A Theory of Human Motivation: The Tirimba Grouping Theory of Motivation

Download (0)

Full text


A Theory of Human Motivation: The Tirimba Grouping

Theory of Motivation

Ibrahim Tirimba Ondabu *

PhD Candidate, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural and Technology *Corresponding author: tirimba5@gmail.com


There is an argument that money is the only motivator that management can use effectively to enhance the performance of employees at all levels. It’s however of questionable wisdom whether employees who happen to differ in the social class grouping can be motivated by only one factor, financial motivation of money. Theorists have concentrated on the generalized motivators without detail look unto those needs that motivate workers at the low, middle and high class levels that compound the environment of today in both developing and developed nations. This study will add to the existing knowledge in motivation as regards the factors that motivate workers at the varied social classes by coming up with a theory, ‘the Tirimba theory of motivation’ which was aimed at identifying the key motivators at the low, middle and high class social levels of workers. The main objective therefore is to determine the key motivators at the low, middle and high class levels at the contemporary context. Descriptive research design was adopted with the population being strategic management scholars at graduate level in Kenya. The sample survey of this study was extracted from the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi campus 2012-2013 current students that was identified on case study method. The study relied wholly on qualitative data from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected by use of semi-structured questionnaires. Secondary data was gathered by aid of already published books, journals, and published and unpublished research projects. Relevant conclusions and recommendations were made as per the data collected and the theory to be suggested explained amid the research work.


Motivation, Social Groups, Employees/Workers

1. Introduction

Motivation is concerned with the factors that influence people to behave in certain ways. Motivating other people is about getting them to move in a certain direction in order to achieve a desired result. Today, concepts of social class often assume three general categories: a very wealthy and powerful upper class that owns and controls the means of production; a middle class of profes-sional workers, small business owners, and low-level managers; and a lower class, which rely on low-paying wage jobs for their livelihood and often experience poverty. Until recently, employee interests and needs have been neglected and their personal de-velopment goals put at a back stage. They were just considered as mare inputs that can be used to accelerate production process but not as the important resources that carry the entire hope and key stake of every firm. What perhaps may have changed this ironical way of thinking about employees was research, referred to as the Hawthorne Studies, conducted by Elton Mayo from 1924 to 1932 [1]. Understanding what motivated employees and how they were motivated was the focus of many researchers fol-lowing the publication of the Hawthorne Study results [2]. Five major approaches that have led to our understanding of motiva-tion and that shall form the basis of the theoretical review are Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory, Herzberg’s two- factor theory, Vroom’s expectancy theory, Adams’ equity theory, and Skinner’s reinforcement theory. Other Researcher developments modern to

the motivational context have been researches from the instinct theory, the incentive theory, the drive theory, arousal theory and the humanistic theories of motivation. Of all the functions a manager performs, motivating employees is arguably the most complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates employees changes constantly [3]. For example, research sug-gests that as employees’ income increases, money becomes less of a motivator [4]. It’s interesting to note that, as employees get older, interesting work becomes more of a motivator. The key question has been whether money is the key tool for employee motivation at all times besides the other motivating tools such as job security, promotions and titles, good working conditions and so forth. In this study, the researcher will be looking at the key motivators at the 3 classes of employees namely; high class, low class and middle class. This work shall be an extensional input unto the theories of motivation thereby proposing a new theory of motivation, ‘the Grouping theory of motivation.’ The theory will be applicable in the 21st century in which case, there lies disequilibrium state in the distribution of national and domestic income in the global perspective and thus the existence of the low class level of people, middle class level of people and the high class level of people.


2.1 Introduction

Over the recent past, many contemporary authors have defined the concept of motivation. Motivation has been defined as: the psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction [5]; a predisposition to behave in a purposive manner to achieve specific, unmet needs [6]; an internal drive to satisfy an unsatisfied need [7]; and the will to achieve [8].

2.2 Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Needs

In 1943, a psychologist Mr. Abraham Harold Maslow suggested his Theory of Human Motivation. His theory is one popular and extensively cited theory of motivation. Maslow [9] argues that the average child tends to prefer a safe, orderly world where dan-gerous or unexpected events are rare. As with the physiological needs, safety needs cease to be a primary motivator of behavior when the needs are met. Safety seeking ceases to be the dominant behavioral motivators as safety needs are chronically satisfied.

