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Volume 1, Number 1, January 2014

A Theory of Human Motivation: The Tirimba Grouping

Theory of Motivation
Ibrahim Tirimba Ondabu *
PhD Candidate, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural and Technology
*Corresponding author: tirimba5@gmail.com

There is an argument that money is the only motivator that management can use effectively to enhance the performance of
employees at all levels. Its however of questionable wisdom whether employees who happen to differ in the social class grouping
can be motivated by only one factor, financial motivation of money. Theorists have concentrated on the generalized motivators
without detail look unto those needs that motivate workers at the low, middle and high class levels that compound the environment of
today in both developing and developed nations. This study will add to the existing knowledge in motivation as regards the factors
that motivate workers at the varied social classes by coming up with a theory, the Tirimba theory of motivation which was aimed at
identifying the key motivators at the low, middle and high class social levels of workers. The main objective therefore is to determine
the key motivators at the low, middle and high class levels at the contemporary context. Descriptive research design was adopted
with the population being strategic management scholars at graduate level in Kenya. The sample survey of this study was extracted
from the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi
campus 2012-2013 current students that was identified on case study method. The study relied wholly on qualitative data from
both primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected by use of semi-structured questionnaires. Secondary data was
gathered by aid of already published books, journals, and published and unpublished research projects. Relevant conclusions and
recommendations were made as per the data collected and the theory to be suggested explained amid the research work.
Motivation, Social Groups, Employees/Workers

1. Introduction
Motivation is concerned with the factors that influence people to
behave in certain ways. Motivating other people is about getting
them to move in a certain direction in order to achieve a desired
result. Today, concepts of social class often assume three general
categories: a very wealthy and powerful upper class that owns
and controls the means of production; a middle class of professional workers, small business owners, and low-level managers;
and a lower class, which rely on low-paying wage jobs for their
livelihood and often experience poverty. Until recently, employee
interests and needs have been neglected and their personal development goals put at a back stage. They were just considered
as mare inputs that can be used to accelerate production process
but not as the important resources that carry the entire hope and
key stake of every firm. What perhaps may have changed this
ironical way of thinking about employees was research, referred
to as the Hawthorne Studies, conducted by Elton Mayo from
1924 to 1932 [1]. Understanding what motivated employees and
how they were motivated was the focus of many researchers following the publication of the Hawthorne Study results [2]. Five
major approaches that have led to our understanding of motivation and that shall form the basis of the theoretical review are
Maslows need-hierarchy theory, Herzbergs two- factor theory,
Vrooms expectancy theory, Adams equity theory, and Skinners
reinforcement theory. Other Researcher developments modern to

the motivational context have been researches from the instinct

theory, the incentive theory, the drive theory, arousal theory and
the humanistic theories of motivation. Of all the functions a
manager performs, motivating employees is arguably the most
complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates
employees changes constantly [3]. For example, research suggests that as employees income increases, money becomes less
of a motivator [4]. Its interesting to note that, as employees get
older, interesting work becomes more of a motivator. The key
question has been whether money is the key tool for employee
motivation at all times besides the other motivating tools such as
job security, promotions and titles, good working conditions and
so forth. In this study, the researcher will be looking at the key
motivators at the 3 classes of employees namely; high class, low
class and middle class. This work shall be an extensional input
unto the theories of motivation thereby proposing a new theory
of motivation, the Grouping theory of motivation. The theory
will be applicable in the 21st century in which case, there lies
disequilibrium state in the distribution of national and domestic
income in the global perspective and thus the existence of the low
class level of people, middle class level of people and the high
class level of people.

2. Literature Review

A Theory of Human Motivation: The Tirimba Grouping Theory of Motivation

2.1 Introduction
Over the recent past, many contemporary authors have defined
the concept of motivation. Motivation has been defined as: the
psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction
[5]; a predisposition to behave in a purposive manner to achieve
specific, unmet needs [6]; an internal drive to satisfy an unsatisfied
need [7]; and the will to achieve [8].
2.2 Abraham Maslows Theory of Needs
In 1943, a psychologist Mr. Abraham Harold Maslow suggested
his Theory of Human Motivation. His theory is one popular and
extensively cited theory of motivation. Maslow [9] argues that
the average child tends to prefer a safe, orderly world where dangerous or unexpected events are rare. As with the physiological
needs, safety needs cease to be a primary motivator of behavior
when the needs are met. Safety seeking ceases to be the dominant
behavioral motivators as safety needs are chronically satisfied.

