Project Management: Principles of Motivation in the Workforce (Maslow Theory)

Updated: Aug 9

The more highly engaged and motivated the workforce is, the more likely the success of the organization in achieving its goals and objectives. As per Kreitner et al, performance is a product of an individual’s skills, abilities, and motivation (Kreitner, et al., 1999).

Various physiological motives such as salary, promotion, work environment, conditions of work, and social motives such as the opportunity to use one’s ability, challenging work, appreciation, positive recognition, and team leadership relationship can heavily influence staff’s motivation to work in an organization that promotes these values.

The content theory of Maslow as illustrated in the Figure below identifies the individual development and motivations of humans arranged in a series of hierarchies of importance which heavily influences the management approaches to motivation and organization structure.

Figure 7 - Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory
Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory

Applying Maslow's theory principles encourages employees to reach their full potential. By ensuring the most basic physiological (e.g., safe working environment), and security needs, the employees are self-motivated to fulfill the higher-level needs of Maslow’s triangle, hence, improving their individual performance and that of the organization.

Making employees feel part of a team, have recognition of achievements, and learn new skills as well as nurturing the needs of social relationships, self-esteem, and professional accomplishment through training programs will motivate the workforce to do better work.

A hierarchical structure limits the interaction of employees from different departments which limits professional growth. On the other side, a matrix structure offers exposure to opportunities and interaction with people due to its team arrangement, however, it also contributes to workforce insecurity after a project is finished. In a project-oriented environment such as civil engineering, the achievements of the team goals sometimes overshadow individuals’ achievements which could demotivate some employees.

As per the two-factor theory developed by Herzberg, defined as hygiene and motivator factors, “the opposite of dissatisfaction is not satisfaction but, simply, no dissatisfaction”.

Two factor theory
Two-factor theory

The Hawthorne Experiment

Although, while working conditions are included as a hygiene factor, such motivation theories could be argued by the Hawthorne Experiments which found working conditions to motivate staff.

The Hawthorne Experiment was conducted in four parts, each testing different factors such as working conditions (lighting) and attention from supervision (the response of management to complaints and having sympathetic ‘good listeners’ as interviewers). Unexpectedly, the workers under poorer working conditions were found to have a higher productivity rate thus going against the hygiene factor theory.

The Equity Theory of Motivation

This theory focuses on how fair an individual perceives their work based on their inputs into their work compared to outputs - what they get out of it.

Such inputs include time, effort, ability, and loyalty, while outputs include pay, bonus perks, security, and recognition. The theory concludes that people become demotivated and reduce their inputs as they feel that the rewards do not fairly match their inputs based on a perceived market norm.

While not indicating further motivation, this theory, in line with the Two-Factor theory, puts salary as more of a factor that avoids the reduction in motivation rather than further increasing motivation. Thus, motivation does not depend on a higher salary.

It also suggests that salary is not the only factor that upholds an individual's motivation, but a factor among many others which may vary in importance depending on an individual’s unique perception of what rewards balance out their inputs. Rather than financial, such factors could be enjoyed in the job, recognition and development, and responsibility.





  • Kreitner, R., Kinicki, A. & Buelens, M., 1999. Organizational Behaviour. In: f. E. edition, ed. s.l.:McGraw-Hill.

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