Performance Appraisal Tutorial | Theory of motivation

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Theory of Motivation

There are a number of different views as to what motivates workers. The most commonly held views or theories are discussed below.


According to Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1917) workers are motivated mainly by pay. His Theory of Scientific Management argued the following,

Workers do not naturally enjoy work and so need close supervision and control. They require training and tools so they can work as efficiently as possible on one task. Workers are then paid according to the number of items they produce in a set period of time- piece-rate pay. This encourages workers to work hard and maximize their productivity.

Taylor’s approach has close links with the concept of an autocratic management style .Taylor’s theory was not accepted by workers  as they were only given boring, repetitive tasks to carry out and were being treated little better than human machines. Firms could also afford to lay off workers as productivity levels increased. This led to an increase in strikes and other forms of industrial action by dissatisfied workers.


Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949) advocated that workers are not just concerned with money .They could be better motivated by having their social needs met whilst at work. He introduced the Human Relation School of thought. It focused on managers taking more of an interest in the workers, treating them as people who have worthwhile opinions and realizing that workers enjoy interacting together.

He isolated two groups of women workers and studied the effect on their productivity levels of changing factors such as lighting and working conditions. He found that the productivity levels of the workers improved or remained the same and nothing mattered to the workers. Mayo found that workers are best motivated by.

  • Better communication between managers and workers
  • Greater manager involvement in employees working lives
  • Working in groups or teams

Businesses should re-organize production to encourage greater use of team working and introduce personnel departments to encourage greater manager involvement in looking after employees’ interests.

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