Organizational Behavior and Theories of Motivation

by Katherine Hartman - Updated September 26, 2017
Understanding people's motivation is key to creating a successful workplace.

Organizational behavior is the study of how individuals act in a workplace setting. Managers study organizational behavior to understand why and how individuals become motivated since motivated employees are essential to a company’s success.

Traditional Theory X

Theory X is attributed to Sigmund Freud, who asserted that people are innately lazy and naturally avoid taking initiative or responsibility. People work because they are searching for a sense of security and will become motivated if there is a reward or punishment in sight. According to this theory, managers constantly need to watch over their employees to motivate them.

Theory Y

On the other hand, Douglas McGregor, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, surmised that people have a natural desire to learn. Working allows people to challenge themselves and further develop as human beings. Thus, managers should work to integrate the company’s needs with the employees’ love of learning and responsibility.

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Hygiene/Motivation Theory

Frederick Herzberg, author of "One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?," believed that people work and are most motivated by their desire for self-enlightenment. They are happiest when they work to accomplish something. He believed individuals are motivated by animal needs--salary, supervision and interpersonal relations--and human needs--recognition, advancement and responsibility. With this theory in mind, managers should encourage growth in employees and give them work that fully utilizes all their capabilities.

About the Author

Katherine Hartman started writing professionally in 2008, covering topics such as film, theater architecture and environmental issues. She has contributed to "Cleveland Magazine," "Southeast Ohio Magazine" and "Building Design and Construction" magazine, among other publications. Hartman graduated from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in journalism.

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