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Comparison of Motivational Practices in America and Japan

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 2706 words Published: 9th Sep 2021

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A typical research on motivation and job satisfaction enlightens us that people are satisfied with their jobs to the degree that the job meets their needs and they are motivated to work in order to fill their current mix of needs. People are still motivated to excel because of certain intrinsic needs which could be achievement, appreciation of effort, self-development, meaning found in the work, recognition, power, etc.

According to Snyder and Grasberger (2004), the need for motivation was true 30years ago and will still be true 30 years later and the challenge for managers, they also said according to Porter Henry “…no two people can be motivated in the exact same way, and within one individual motivation may vary from time to time.”

The purpose of this study is to compare motivation practices between America and Japan. If an American company wants to set up a business in Japan there is a need for them to know what motivates the Japanese to work.


The study of motivation is mainly concerned with why people behave in a particular way. Baron and Greenberg (1990) defined motivation as a beginning to understanding work behaviour. They also defined motivation as the set of processes that stimulates, direct, and maintain human behaviour toward achieving goals (Baron and Greenberg 1990).


According to Mitchell (1982), there are four main characteristic of motivation and they include the following.

  • Motivation can be regarded or seen as an individual experience. Every person is unique and the major theories of motivation allow this uniqueness to be demonstrated in one way or the other (Mullins 2002).
  • Motivation can also be explained as a conscious act. This is assumed under an individual’s control, and behaviours that are influenced by motivation are seen as choices of action (Mullins, 2002)
  • Motivation is also comprehensive; it could be what gets people activated or the force in which an individual engages in his/her desired behaviour (Mullins 2002).
  • Motivation theories also can envisage the behaviour of an individual. It concerns actions and the internal/external forces which influences a person’s choice of action (Mullins 2002).


Motivations can be categorized into two: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence (Ryan and Deci 2000). Intrinsic motivation is related to subconscious rewards, such as the opportunity to use one’s ability, a sense of challenge and achievement, receiving appreciation, positive recognition, and being treated in a caring and considerate manner (Mullins, 2002). Intrinsic motivation is a kind of motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than outside. Thus, it is an internal desire to perform a particular task.

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Extrinsic motivation is a construct that applies whenever an activity is done in order to attain some separable outcome. Extrinsic motivation thus contrasts with intrinsic motivation, which refers to doing an activity simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself, rather than its instrumental value (Ryan and Deci 2000). Extrinsic motivation is an outside motivation. Extrinsic motivation is related to tangible rewards such as salary and fringe benefits, security, promotion, contract of service, the work environment and conditions of work (Mullins, 2002).


Motivation theories are grouped into two main categories such as; ‘content theories’ that focus on the sorts of factors that produce motivation and ‘process theories’ that attempts to explain how motivation is related to behaviour.



According to Maslow (1943), human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies of pre-potency. The hierarchy of needs is shown as a series of steps, and is usually displayed in the form of a pyramid, which is illustrated below

(Source:Maslow, 1943).

According to Mullins (2002), the physiological needs includes, satisfaction for hunger and thirst, the need for oxygen and to maintain temperature, sexual desires etc. The safety needs includes needs for safety and security, freedom from threat or pain of physical attack, protection from danger etc. Social needs include the needs for love, friendship, affection etc. Esteem needs also known as Ego needs can be categorised into self respect and the esteem of others. Self respect includes the desire of confidence, freedom, strength, etc while the esteem of other includes reputation, status, recognition etc. And finally the self actualisation needs is the development and realisation of one’s full potential (Mullins 2002).


Herzberg’s two-factor theory is one of the known views of work motivation and it was done by examining the job attitudes of 200 accountants and engineers. These factors are the hygiene factor and motivator factor (Herzberg et al, 1959).

Hygiene Factors

Hygiene factors are factors based on the need for a business to avoid conflict at work. These factors can lead to dissatisfaction at work place if they are viewed inadequately by employees. Hygiene factors include, income, salaries and other financial remuneration, feelings of job security, Quality of inter-personal relations, working conditions etc (Mullins, 2002).

Motivator Factors

These factors are based on an individual’s need for personal growth. Motivator factors strongly create job satisfaction and if they are useful, it can lead to lead to an increase in effort and performance of an individual (Lloyds and Basset-Jones 2005). These motivator factors include: Gaining recognition, Status, Opportunity for advancement, Challenging /stimulating work, sense of personal achievement & personal growth in a job (Lloyds and Basset-Jones 2005).


McGregor developed two theories of human behaviour at work namely; theory X and theory Y.

Theory X explains that individuals’ dislikes work and tends to avoid it if it’s possible. It also explains that individuals must be forced and most times bribed before they can put an extra effort to work. Theory X also explains that most individuals are motivated mostly by money and desire security (Mullins 2002). While theory Y explains that individuals are interested in their work and, under the right conditions that they enjoy it. It also explains that individuals see effort at work as to work and play. Furthermore, theory Y sees individuals who seek responsibility if they are motivated (Mullins 2002).

If a manager decides to use any of the set of ideas related with theory X or Theory Y, there is a tendency that most people in the organisation will respond to the way they are being managed. Therefore, if employees feel that they are not being trusted, they may behave in a less trustworthy way (Mullins 2002).


According to Alderfer (1972) whose aim was to focus on the limitations in Maslow’s theory by associating the needs hierarchy with an empirical research argued that there is a modified need hierarchy and it is divided into three levels instead of five and they are based on the core needs of Existence, Relatedness and Growth (ERG theory).

The existence needs is based on the basic human needs that are necessary for existence, which can be linked to Maslow’s hierarchy on needs which are the physiological and safety needs while the relatedness needs refer to man’s desire to maintain important interpersonal relationships which are man’s social, acceptance, belongingness and status desires and it can be linked to Maslow’s esteem needs and finally, the growth needs represent man’s desire for personal development, self-fulfilment and self-actualization (Arnolds and Boshoff, 2002).

