Motivation theories are tools that help project team leaders promote employee working motivation. This article will give project managers a better understanding of five motivating theories in project management.

1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Proposed by the American psychologist – Abraham Maslow in 1943, Maslow’s theory shows the hierarchy of human needs from basic to advanced.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is presented in the form of a 5-tier pyramid, in which the basic needs at the bottom of the tower must be satisfied before thinking of higher needs. High-level needs will arise, and the desire to be fulfilled is increasingly intense when all the basic needs (at the bottom of the tower) are fully met.

• Self-actualization: This level of need refers to the realization of personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences. This means the desire to be anything that a person can be.
• Esteem needs: This level of need is classified into two categories: esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence), and the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).
• Social belonging: This third level of need is social and involves feelings of belongingness. Examples include friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection, love, and affiliating (being part of a group likes family, friends, work).
• Safety needs: This level of need includes protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
• Physiological needs: The lowest level of need is the primary physical requirements for human survival. These biological requirements are, for example, air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, sleep.

In PMP® exam, candidates will have to answer questions related to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as to what is the highest or lowest level of need, choosing the correct level of need through several keywords or determining the needs of employees as a project manager.

2. McGregor’s Theory X and Y

Proposed by Doulas McGregor in 1960s, Theory X and Theory Y represent two aspects of human behaviour at work, or in other words, two different views of individuals (employees)

• Theory X: People tends to be negative, passive e.g. incapable, avoid responsibility, need to be watched
• Theory Y: People tends to be positive e.g. want to achieve, willing to work without supervision, can direct their own effort.

It is important to remember these theories when preparing for PMP® exam. Because candidates could be asked to choose theory creator’s name or specify the management style of project managers, which is theory X or theory Y.

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