Content theories explain the specific factors that motivate people. In other words, they answer the question What drives behaviour? It is important to remember that the following are theories, none of which have been conclusively shown to be valid. Nonetheless, they are helpful in providing a contextual framework for dealing with individuals.
McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y
Douglas McGregor proposed two different motivational theories. Managers tend to believe one or the other and treat their employees accordingly. Theory X states that employees dislike and try to avoid work, so they must be coerced into doing it. Most workers do not want responsibilities, lack ambition, and value job security more than anything else.
McGregor personally held that the more optimistic theory, Y, was more valid. This theory holds that employees can view work as natural, are creative, can be self-motivated, and appreciate responsibility. This type of thinking is popular now, with self-empowered work teams becoming the norm.
ERG Theory is similar to the famous Maslow’s Hierarch of Needs. Existence, or physiological, needs are at the base. These include the needs for things such as food, drink, shelter, and safety. Next come relatedness needs, the need to feel connected to other individuals or a group. These needs are fulfilled by establishing and maintaining relationships.
At the top of the hierarchy are Growth needs, the needs for personal achievement and self-actualization. If a person is continually frustrated in trying to satisfy growth needs, relatedness needs will remerge. This phenomenon is known as the frustration-regression process.
Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory
Herzberg felt that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction do not exist on the same continuum, but on dual scales. In other words, certain things, which Herzberg called hygiene factors, could cause a person to become unhappy with their job. These things, including pay, job security, and physical work environment, could never bring about job satisfaction.
Motivating factors, on the other hand, can increase job satisfaction. Giving employees things such as a sense of recognition, responsibility, or achievement can bring satisfaction about.
McClelland’s Theory of Needs
McClelland used s projective technique called the Thematic Aptitude Test (TAT) to measure people in three dimensions: the need for power, achievement, and affiliation. Individuals with a high need for power take actions that affect other peoples’ behaviour and arouse strong emotions in them. The need for power can be revealed in socially acceptable ways (demonstrating a socialized power orientation) or in selfish, inconsiderate ways (a personalized power orientation.)
Those with strong need for achievement enjoy competition against some standard and unique accomplishment. High achievers like tasks that are neither simple (which anyone could do) or extremely difficult (where the chance of success has more to do with luck than ability), but that challenge them to do their best.
People with a strong need for affiliation is particularly concerned with being liked and accepted. These individuals tend to establish, maintain, and restore closer personal relationships with others.