Figure 1. Maslow Theory of Motivation

Physiological needs are the basic needs for sustaining human life. These needs include food, shelter, clothing, rest, air, water, sleep and sexual satisfaction. A hungry person, for example, is just not in a position to think of anything else except his hunger or food. According to Maslow, ’man lives by bread alone,’ when there is no bread. If the physiological and safety needs are fairly well satiated, the love, affection, and belongingness needs emerge to motivate behavior [9].

Security / Safety Needs are the needs connected with the psy-chological fear of loss of job, property, natural calamities or hazards, etc. An employee wants protection from such types of fear. He prefers adequate safety or security in this regard i.e. protection from physical danger, security of job, pension for old age, insurance cover for life, etc. The safety needs come after meeting the physiological needs. Maslow [9] argues that the aver-age child tends to prefer a safe, orderly world where dangerous or unexpected events are rare.

In the Social Needs category, an employee is a human being is rightly treated as a social animal. He desires to stay in group. He feels that he should belong to one or the other group and the member of the group should accept him with love and affection. Every person desires to be affiliated to such groups. This is

treated as basic social need of an individual. People must have the opportunity to love and beloved: in his private journal, Maslow lamented that he had not “paid enough attention to the need to admire as well as to be admired (parallel to love as well as to be loved)” ( [9] p. 1177).

Esteem needs include the need to be respected by others, need to be appreciated by others, need to have power and finally pres-tigious position. Once the previous needs are satisfied, a person feels to be held in esteem both by him and also by others. Thus, esteem needs are two fold in nature. Self esteem needs include those for self confidence, self-respect, competence, etc. The de-velopment of self-esteem and ego strength leads to feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, and capability; these emotions propel behavior toward the higher goals [9].

Self-actualization Needs is the highest among the needs in the hierarchy of needs advocated by Maslow. Self actualization is the desire to become what one is capable of becoming. It is a ’growth’ need. A worker must work efficiently if he is to be ultimately happy.

Maslow began to become interested in self-actualization through his relationships with two extraordinary human beings: Max Wertheimer and Ruth Benedict. Maslow [9] reports that his early investigations on “self-actualization were not planned to be re-search and did not start out as rere-search.

2.3 David McClelland’s Learned Needs Theory

In the early 1940s, Abraham Maslow created his theory of needs. This identified the basic needs that human beings have, in order of their importance – physiological needs; safety needs; and the needs for belonging, self-esteem and ”self-actualization”. Then, in the early 1960s, David McClelland built on this work by identi-fying three motivators that we all have. According to McClelland, these motivators are learned (which is why this theory is some-times called the Learned Needs Theory). McClelland [10]says that, regardless of our gender, culture, or age, we all have three motivating drivers, and one of these will be our dominant moti-vating driver. This dominant motivator is largely dependent on our culture and life experiences.

Need for achievement - where this is high then people have an intense desire to succeed and an equally intense fear of failure. Need for affiliation. One of the most important types of mo-tivation but least talked about is the need for affiliation (nAff). According to Robbins [11] the affiliation motive is the “desire to be liked and accepted by others. This involves the need to be accepted by others, maintaining good social relationships and the need to ‘belong’ even if it means subordinating one’s personal mo-tivations “to what is accepted by other group members” [12, 13]. This is particularly evident in a social group or religion where members have to conform to certain norms and/or conventions.

Need for Power. The need for power is the desire to influence people and have an impact on others. McClelland does not speak about power in the dictatorial sense but about the need to be strong and influential. Ideally, this need for power should be directed towards the success of the organization the person works for, and not for his/her own success. McClelland [10] argues that high achievers do not make good managers because they are usually more concerned with their own success than with that of


the organization. Individuals in need of power are usually low in affiliative need. The manager who desires to be liked will not make a good manager as he might waive rules for certain employees thus disrupting the whole system while demoralizing other employees who feel that exceptions are unfair ( [11, 14]) need for power, however, is not the only requisite to make a good manager. The good manager tends to be altruistic, uses power to stimulate employees to be more productive and above all has “. . . emotional maturity, where there is little egotism, and has a

democratic, coaching managerial style” ( [14] p.11)

In a retrospective commentary to the article by McClelland & Burnham [14] entitled “Power is the Great Motivator”, McClel-land states that subsequent research has confirmed that successful managers have a stronger need for power than the need to be liked. However, it was also found that in “small companies” (McClel-land’s italics), “a high need for achievement contributes more to success than does a high interest in influencing other people.