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All theories of motivation can be linked to one another. Maslow’s lower-level needs can be related nearly to Alderfer’s existence needs and Herzberg’s the hygiene factors , Maslow’s middle level can be related to Alderfer’s relatedness needs and the motivators to Maslow’s higher-level needs. Ellis and Dick (2000) argues that if a manager is to provide a positive motivation then attention must not only be given to hygiene factors, but also to the motivating factors. In other words, for employees to be motivated, managers must use motivation factors (Herzberg et al, 1959).


Process theories attempt to identify the relationships among the dynamic variables that make up motivation and the actions required to influence behaviour and action (Mullins 2002). The process theories were written by different writers;

  • Expectancy theory – Vroom, and Porter and Lawler
  • Equity theory – Adams
  • Goal theory – Locke


According to (Mullins 2002), expectancy theory is that most people are moved based on the expected result of their action.

Vroom (1964) was the first person to propose an expectancy theory and the model used was based on three key variables: valence, instrumentality and expectancy (VIE) (Mullins 2002). He argued that valence is based on the feeling about specific outcomes. Instrumentality is the association between first-level outcomes and second-level outcomes (Mullins, 2002). Several clear ideas for motivating others can be derived from expectancy theory. Therefore, if a manager wants to influence the behaviour of an employee by applying expectancy theory, what he should put into consideration is if the possible rewards for the behaviour are exceedingly valued by the individual, or if the individual sees that the reward that will be received is based on his or her behaviour (Vecchio, 1995).


This theory was developed by Adam in 1963 and it is based on the belief that employees primarily expect a fair balance between their inputs and outputs. That is to say, the employees are likely to be de-motivated  both in relation to their employer and the job if they happen to believe that their inputs which are the effort, loyalty, hard work, commitment, ability etc are greater than their outputs such as salary, benefit, reputation, responsibility, sense of achievement, job security etc.

According to (Sweeney 1990), Adams’ equity theory believed that a higher level of job satisfaction comes from individuals who perceive their overall situation to be equitable and also adopt a better work behaviour than those individuals who feel they are been treated unjustly (Sweeney, 1990).


This theory is based mainly on the work of Locke (1968) and the basic premise of goal theory is that people’s goals or objective play a major role in determining behaviour (Mullins 2002). People try to achieve certain goals in order to fulfil their desire. Goals are guide by people’s actions, direct work behaviour and performance, and lead to certain consequences or feedback (Gordon, 2002). Individuals with specific quantitative goals tend to do or perform better than people with no set goal or only a vague goal, such as, do the best you can.


American employees are motivated based on pay, advancement, supervision etc (Lewis 2006). Jurgensen (1978) found differences in desires for attributes such as advancement, pay, supervision, and type of work across age groups and between men and women. According to Fisher and Yuan (1998) employees reported that pay was fifth in importance to them, but felt that it was first in importance to other people and also security and interesting work top rated in America. Full appreciation at work place is ranked first in importance by US employees, ‘good wages’ is also a motivating factor for US employees. According to Fisher and Yuan (1998), job security was ranked first or second in Jurgensen’s records between 1949 and 1975 but in the early 1990s it seems to be floating at around third or fourth place in the US. One might expect that it would have less importance in China for several reasons (Fisher and Yuan 1998). The US employees also find interesting work as a motivating factor at present, and promotion and growth are relatively important too. In reviewing the history of US work psychology, pay was considered the primary motivator at the start of the century, social relations and job satisfaction came to the fore in the 1930s, and interesting work was not ‘discovered’ as an important variable for rank and file employees until the 1950s(Fisher and Yuan 1998).


The Japanese executives give motivational factor the highest priority. In fact, a Japanese present president of a Japanese-affiliated company commented that Japanese business people were more familiar with ‘management by objective’ than Korean people were (Usugami and Park 2006). Based on this, the Japanese executives are likely to consider ‘clarifying company policy and job objectives’ as a strong motivational factor, based on the business strategy they have implemented.

Both the Korean and Japanese executives recognize maintenance and improvement of employee motivation as an important management issue for the sake of high corporate performance and employee job satisfaction. The Japanese recognize ‘wage and bonus increases’ and ‘opportunity and speed of promotion and career development’ as strong motivational factors. ‘Fringe benefits’ and ‘good human relationships and communication in the workplace’ are serious hygiene factors for them. In other words, the motivational factor of Herzberg’s two-factor theory is what motivates the Japanese, while it is a hygiene factor to Korean (Usugami and park 2006).


If an American company wants to set up a business in Japan, there is a need for them to know what motivates the Japanese workers. The problem that an American manager will face in Japan will basically be on the issues raised based on the motivational factor of Herzberg’s two-factor theory in Japan. The problem on communication may not necessarily be problematic for the manager since the Japanese’s communication flows is participative as continual interactions and exchange of information is present in the Japanese culture as this is also present in the American culture.


However, the motivation theory can be responsible for the performance of workers and for the attainment of organizational goals. To solve the problem associated with difference in motivation theory, it is important for the Americans to be trained so as to understand and be aware of such differences in its culture and also to know how the Japanese employees can be motivated.

Understanding how the Japanese work is also very important, what motivates them and their general attitude towards their job is very relevant.


Presently, the world is becoming a small global village and as such, people tend to move from one geographical area to another and this can lead to meeting people from different cultural cluster to another resulting to the mingling between people from different culture and regions. Based on the above discussion, there is a need for managers to understand what motivates their workers and also understand the different motivation theories so as to ensure an effective and efficient employee. Therefore the different motivation theories should not be ignored.


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