Sample Research Paper on Theories of Motivation


There is an abundance of theories of motivation available in literature, each of which endeavors to examine the intrinsic and extrinsic factors of motivation among individuals, teams, organizations, and the community. However, this essay shall only restrict itself to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,   Alderfer’s ERG theory, and McClelland’s needs theory.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

            Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, is credited with having developed this theory. The theory classifies human needs into five categories starting with basic (physiological) needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, up to the self-actualization need. In this model, Maslow contends that an individual will always seek to achieve a higher need on the hierarchy, once they have achieve the need at one level, for example, once an individual has fulfilled the physiological needs, they will seek safety needs (Gambrel & Cianci, 2003).

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is widely applied in different settings, including in the workplace. The theory enables an employer ought to understand the prevailing level of needs of an employee so as to know the kind of motivation that they require. For example, in case of a new employee who has been without a job for long, they may be more motivated by an assurance that their basic needs will be met.

One of the advantages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is that one is less likely to attest to appeal to an individual’s higher needs without first ensuring that their basic needs have been satisfied. This is vital when making a presentation that intrigues your audience (Dubrin, 2004).  On the other hand, it becomes hard to fulfill an individual’s higher-level needs in case of unexpected circumstances likely to jeopardize their immediate needs.



Alderfer’s ERG Theory

            In this theory, Alderfer identified three classes of human needs that impacts on workers’ existence, relatedness, behavior, and growth (Cheng-Liang, Hwang & Ya-Chien, 2011). Existence needs are the safety and physiological needs like thirst, hunger, and sex, while relatedness needs encompasses external and social esteem, such as involvement with friends, family, and employers. Finally, growth needs entails self-actualization and internal esteem.

Alderfer argues that that there is no orderly format of achieving the three ERG areas. In recognition of the fact that the order of significance of the three classes could differ from one person to another. The theory also upholds the frustration-regression principle whereby in case an individual is not bale to fulfill a higher level of need, he is likely to regress to lower level of needs that looks far much easier to achieve. This could impact on workplace motivation.

One of the advantages of the ERG Theory is that it acknowledges the unique nature of individuals, and that the need of an individual are affected by different variables. In this way, it is less restrictive and hence more flexible that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.  On the other hand, this theory is comparatively new, in relation to Maslow’s theory. There has also not been much research conducted on the theory.

McClelland’s Need Theory

            Here, McClelland identifies three forms of motivational needs: power/authority motivation, achievement motivation, and affiliation motivation. McClelland further developed the needs-based motivational model that endeavors to describe an individual’s style in terms of motivating or being motivated by others, based on the various levels of needs that such an individual is exposed to. (Dubrin, 2004).

In terms of application, McClelland’s Need Theory is useful for both employees and the management in an organization.  The theory enables employees to identify employees suitable for a given position based on their achievement motivation, power/authority motivation, and affiliation motivation characteristics.  In the case of management, the theory enables them to identify employees with a higher need for achievement. To these, challenging and difficult tasks are allocated. On the other hand, employees with need for power ought to get the chance to manage others.

McClelland’s Needs Theory is heralded as being more useful than Alderfer and Maslow’s theories  on account of the detailed empirical evidence available in literature to support it, in comparison with the other two theories. On the other hand, this theory has been criticized on grounds of validity concerns about the procedure that it uses to determine an individual’s levels of needs (Redmond 2009).

Implementing McClelland’s Needs Theory

McClelland’s Needs Theory has been chosen for implementation given its wide applicability. In the workplace, implementing the theory can improve job satisfaction without the management having to provide monetary incentives. In this case, the implementation design entails the application of McClelland’s Needs Theory to identify employees’ motivators with the aim of reducing staff turnover and increasing their productivity.


            Of the three theories of motivation discussed in this essay namely, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Alderfer’s ERG theory McClelland’s Needs Theory, the latter appears more suited for application into the workplace as it demands tapping into an individual’s underlying attitude, emotional capacity, and values, to ensure success. Thus, employers can effectively make us of this theory, along with the other two, to identify their employees’ internal motivators.

Reference List

Cheng-Liang, Y., Hwang, M., & Ya-Chien, C. (2011).  An empirical study of the existence,

relatedness, and growth (ERG) theory in consumer’s selection of mobile value-added services. African Journal of Business Management, 5(19), 7885-7898.

DuBrin, A. J. (2004).  Applying Psychology: Individual & Organizational Effectiveness. New Jersey:


Gambrel, P.A., & Cianci, R. (2003). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Does It Apply In A Collectivist     Culture? Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 8(2), 143-161.

Redmond, B. F. (2009). Need Theories: What Do I Want When I Work? Work Attitudes and Motivation.

The Pennsylvania State University World Campus.