2.4 Herzberg two factor theory

Herzberg’s work categorized motivation into two factors: moti-vators and hygiene’s [15]. Motivator or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction. Hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, produce job dissatisfaction.

2.5 Vroom’s Expectancy theory

Vroom’s theory is based on the belief that employee effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards [16]. Rewards may be either positive or negative. As regards to Vroom’s, the more positive the reward the more likely the employee will be highly motivated. Conversely, the more negative the reward the less likely the employee will be motivated.

2.6 Adams’ Equity theory

Adams’ theory states that employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs [17].

2.7 Skinner’s reinforcement theory

Skinner’s reinforcement theory states that, those employees’ haviors that lead to positive outcomes will be repeated and be-haviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated [18]. Managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that lead to positive outcomes. Managers should negatively reinforce employee behavior that leads to negative outcomes.

2.8 The Instinct theory

The Instinct theory of motivation poses that, people are motivated to behave in certain ways because they are evolutionarily pro-grammed to do so. An example of this in the animal world is seasonal migration. These animals do not learn to do this; it is instead an inborn pattern of behavior. William James created a list of human instincts that included such things as attachment, play, shame, anger, fear, shyness, modesty and love. The main problem with this theory is that it did not really explain behavior, it just described it.

2.9 The Incentive Theory

The incentive theory argues that people are motivated to do things because of external rewards. For example, today many employees are motivated to go to work each day for the monetary reward they are being paid. Behavioral learning concepts such as associ-ation and reinforcement play an important role in this theory of motivation.

2.10 The Drive Theory

The drive theory of motivation asserts that, people are motivated to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension that is caused by unmet needs. For instance, people may be motivated to drink a glass of water in order to reduce the internal state of thirst instead of water. This theory is useful in explaining behaviors that have a strong biological component, such as hunger or thirst. The problem with this theory of motivation is that these behaviors are not always motivated purely by physiological needs. For example, people often eat even when they are not really hungry.

2.11 The Arousal Theory

On the other hand the arousal theory of motivation suggests that people take certain actions to either decrease or increase levels of arousal. When arousal levels get too low, for example, a person might watch and exciting movie or go for a jog. When arousal levels get too high, on the other hand, a person would probably look for ways to relax such as meditating or reading a book. According to this theory, we are motivated to maintain an optimal level of arousal, although this level can vary based on the individual or the situation.

2.12 The Humanistic theories

Finally the Humanistic theories of motivation are based on the idea that people also have strong cognitive reasons to perform var-ious actions. This is famously illustrated in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which presents different motivations at differ-ent levels. First, people are motivated to fulfill basic biological needs for food and shelter, as well as those of safety, love and esteem. Once the lower level needs have been met, the primary motivator becomes the need for self actualization. Of all the functions a manager performs, motivating employees is arguably the most complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what moti-vates employees changes constantly [3]. For example, research suggests that as employees’ income increases, money becomes less of a motivator [4]. It’s Interesting to note that, as employees get older, interesting work becomes more of a motivator. The key question has been whether money is the key tool for employee motivation at all times besides the other motivating tools such as job security, promotions and titles, good working conditions and so forth.

2.13 McGregor’s Theory X/Y

Theory X argues that the average persons inherently dislike work and will avoid it if they can. People must be coerced, controlled, directed, and threatened in order to make them work. The average human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility, and has relatively little ambition. Theory Y is the immediate opposite of theory X.


3. Methods

This part presented a description of the methodology that was adopted in addressing the study objectives. It includes those parts such as the research design, population and sampling design; sampling frame, sampling techniques, sample size, data collection methods, research procedures and the data analysis methods.

