Motivation What are the similarities and differences between empowerment and motivation? Certainly a person who becomes more empowered is also likely to become more motivated, in one way or another. But motivation is often used in a sense close to ’manipulation’: ’How do I motivate my employees?’ may mean ’How can I make my employees think like me?’ – and this is almost the opposite of empowerment. The model developed by Abraham Maslow can be useful here. He described a hierarchy of human needs, where the most basic are referred to as ‘hygiene factors’ and only the more refined are referred to as motivators. A hygiene factor is something we definitely need, like shelter and food; however, once the basic need is filled, having more of it does not make us happier. A motivator is a ‘luxury’: once we have what we need for survival, we long for other things – and there is no end to what we may aspire to. Maslow’s scheme looks like this:
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The person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. The bottom two levels are clearly ‘hygiene factors’; the motivator effect becomes higher as we move up the pyramid. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. One clear lesson is that extrinsic motivation – offering money or physical benefits – is very weak; it really only ‘works’ with people who are deprived at the bottom two levels. Effective motivation is intrinsic: it comes about when a person sees or is shown a possibility to meet their own, self-defined ‘higher’ needs; in other words, through empowerment. An exception can be when the person feels totally blocked at the higher levels. ‘There’s nothing I can do, I am powerless, no-one understands me, the world is against me…’ – all classic symptoms of disempowerment. In that case, material benefits – more than is needed – may been seen as substituting for the higher needs; and for instance money may become a symbolic substitute for recognition or selfworth.
Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, (2nd edition, 1968)