Needs-Based Theories of Motivation

Cite this article as:"Needs-Based Theories of Motivation," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2020, last accessed October 29, 2020,


Needs-Based Theories of Motivation

Need-based theories explain individual behavior as being motivated by meeting the individual’s needs or wants.

A leader in the business environment is charged with understanding subordinate needs and making certain that the employment environment provides a means for satisfying those needs.

The most commonly referenced needs-based theories include:

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Dr. Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, identified 5 essential internal needs. He broke these needs into lower-level needs (Physiological and Safety) and higher-level needs (Social, Esteem, Self-Actualization).
  • ERG Theory – This theory is very similar’s to Maslow’s model. Proposed by Clayton Alderfer, he provided a model that grouped individual needs into three categories: Existence, Relatedness, and Growth.
  • McGregor’s Theory X and Theory YTheory X and Y were proposed by social psychologist Douglas McGregor. Each theory proposes that leaders react to the motivations of employees. Theory X says employees are apathetic and unmotivated. Theory Y says that employees are motivated and responsible.
  • Herzburg’s Two-Factor Theory (Motivation-Hygiene Theory) – This theory posits that individuals are motivated by various motivating factors and demotivated by various factors – called hygienes.
  • McClelland’s Acquired Needs Theory – This theory was proposed by psychologist David McClelland. He proposed individual needs are acquired over time and through experience. The three basic motivating needs are Power, Need for Affiliation and Need for Achievement.

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