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What best explains people’s willingness to work hard?

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Obviously, the best explanation of people willing to work hard is that people was motivated by they satisfied with their individual needs such food, money and so on. It is widely believed that motivation theories and business success are inextricably linked when dealing with the management of workers. People’s willingness to work hard is especially important in relation to motivation, which is clearly connected with leaders or managers, are supposed to do is to motivate people by a combination of rewards and threats – the carrot-and-stick approach. More recent thought and some research suggests that you and I motivate ourselves to large extent by responding to inner needs. As a leader you must understand these needs in individuals and how they operate, and as a manager you must understand different management styles will lead to different level of people hard working. Hence, you can work with the grain of human nature, and not against it.

In terms of psychology, motivation means the driving force behind all actions of human beings, animals, and lower organisms. Applied in the business, motivation is refer to the mainspring of behavior; it can explain the reasons for individuals choose to expend a degree of effort towards achieving specific goals or needs. Basically, people may motivate by satisfied their personal needs such as daily needs like food, clothes and so on. Not only the base needs in the life, also people may motivate by different management style in an organization. In my following essay, I will concern on the internal motivation and external motivation to the workers themselves.

First of all, people willing to work hard without financial reason, it’s because they need money to buy food, clothes and house in order to achieve the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – physiological needs. So there is no denying that money is the biggest motivator in the business world. Motivations can be viewed as perceived predispositions to particular behaviours and outcomes, those reflecting the things we want and the strategies we choose to achieve or obtain them such as hierarchy of needs. As the most widely discussed theories of motivation – Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs theory . Maslow’s theory consisted of two parts, the first one is classification of human needs- All humans have requirements that should be met. However the average person never explores these needs, they have no consideration on why they perform their daily activities and habits. And second one is consideration of how the classes are related to each other- Maslow was eager to find out why people behave in particular ways.

His research resulted in a five part hierarchy of needs that attempts to describe human behaviour. Maslow’s pyramid of needs shows that individual needs are in an order of prepotence, with the stronger at the bottom and the weaker (but more distinctively human) at the top. There are five levels; the four lower levels are assembled together as deficiency needs, whilst the top level is referred to as being needs. Our deficiency needs must be achieved, but at the same time our being needs are shaping our performance. The basic outline is that the lower-level needs in the hierarchy must be partially or wholly met before proceeding onto the higher level needs. This is due to growth forces that push a person up the hierarchy, whereas regressive forces would move prepotent needs further down. Maslow’s model has great potential appeal in the business world. It is because that people didn’t work harder when satisfied, some people worked harder less satisfied and some less hard when more satisfied. There is a relation between productivity and human performance. The message is clear, if management can find out which level each employee has reached, then they can decide on suitable rewards. The classes of needs were summarized by Maslow as follows:

Physiological needs are the fundamental level of the pyramid. They are those mandatory to sustain life, such as air, water, food and sleep. These fundamental needs are the motivation factor to people’s willingness to work. An individual will most likely be motivated to satisfy them, these basic needs to existence must be fulfilled before a person recognizes higher needs like social and esteem. When physiological needs are met, an individual’s attention looks to safety and security to avoid the threats of physical and emotional harm. These needs could possibly be satisfied by living in a safe area, medical insurance, job security and financial reserves. Maslow’s hierarchy suggests that if a person feels threatened, needs higher up in the pyramid will not obtain consideration until that need has been determined. After a person has met the lower level physiological and safety needs, Maslow suggests that high level needs are stimulated. Social needs are the first of the higher level needs. These needs are connected to interaction with other people and may consist of friendship, fitting into a group and exchanging love. As soon as a person feels a sense of “belonging”, the need to feel important crops up.

