Foundational Theories

Foundational Theories

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Foundational theories have played a major role in uncovering the why and how of intrinsic behavior. This helps theorists to understand how humans respond to different situations (Latham, 2011). For this paper, I will compare and contrast two foundational theories, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Both believe that humans have needs and failure to meet these needs causes demotivation. Both suggest that humans have different needs. This means that different things motivate people differently. Both believe that motivation is an important factor when it comes to improving employee performance.

The two theories have differences. First, Herzberg’s theory is based on hygiene and motivating factors while Maslow’s theory is based on a hierarchy of human needs. Second, Herzberg’s theory is more prescriptive while Maslow’s theory is descriptive (Johnson et al., 2018). Third, Herzberg’s theory holds that high order needs act as motivators while Maslow’s theory holds that any unsatisfied need can be a motivator. Maslow’s theory has wider applicability. For example, it is used to motivate HR managers in the public sector by fulfilling their basic needs to improve workplace productivity (Johnson et al., 2018). Herzberg’s theory is also applicable in various situations, especially where the money is not a big motivator. For example, it is applied in motivating employees who are less excited to do more than the minimum by including activities that stimulate their interest.

There are commonalities and differences in the application of motivation theories, Herzberg’s theory, based on the area (Ruthankoon & Ogunlana, 2003). For example in a prison setting, motivation is improved through incentive pay, vocational training, and freedom. Among social workers, motivation is determined by position satisfaction from received professional respect (Johnson et al., 2018). On the other hand, among police offices, motivators include autonomy, recognition, excellence, and feedback.


Johnson, J., Irizarry, M., Nguyen, N. & Maloney, P. (2018). Part 1: Foundational Theories of        Human Motivation. Motivation 101: A Guide for Public Servants. 1, 1-71.

Latham, G. (2011). Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice. SAGE          Publications, Inc.

Ruthankoon, R. & Ogunlana, S.  (2003). Testing Herzberg’s two‐factor theory in the Thai       construction industry. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 10    (5), 333-341.

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