Figure 1. Maslow Theory of Motivation

Physiological needs are the basic needs for sustaining human

life. These needs include food, shelter, clothing, rest, air, water,
sleep and sexual satisfaction. A hungry person, for example, is
just not in a position to think of anything else except his hunger
or food. According to Maslow, man lives by bread alone, when
there is no bread. If the physiological and safety needs are fairly
well satiated, the love, affection, and belongingness needs emerge
to motivate behavior [9].
Security / Safety Needs are the needs connected with the psychological fear of loss of job, property, natural calamities or
hazards, etc. An employee wants protection from such types of
fear. He prefers adequate safety or security in this regard i.e.
protection from physical danger, security of job, pension for old
age, insurance cover for life, etc. The safety needs come after
meeting the physiological needs. Maslow [9] argues that the average child tends to prefer a safe, orderly world where dangerous
or unexpected events are rare.
In the Social Needs category, an employee is a human being
is rightly treated as a social animal. He desires to stay in group.
He feels that he should belong to one or the other group and the
member of the group should accept him with love and affection.
Every person desires to be affiliated to such groups. This is


treated as basic social need of an individual. People must have the

opportunity to love and beloved: in his private journal, Maslow
lamented that he had not paid enough attention to the need to
admire as well as to be admired (parallel to love as well as to be
loved) ( [9] p. 1177).
Esteem needs include the need to be respected by others, need
to be appreciated by others, need to have power and finally prestigious position. Once the previous needs are satisfied, a person
feels to be held in esteem both by him and also by others. Thus,
esteem needs are two fold in nature. Self esteem needs include
those for self confidence, self-respect, competence, etc. The development of self-esteem and ego strength leads to feelings of
self-confidence, worth, strength, and capability; these emotions
propel behavior toward the higher goals [9].
Self-actualization Needs is the highest among the needs in the
hierarchy of needs advocated by Maslow. Self actualization is the
desire to become what one is capable of becoming. It is a growth
need. A worker must work efficiently if he is to be ultimately
Maslow began to become interested in self-actualization through
his relationships with two extraordinary human beings: Max
Wertheimer and Ruth Benedict. Maslow [9] reports that his early
investigations on self-actualization were not planned to be research and did not start out as research.
2.3 David McClellands Learned Needs Theory
In the early 1940s, Abraham Maslow created his theory of needs.
This identified the basic needs that human beings have, in order
of their importance physiological needs; safety needs; and the
needs for belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization. Then,
in the early 1960s, David McClelland built on this work by identifying three motivators that we all have. According to McClelland,
these motivators are learned (which is why this theory is sometimes called the Learned Needs Theory). McClelland [10]says
that, regardless of our gender, culture, or age, we all have three
motivating drivers, and one of these will be our dominant motivating driver. This dominant motivator is largely dependent on
our culture and life experiences.
Need for achievement - where this is high then people have
an intense desire to succeed and an equally intense fear of failure.
Need for affiliation. One of the most important types of motivation but least talked about is the need for affiliation (nAff).
According to Robbins [11] the affiliation motive is the desire
to be liked and accepted by others. This involves the need to be
accepted by others, maintaining good social relationships and the
need to belong even if it means subordinating ones personal motivations to what is accepted by other group members [12, 13].
This is particularly evident in a social group or religion where
members have to conform to certain norms and/or conventions.
Need for Power. The need for power is the desire to influence
people and have an impact on others. McClelland does not speak
about power in the dictatorial sense but about the need to be
strong and influential. Ideally, this need for power should be
directed towards the success of the organization the person works
for, and not for his/her own success. McClelland [10] argues
that high achievers do not make good managers because they are
usually more concerned with their own success than with that of




the organization. Individuals in need of power are usually low

in affiliative need. The manager who desires to be liked will
not make a good manager as he might waive rules for certain
employees thus disrupting the whole system while demoralizing
other employees who feel that exceptions are unfair ( [11, 14])
need for power, however, is not the only requisite to make a good
manager. The good manager tends to be altruistic, uses power
to stimulate employees to be more productive and above all has
. . . emotional maturity, where there is little egotism, and has a
democratic, coaching managerial style ( [14] p.11)
In a retrospective commentary to the article by McClelland &
Burnham [14] entitled Power is the Great Motivator, McClelland states that subsequent research has confirmed that successful
managers have a stronger need for power than the need to be liked.
However, it was also found that in small companies (McClellands italics), a high need for achievement contributes more to
success than does a high interest in influencing other people.
2.4 Herzberg two factor theory
Herzbergs work categorized motivation into two factors: motivators and hygienes [15]. Motivator or intrinsic factors, such as
achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction. Hygiene
or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, produce job
2.5 Vrooms Expectancy theory
Vrooms theory is based on the belief that employee effort will
lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards [16].
Rewards may be either positive or negative. As regards to Vrooms,
the more positive the reward the more likely the employee will
be highly motivated. Conversely, the more negative the reward
the less likely the employee will be motivated.
2.6 Adams Equity theory
Adams theory states that employees strive for equity between
themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when the ratio
of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee
outcomes over inputs [17].
2.7 Skinners reinforcement theory
Skinners reinforcement theory states that, those employees behaviors that lead to positive outcomes will be repeated and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated [18].
Managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that
lead to positive outcomes. Managers should negatively reinforce
employee behavior that leads to negative outcomes.
2.8 The Instinct theory
The Instinct theory of motivation poses that, people are motivated
to behave in certain ways because they are evolutionarily programmed to do so. An example of this in the animal world is
seasonal migration. These animals do not learn to do this; it is
instead an inborn pattern of behavior. William James created a
list of human instincts that included such things as attachment,
play, shame, anger, fear, shyness, modesty and love. The main
problem with this theory is that it did not really explain behavior,
it just described it.