Esteem needs can be categorized as internal or external. Internal esteem needs are those associated to self-esteem like self respect and achievement. External esteem needs are those like social status and recognition. The peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. It is the challenge of attaining one’s full potential as a person. Dissimilar to lower level needs, this need is never fully fulfilled; due to the fact that as one grows psychologically there are always new opportunities to keep on growing. People who are self-actualized often require truth, justice, wisdom and meaning. In addition they have regular occurrences of peak experiences, which are wound up moments of reflective happiness and harmony. Maslow suggests that only a small percentage of the population actually achieves the high level of self-actualization.

These needs that mention in the hierarchy of needs food, shelter, affection, self-respect and individual growth are more accurately seen as operating on the basis of either intrinsic, social or extrinsic stimuli or rewards. In practice, the pyramid of need works like a cycle which can make people to work harder and meet their needs. However, not everyone is driven by the same needs; at any time totally different factors will motivate different people. It is vital to understand the needs being followed by each individual employee. In order to motivate an employee, the manager must be able to identify the needs level at which the employee is working at, and utilize those needs as levers of motivation.

Even the Maslow model is meaningful applied in the organization, however it hasn’t completely the model itself. Whilst Maslow’s hierarchy makes sense instinctively, there is not much evidence to back up its firm hierarchy. In reality, an individual’s behaviour appears to respond to several needs, and not just one at a time. Moreover the way in which an individual responds to these needs will differ. Maslow suggests that one moves to a higher-level need once the lower has been met, but when is a need fully “satisfied”? A well motivated individual, such as a designer may spend many hours on a creative piece regardless of lack of food and sleep. Research has shown to challenge the order of needs denoted by the model. For example, Maslow undertook his research amongst middle-class workers in the USA and UK and fails to note that there are some cultures that appear to prioritize social needs above o

thers. The hierarchy doesn’t take into account cases such as the “starving artist” in which a person abandons physical needs in search of aesthetic or spiritual needs. There is also some overlap between levels; money is required to purchase “essentials” like food, however it can also be seen as a status symbol or a marker of personal worth. Furthermore, there are instances of individuals accepting low-pay for the assurance of benefits in the future. Maslow appears to not have much proof to back up his theory and in particular the need of self actualization is unclear, making it hard for researchers to measure this behaviour in individuals.

Although Maslow’s hierarchy is short of scientific backing, it is well recognized and is the first theory of motivation that most people come across. Later, Clayton Alderfer developed the ERG (Existence, Relatedness, and Growth) theory, which is a needs-based model dealing with issues of Maslow’s theory. This revision of Maslow’s work was produced to further link the theory with empirical findings.

Hierarchy of needs could assumer as the internal motivation to workers that is because they want to meet their goals by their hard working. However, his theory is very seldom considering the satisfaction of needs within the organisational environment beyond the extent to which they can be manipulated to increase productivity. The organisational environment such as management style, leadership or job satisfaction and something else could be assumed as the external motivation to the workers.

Based on the hierarchy of needs model, the another good example is McGregor,s(1960) concept ‘theory X and theory Y’ , and they often presented as a need of motivation. Theory X and Theory Y are showing two types of people those who dislike work and responsibility, focus on economic security and need to be coerced into effort (Theory X), and those who like work, will accept responsibility for their own effort and are capable of innovation (Theory Y). . However the two theories depict two very diverse attitudes toward workforce motivation, and so McGregor believed that companies pursued either one or the other.

Theory X Theory Y

Dislikes work and attempts to avoid it. Work can be as natural as play and rest.

Has no ambition, wants no responsibility, and would rather follow than lead.

People will be self-directed to meet their work objectives if they are committed to them.

Is self-centered and therefore does not care about organiztional goals People will be committed to their objectives if rewards are in place that addresses higher needs such as self-fulfillment.

Resists change. Under these conditions, people will seek responsibility.

Is gullible and not particularly intelligent. Most people can handle responsibility because creativity and ingenuity are common in the population.

McGregor used Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a basis for his work. Theory X consists of the “lower order” needs of Maslow’s hierarchy, whilst Theory Y uses “higher order” needs. He believed that management could use either lower or higher order needs to motivate employees, but meeting the needs of Theory Y would give better results.

