is possible. (If I work harder, I can increase sales.) Probability = 0.8
  • Instrumentality – The probability that a certain level of performance will, in fact, result in the desired outcome. (If I increase sales, I will get a promotion.) Probability = 0.5
  • Valence – The level of satisfaction or value that the person expects to derive from an outcome. (Do I really want a promotion?) Probability = 0.9
  • Solution for this situation is E x I x V or (0.8)(0.5)(0.9) = 0.36
  • (A score of zero means that the person does not think they can do the task, and a score of one means they are certain they can attain the desired outcome.)

The basis is that people’s behavior results from conscious choices among alternatives, and these choices/behaviors are related to the person’s perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes. This theory has three parts, and they are multiplicative, so the person must believe that they can have a positive impact on each of the three areas.

Equity Theory

This theory compares perceived inputs (a person’s contributions to an exchange) with perceived outputs (the things that result from an exchange). An individual weights his or her inputs and outcomes by their level of importance, and then compares their output/input ration to someone else’s ration in order to determine if a situation is “fair”. *The key point is that you are comparing the ratios and not individual inputs or outcomes.

Comparison ratio:

Outputs (person)
 Inputs (person)

is less than (<), equal to (=) or greater than (>)

Outputs (other person)
 Inputs (other person)

Equity exists when the comparison ratios are perceived to be equal. When the comparison ratios are perceived to be unequal, the individual will compensate by taking one of the following actions to restore equity:

  • Alter their inputs. (“Ms. X gets paid more than me, and I work much harder than her, so I will work less hard.”)
  • Alter their outcomes. (“Ms. X gets paid more than me, and it is unfair, so I will ask for a raise.”)
  • Cognitively distort inputs or outcomes. (“Ms. X might be more productive than me, so perhaps she does deserve more pay.”)
  • Leave the field. (“I quit!”)
  • Take actions designed to change the inputs or outcomes of the comparison other. (“I’ll fix this. I’ll throw away one of her reports each week so our levels of work are the same.” OR “I’ll ask the boss to lower her salary to the same level as mine.”)
  • Change the comparison other. (“I’ll just compare myself to Mr. Y instead.”)

NOTE: People tend to maximize their outcomes and minimize the amount of effort they must increase to restore equity. In addition, most people will try to avoid changing the object of their comparison and will try to distort the other’s inputs and outcomes rather than their own inputs or outcomes.

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