Perspectives on Motivation – III


In our previous articles we have discussed the fundamental principles of the western and Indian modes of motivation. In this article we will discuss some of the strategic points involved in the application of the principles to the actual process of motivation and Human Resources Development.

Hierarchy of Motives

The equality of men may be a spiritual truth but not yet the actual fact of life. Individuals are at various levels of inner development. The motives, values and attitudes of individuals depend on the level of their inner development. The task or challenge of leadership in motivation is to understand intuitively the level of inner development of each employee and provide him with a motivational package which matches the unique inner and outer needs of the employee. But how to determine the motivational level of each individual employee? Here comes the importance of the concept of hierarchy of motives.

In modern psychology and management we have the well-known need-hierarchy model of Abraham Maslow. This model identifies five basic human needs and arranges them in an ascending hierarchy. They are first, physiological needs of the body; second, security needs for safety, protection and sustenance; third, social needs for attention, belongingness, acceptance and friendship; fourth, esteem needs like the need for autonomy or freedom, self-respect, achievement, status and recognition; and finally the self-actualisation needs for self-fulfilment, realising one’s full potential and growth. According to Maslow, as each of these needs are substantially satisfied, the next higher need becomes dominant. So right motivation requires understanding of the motivational level and the needs of the person and focussing attention on satisfying those needs.

The need-hierarchy model of Maslow, after a powerful initial impact on management thinkers and professionals later went out of favour in management, for supposedly better theories. Maslow’s idea was criticised on many points, like for example it ignores the cultural factor; that the needs are parallel rather than hierarchical; it lacks empirical validity. All these criticism are in fact valid. For no mental theory can hope to explain or encompass the incredible complexity of human nature and its motives. So every mental theory on motivation is likely to miss some aspect of the complex problem. But Maslow’s need-hierarchy model has two plus-points over other modern motivational theories. First, it recognises the process of evolution, viewing the human being as an evolving entity moving progressively to higher and higher levels of motivation; second it’s intuition or idea is broader and more comprehensive than other modern theories.

But from the view-point of the Indian spiritual vision, Maslow’s model has two major flaws. First, it ignores or fails to articulate clearly the higher intellectual, moral and spiritual motives in man; and second, from a holistic perspective, it needs to be integrated with a comprehensive vision of human development. Here comes the importance of the Indian vision of human development which can rectify and complement the Maslow’s model.

Evolution and Motivation: The Indian Paradigm

According to Indian thought, there are four stages in the evolution of the human being towards his spiritual goal. Every human being begins his evolutionary journey as a physical man driven by his biological and security needs. He progresses to become a vital man with his emotional and vital needs. There are two sub-stages in the evolution of the vital man. First he becomes the emotional man with his needs for mutuality, harmonious relationship and enjoyment of life. The social needs in the Maslowian hierarchy is only one part of our emotional needs. In the next stage, the vital man becomes the man of strong will and abundant vital energy, the leader and the warrior-type, with his needs of power, achievement, conquest and expansion. The esteem needs of Maslow are again one part of the needs of the man of will and power.

As the human being progresses further he becomes the mental and moral man with his intellectual, ethical and aesthetic needs for knowledge, values, ideals, vision. He looks beyond his physical and vital needs, seeking to understand the higher aims, values and laws of life and trying to organise his life according to these higher verities. As the mental man reaches the highest peak of his intellectual, ethical and aesthetic development he becomes aware of a spiritual reality beyond Mind and awakens to his highest spiritual need for Self-realisation, Truth and God. He begins to become the spiritual man.

The well-developed vital man, when most of his emotional and vital needs are fulfiled, is potentially capable of self-motivation and self-dedication to a moral or spiritual cause. If and when he is able to do it, he not only accelerates his own moral and spiritual progress but can become a dynamic force for the higher progress of the collectivity. Similarly, the mental and moral man is potentially capable of all the higher levels of motivation, including the highest, that is motiveless action. But to realise their spiritual potential and the higher levels of motivation, the vital, mental and moral men have to pursue some form of moral, psychological and spiritual discipline, in other words they have to do Yoga.

This is the Indian spiritual vision which links motivation and human development in an integrated perspective. But we would like to mention here that this Indian scheme gives only a broad and general pattern of human evolution put in a logical format. But, as we have indicated earlier, human evolution and development is a too complex process to be rammed into a rigid mental formula. For example the stages described here interpenetrate and telescope into each other and according to Indian thought they are effected through many births. So this Indian scheme should be taken as a sort of rough sketch or a general pattern which can help in identifying the motivational needs of individuals, and not as something fixed and rigid like Newton’s Law.

What are the implications of this Indian paradigm for motivational strategy? All philosophies which conceived the spiritual dimensions as the highest aim of human development, viewed human society or the group as the external collective framework for the inner spiritual development of the individual. If this spiritual conception human development and the ideal of evolution and progress are accepted then the aim of all motivational strategy, organisational or national, has to be to felicitate, and if possible accelerate, this inner psychological and spiritual development of the individuals. This means, the concept and practice of inner development has to become one of the strategic aims of Human Resource Development.

Beyond Job-satisfaction

This evolutionary perspective on motivation and human development has some important implications for work-life in organisations.

One of the ideals of modern work-life is “job-satisfaction”. Job satisfaction happens when the motivational needs of an employee matches the nature of work and the rewards received for his work. But job-satisfaction cannot be the highest ideal for an evolving human being.

In an evolving world, growth and progress is an eternal law and a higher need. Anything which doesn’t grow disintegrates and perishes. But someone who is satisfied with his present condition has no inclination to grow. Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory contends that when a lower need is fulfilled, the higher need awakens automatically. But this may not happen, if the individual is intensely attached to the sense of fulfilment or joy which comes from the satisfaction of his present needs. Or else the higher awakening may come after a very long time, through the slow and painful process of natural evolution, after many hard knocks, suffering and misery.

To avoid these negative possibilities, which may retard the progress of the individual and the collectivity, we have to create a work-culture which consciously promotes and accelerates the progressive evolution of the individual by awakening in him the dormant higher needs. So the aim of motivational strategy has to be not only to satisfy the employee’s present motives but also to awaken higher motives. This means the physical man has to be awakened to his vital and mental needs and helped to become the vital and mental man; the vital man to his mental, moral and aesthetic needs and help him to bring the light of a higher culture to his life of raw desire and ambition; and the mental and moral and man to his highest spiritual goal. This evolutionary progress of individuals can be consciously accelerated by the psychological and spiritual discipline of Yoga.

So not just job-satisfaction but inner growth through work is the ideal of work-life in our Yogic paradigm on HRD.