This study employed descriptive research design method. De-scriptive design intends to describe answers to questions observed on where, who, what, when and sometimes how-the problem is clearly defined.

The population of interest consisted of population strategic management scholars at graduate level in Kenya. The students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi Campus formed part of the sampling frame of which the sam-ple case study was extracted from the Masters of Business Ad-ministration (MBA) students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi campus 2012-2013 current students.

The instrumentation part of this research relied both on qualita-tive data both from primary and secondary data sources.

Primary data was collected raw from the field by use of semi-structured questionnaires while secondary data was gathered by aid of already published books, journals, and published research dissertations.

4. Results

The study was reengineered towards identifying the key motiva-tors at the low social class level, middle social class level and upper social class levels of employees. A comparison of these results to Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory provides some inter-esting insight into employee motivation. Maslow’s conclusions that lower level motivational factors must be met before ascend-ing to the next level were however not confirmed by this study. This study found out that some workers came from well-off back-grounds (middle and high class backback-grounds) which meant that most of their lower level motivational needs had already been met by their descendants and that, what was remaining was for them to satisfy their middle and higher class level needs. All respondents agreed that there exist social classes at the work places.

This study found that at the low class level, there existed mainly workers who were hungry; the hungry worker is not in a position to think of anything else except his hunger or food. They are the people who, ‘live by bread alone.’ Middle class workers prefer safe ordinary world where dangerous or unexpected events are rare. They desire to stay in a group and want to be rightly treated as social animals. High class workers on the other hand prefer recognition, pride, position and status. Calling them such names as, ‘the employee of the year ’or ‘the group coordinator’ boosts their morale to work and feel superior in the group than when they are working as laymen and laywomen.

The term social class refers to a group of people with similar levels of wealth, influence, and status. Social class is defined by three main methods:

The objective method measures and analyzes “hard” facts. The subjective method asks people what they think of them-selves.

The reputational method asks what people think of others.We have 3 main classes; High class, middle class and low class as explained below;

4.1 High class (Upper class)

The high class is the social class composed of the wealthy, well-born, or both. They usually command the greatest political power. In some countries, wealth alone is sufficient to allow entry into the upper class. In others, only people born into certain aristocratic bloodlines are considered members of the upper class, and those who gain great wealth through commercial activity are looked down upon as the nouveau riche. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Upper Classes are the aristocracy and royalty, with wealth playing a less important role in class status. In America, however, where there is no aristocracy or royalty, the Upper Class status belongs to the extremely wealthy, the so-called ’super-rich’, though there is some tendency even in America for those with old family wealth to look down on those who have earned their money in business, the struggle between New Money and Old Money. In Africa, high class is translated to politicians with huge wealth and protection of their wealth with a good political influence and command and also the rich entrepreneurs whose business yield lump sums. Members of the upper class are often born into it, and are distinguished by immense wealth which is passed from generation to generation in the form of estates. Their major need is to satisfy ego and self actualization needs.

4.2 Middle class

The middle class is the most contested of the three categoriza-tions, most people in the nations of the world and the citizens of the world fall under this category. Middle class is translated to the working class group of people who serve under the white collar jobs. The high rising number of middle class is translated to the increasing literacy levels, industrialization, government devolutions and technological advancements. Their major need is the security and affiliation need satisfaction.

4.3 Lower class

This group of people is associated with the unemployed or those employed but under blue collar jobs. Lower class (occasionally described as working class) is translated to those employed in low-paying wage jobs with very little economic and job security. The employed is sometimes separated into those who are employed but lacking financial security, and an underclass—those who are long-term unemployed and/or homeless. In the U.S for instance, the low class are mainly those receiving welfare from the state. Members of the working class in this category are sometimes called blue-collar workers. The worldly term known for the low class and applicable in this paper are those that spend less or equal to a dollar a day, their major need is the physiological need satisfaction.