2.9 The Incentive Theory

The incentive theory argues that people are motivated to do things
because of external rewards. For example, today many employees
are motivated to go to work each day for the monetary reward
they are being paid. Behavioral learning concepts such as association and reinforcement play an important role in this theory of
2.10 The Drive Theory
The drive theory of motivation asserts that, people are motivated
to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension that is
caused by unmet needs. For instance, people may be motivated to
drink a glass of water in order to reduce the internal state of thirst
instead of water. This theory is useful in explaining behaviors that
have a strong biological component, such as hunger or thirst. The
problem with this theory of motivation is that these behaviors are
not always motivated purely by physiological needs. For example,
people often eat even when they are not really hungry.
2.11 The Arousal Theory
On the other hand the arousal theory of motivation suggests that
people take certain actions to either decrease or increase levels
of arousal. When arousal levels get too low, for example, a
person might watch and exciting movie or go for a jog. When
arousal levels get too high, on the other hand, a person would
probably look for ways to relax such as meditating or reading a
book. According to this theory, we are motivated to maintain an
optimal level of arousal, although this level can vary based on the
individual or the situation.
2.12 The Humanistic theories
Finally the Humanistic theories of motivation are based on the
idea that people also have strong cognitive reasons to perform various actions. This is famously illustrated in Abraham Maslows
hierarchy of needs which presents different motivations at different levels. First, people are motivated to fulfill basic biological
needs for food and shelter, as well as those of safety, love and
esteem. Once the lower level needs have been met, the primary
motivator becomes the need for self actualization. Of all the
functions a manager performs, motivating employees is arguably
the most complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates employees changes constantly [3]. For example, research
suggests that as employees income increases, money becomes
less of a motivator [4]. Its Interesting to note that, as employees
get older, interesting work becomes more of a motivator. The key
question has been whether money is the key tool for employee
motivation at all times besides the other motivating tools such as
job security, promotions and titles, good working conditions and
so forth.
2.13 McGregors Theory X/Y
Theory X argues that the average persons inherently dislike work
and will avoid it if they can. People must be coerced, controlled,
directed, and threatened in order to make them work. The average
human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility,
and has relatively little ambition. Theory Y is the immediate
opposite of theory X.


A Theory of Human Motivation: The Tirimba Grouping Theory of Motivation

3. Methods
This part presented a description of the methodology that was
adopted in addressing the study objectives. It includes those parts
such as the research design, population and sampling design;
sampling frame, sampling techniques, sample size, data collection
methods, research procedures and the data analysis methods.
This study employed descriptive research design method. Descriptive design intends to describe answers to questions observed
on where, who, what, when and sometimes how-the problem is
clearly defined.
The population of interest consisted of population strategic
management scholars at graduate level in Kenya. The students of
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi
Campus formed part of the sampling frame of which the sample case study was extracted from the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) students of Jomo Kenyatta University of
Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi campus 2012-2013 current
The instrumentation part of this research relied both on qualitative data both from primary and secondary data sources.
Primary data was collected raw from the field by use of semistructured questionnaires while secondary data was gathered by
aid of already published books, journals, and published research

4. Results
The study was reengineered towards identifying the key motivators at the low social class level, middle social class level and
upper social class levels of employees. A comparison of these
results to Maslows need-hierarchy theory provides some interesting insight into employee motivation. Maslows conclusions
that lower level motivational factors must be met before ascending to the next level were however not confirmed by this study.
This study found out that some workers came from well-off backgrounds (middle and high class backgrounds) which meant that
most of their lower level motivational needs had already been met
by their descendants and that, what was remaining was for them to
satisfy their middle and higher class level needs. All respondents
agreed that there exist social classes at the work places.
This study found that at the low class level, there existed mainly
workers who were hungry; the hungry worker is not in a position
to think of anything else except his hunger or food. They are the
people who, live by bread alone. Middle class workers prefer
safe ordinary world where dangerous or unexpected events are
rare. They desire to stay in a group and want to be rightly treated
as social animals. High class workers on the other hand prefer
recognition, pride, position and status. Calling them such names
as, the employee of the year or the group coordinator boosts
their morale to work and feel superior in the group than when
they are working as laymen and laywomen.
The term social class refers to a group of people with similar
levels of wealth, influence, and status. Social class is defined by
three main methods:
The objective method measures and analyzes hard facts.
The subjective method asks people what they think of themselves.


