How do I apply motivation theories in essay-based exam questions?

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The IB is all about critical thinking. You will never score top marks unless you see beyond a problem. Learning theories by hard will lead you nowhere.

It is very common to see essay questions, both in Paper 1 and 2, based on the topic of Human ResourcesHow should you approach them?

a) Read the case study and analyse the relationship between the employer and the employee.

The employer believes that the employee cannot do complex tasks? (TAYLOR) Does the employee receive a salary, good conditions, vacations? (HERZBERG), Does the employee give as much as he or she gets in turn? (ADAMS).


b) You have to draw on the syllabus to evidence your arguments. These are examples of situations you could find:

TAYLOR’s Scientific Management 
(sounds rough today, yet the theory traces back to 1911)
- The employer views the employees as brainless machines
- Complex activities are broken down into simple tasks
- Employees are matched to the activities that they can best perform, and they are constantly monitored
- Employers believe that only financial rewards will motivate their employees

HERZBERG’s Two-Factor Theory
- Hygiene factors are not motivators themselves, but if they are absent, they create dissatisfaction. E.g. health insurance
- Motivators are factors that motivate when they are present, yet their absence does not create dissatisfaction. E.g. recognition of achievements, responsibility, challenging work…

ADAMS’ Equity Theory
- The workplace should follow a "give and take" basis
- There has to be a balance between what the employee gives (effort, time, knowledge…) and what he or she received in return (money, recognition…)
- An inequity will lead to a conflict. Inequities can be real or perceived. E.g. if an employee puts much more effort than his colleague and they both earn the same.

c) Once you have found the motivation theory that applies to the case, you have to resolve the conflict. Some examples of how to approach this are shown below:

TAYLOR’s Scientific Management
- Give more freedom to employees, trust them more
- Assign them more complex tasks so that they feel valued
- Reward creativity and imagination
- Provide non-financial motivators as well

HERZBERG’s Two-Factor Theory
- Make sure the Hygiene Factors are present
- Try your best to provide Motivators too
- Give a try to Non-Financial Rewards: job enrichment, rotation, teamwork…

ADAMS’ Equity Theory
- Establish good communication channels between employer and employee
- Make sure there is a common ground, so that they are both aware of each other's expectations
- Make sure there is continuous feedback so that the employee can express the way he or she feels

Carla C. IB Spanish tutor, IB Business Studies tutor, IB English Lang...

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