A summary of the findings on the key motivators at the varied social groups is outlined as per to the table. The table below is a summary of findings as to the key motivators at high, low and middle class levels;


Table 1. Key Motivators at the Tirimba Grouping Theory


• Reputation • Good wagess • Good wages

• Recognition • Job Security • Food

• Appreciation • Physical security • Shelter

• Achievement • Pension for the old • Clothing

• Respect from others • Life insurance cover • Rest

• Worth • Love • Air

• Capability • Affection • Water

• Pride • Friendship • Sleep sexual satisfaction

• Position • Interaction

• Status • Need to admire and be admired

5. Discussion

It’s important to identify and recognize the fact that employees are different and their differences are different and that the mon-etary remuneration is never enough to distinguish their urge for satisfiers; some employees fall under high class social grouping, others in the middle class while others fall under the low class grouping. The existing researches indicate that there has been no theory explaining the key motivators at the high, middle and low class social groupings. The findings of this study were clear that the factors that motivated the high class workers were related with those of Maslow [9] theory of motivation of self actualization and Esteem. Also, the factors that motivated workers at the middle class were mainly the social needs and safety needs. Physio-logical needs translated with the factors that motivated workers at the low social class group of the Tirimba grouping theory of motivation.

The Tirimba grouping theory of motivation holds relevant in bringing the idea of social grouping among the motivators at the three levels; high class, middle class and low class.

The assumptions of the Tirimba Grouping theory are as fol-lows;

1) There exists 3 social class groupings for employees at the work place; high class, middle class and low class

2) A satisfied need ceases to be a motivator

3) Employees who share a common social class are motivated by similar needs

4) An employee can fall or rise in terms of social class depend-ing on some circumstances specific to him/her

5) The quench of every employee is to rise up the classes from low class, middle class and finally high class

6) Motivation is individual oriented

Human beings are wanting beings, it is the nature of wants that varies as per the class they belong.

6. Conclusion

The researcher’s purpose was to investigate unto the various fac-tors that motivate employees at the upper, middle and lower social classes of employees in organizations today. The lack of an ap-propriate theory explaining the key motivators at the low, middle and high class levels of organizations today and the relevance of this matter given the fact that the issue of income disequilibrium

is a common occurrence in the corporate contemporary world gave rise to this research. The research has been able to identify a new theory to answer this controversial gap of research. Based on the works done, investigations unto the findings and discussions, there is nothing to indicate that the research purpose has not been met.


[1] W. Dickson, “Hawthorne experiments,” The encyclopedia of management,, pp. 298–302, 1973.

[2] D. E. Terpstra, “Theories of motivation–borrowing the best.,” Personnel Journal, vol. 58, no. 6, pp. 376–79, 1979.

[3] B. E. Bowen and R. B. Radhakrishna, “Job satisfaction of agricultural education faculty: A constant phenomena.,” Journal of Agricultural Education, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 16–22, 1991.

[4] K. A. Kovach, “What motivates employees? workers and supervisors give different answers,” Business Horizons, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 58–65, 1987.

[5] R. Kreitner, Management Boston. Houghtoon Mifflin Group Company, 1995.

[6] J. Buford Jr, A. Bedeian, and J. Lindner, “Management in extension (3rd),” Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Extension, 1995.

[7] J. M. Higgins, The management challenge: An introduction to management. Macmillan, 1994.

[8] A. G. Bedeian, Management (3rd edn). 1993.

[9] A. H. Maslow, “A theory of human motivation.,” Psycholog-ical review, vol. 50, no. 4, p. 370, 1943.

[10] D. McClelland, “l961 the achieving society.”

[11] S. P. Robbins, Management concepts and applications 2. NJ: Prentice Hall, 1988.

[12] M. D. Vernon, Human motivation. Cambridge University Press, 1969.

[13] D. WEBER, “The evolution of management thought,” New York: J. Wiley, 1979.

[14] D. C. McClelland and D. H. Burnham, Power is the great motivator. Harvard Business Press, 1976.


[15] F. M. Herzberg, “B. & snyderman, b.(1959). the motivation to work,” 2, li, 1959.

[16] V. H. Vroom, “Work and motivation.,” 1964.

[17] J. S. Adams, “Inequity in social exchange,” Advances in

experimental social psychology, vol. 2, no. 267-299, 1965.

[18] B. F. Skinner, Science and human behavior. Simonand-Schuster. com, 1953.