The reputational method asks what people think of others.We

have 3 main classes; High class, middle class and low class as
explained below;
4.1 High class (Upper class)
The high class is the social class composed of the wealthy, wellborn, or both. They usually command the greatest political power.
In some countries, wealth alone is sufficient to allow entry into the
upper class. In others, only people born into certain aristocratic
bloodlines are considered members of the upper class, and those
who gain great wealth through commercial activity are looked
down upon as the nouveau riche. In the United Kingdom, for
example, the Upper Classes are the aristocracy and royalty, with
wealth playing a less important role in class status. In America,
however, where there is no aristocracy or royalty, the Upper Class
status belongs to the extremely wealthy, the so-called super-rich,
though there is some tendency even in America for those with old
family wealth to look down on those who have earned their money
in business, the struggle between New Money and Old Money.
In Africa, high class is translated to politicians with huge wealth
and protection of their wealth with a good political influence and
command and also the rich entrepreneurs whose business yield
lump sums. Members of the upper class are often born into it,
and are distinguished by immense wealth which is passed from
generation to generation in the form of estates. Their major need
is to satisfy ego and self actualization needs.
4.2 Middle class
The middle class is the most contested of the three categorizations, most people in the nations of the world and the citizens
of the world fall under this category. Middle class is translated
to the working class group of people who serve under the white
collar jobs. The high rising number of middle class is translated
to the increasing literacy levels, industrialization, government
devolutions and technological advancements. Their major need is
the security and affiliation need satisfaction.
4.3 Lower class
This group of people is associated with the unemployed or those
employed but under blue collar jobs. Lower class (occasionally
described as working class) is translated to those employed in lowpaying wage jobs with very little economic and job security. The
employed is sometimes separated into those who are employed
but lacking financial security, and an underclassthose who are
long-term unemployed and/or homeless. In the U.S for instance,
the low class are mainly those receiving welfare from the state.
Members of the working class in this category are sometimes
called blue-collar workers. The worldly term known for the low
class and applicable in this paper are those that spend less or
equal to a dollar a day, their major need is the physiological need
A summary of the findings on the key motivators at the varied
social groups is outlined as per to the table. The table below is
a summary of findings as to the key motivators at high, low and
middle class levels;




Table 1. Key Motivators at the Tirimba Grouping Theory


Respect from others


Good wagess
Job Security
Physical security
Pension for the old
Life insurance cover
Need to admire and be admired

5. Discussion
Its important to identify and recognize the fact that employees
are different and their differences are different and that the monetary remuneration is never enough to distinguish their urge for
satisfiers; some employees fall under high class social grouping,
others in the middle class while others fall under the low class
grouping. The existing researches indicate that there has been no
theory explaining the key motivators at the high, middle and low
class social groupings. The findings of this study were clear that
the factors that motivated the high class workers were related with
those of Maslow [9] theory of motivation of self actualization and
Esteem. Also, the factors that motivated workers at the middle
class were mainly the social needs and safety needs. Physiological needs translated with the factors that motivated workers
at the low social class group of the Tirimba grouping theory of
The Tirimba grouping theory of motivation holds relevant in
bringing the idea of social grouping among the motivators at the
three levels; high class, middle class and low class.
The assumptions of the Tirimba Grouping theory are as follows;
1) There exists 3 social class groupings for employees at the
work place; high class, middle class and low class
2) A satisfied need ceases to be a motivator
3) Employees who share a common social class are motivated
by similar needs
4) An employee can fall or rise in terms of social class depending on some circumstances specific to him/her
5) The quench of every employee is to rise up the classes from
low class, middle class and finally high class
6) Motivation is individual oriented
Human beings are wanting beings, it is the nature of wants that
varies as per the class they belong.

6. Conclusion
The researchers purpose was to investigate unto the various factors that motivate employees at the upper, middle and lower social
classes of employees in organizations today. The lack of an appropriate theory explaining the key motivators at the low, middle
and high class levels of organizations today and the relevance of
this matter given the fact that the issue of income disequilibrium


Good wages
Sleep sexual satisfaction

is a common occurrence in the corporate contemporary world

gave rise to this research. The research has been able to identify a
new theory to answer this controversial gap of research. Based on
the works done, investigations unto the findings and discussions,
there is nothing to indicate that the research purpose has not been

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