According to Theory X, management advances can vary from a hard approach to a soft approach. It assumes that employees are intrinsically lazy and will try to avoid work. The only way to make people work hard is money and security, otherwise the managers should force their employees to work and meet their requirement. Also, this is hard approach for the Theory X. It should depend on force, inherent threats, close supervision and strict controls, effectively a commanded and controlled environment. It results in aggression, deliberately low-output, and hard-line union demand.

With reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McGregor disagrees that a fulfilled need loses the ability to motivate. According to Theory X, a firm depends on money and benefits to satisfy employee’s lower needs, and when those needs are met the source of motivation is gone. Management styles derived from theory X actually delay the satisfaction of higher-level needs. As a result, the only means that employees can try to satisfy their higher level needs in their work is by seeking more compensation, hence it is rather unsurprising that they will concentrate on monetary rewards. Money may not be the most effectual approach to self-fulfillment, but in a Theory X atmosphere it may be the only way. Under Theory X conditions, people use work to gratify their lower-level needs, and use their leisure time for higher-level needs. However employees are most productive after their higher needs have been satisfied.

McGregor stated that a command and control environment is not effective due to the reliance on lower needs as levers of motivation, although in a modern society those needs are already satisfied and so no longer act as motivators. In such a case, employees are expected to detest their work, avoid responsibility, disinterest in organizational goals and resist change, etc., therefore making Theory X a self-fulfilling prediction.

Theory Y assumes that employees are ambitious, self-motivated, and eager to accept greater responsibility and practice self-control and self-direction. Continuing needs such as higher-level needs of esteem and self-actualization are never totally satisfied. Consequently, employees are best motivated by these higher-level needs. An alternative analysis was said by McGregor – Theory Y.

Under these statements, it is possible to line up personal and organizational goals by the means of the employee’s own pursuit for fulfillment as the motivator. Theory Y management however has been stressed that it does not suggest a soft approach.

It has been recognized by McGregor that certain people may not have attained the level of maturity understood by Theory Y and hence as the employee develops, tighter controls may need to be enforced.

Theory Y manager has to be more sensitive than theory X. He or she has:

– To take the time out to explains

– To comprehend the needs of the individual,

– To engage in joint-problem solving and interpersonal exchange with each member of staff.

This calls for trust building, and McGregor did consider trust, consistency and faith. If an employee lets the manager down, the latter cannot regress to the strict, unsympathetic ways of Theory X. Otherwise, it could result in a bitter relationship causing the employee to lose trust. Employees trust employers are very important because it is another factor to explain people willing to work hard for the organization. Therefore McGregor made the point that what we believe about a person can help that person to behave in that way. If you tell someone you believe that they are bone idle, for example, they will tend to live up to your prediction. If you have a high regard for them, although that is not strictly justified by the facts, they may well rise to meet your expectations. Natural leaders have always acted on that assumption. They hold a creative or strategic belief in people, despite evidence to the contrary. ‘Trust men and they will be true to you’, said Emerson. ‘Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.’

Finally, the individual needs can be the best explanation to the reason that why people willing to work hard. But in general, individual needs can not be the only one way to explain them, however, these are the biologically-based need in the daily and also could be the most popular motivator. Those are the lower level of needs, when people satisfied these they will start to seek for the higher or expensive needs such as a brand name car. Those are the drives to push people to work harder, but these drive forces cannot stop in a short-term, because this is the long-term individual objectives for the future. Therefore, people will never stop their willingness to work hard in one day.


1.Thompson, P., and McHugh, D. (2002 3rd) ‘ Work Organisations’ ch19 Motivation: The Drive for Satisfaction

2.Business Studies Third Edition by Dave Hall, Rob Jones, Carlos Raffo – Page 418

3.Advanced business studies – Page 65




3. http://www.tutor2u.net/

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