Essay on Management Theories and Their Impact on Social Care Setting

Published: 2021/12/02
Number of words: 2083

Leaders in social work settings are faced with the responsibility of leading social workers and keeping them motivated to continue offering their services. Social work managers may produce higher outcomes when they combine their expertise with theoretical perspectives. Motivating and organising workers requires leadership and management skills. The following is an overview of three management theories and their application in social work.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the most popular theories of management. Maslow’s approach is based on a pyramid of needs. At the bottom of the pyramid are needed that must be met before higher-level needs can be satisfied. Social work managers apply the theory’s principles by identifying each employee’s level of needs and understanding the motivating factors for each level of the pyramid. The basic needs at the bottom are physiological, followed by security needs, after which social needs become essential, esteem needs, and finally, self-actualisation needs.

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Social work managers must understand the relevant motivators at every level of Maslow’s needs pyramid. Food, clothing, and shelter make up the greatest motivators at the bottom of the pyramid. Security needs involve the need for protection from threats or loss, including employment loss. Acceptance and a sense of belonging are critical social needs motivators. Human beings need recognition and higher self-esteem status to satisfy their esteem needs. At the highest level of the pyramid, social care workers will be motivated by available opportunities to apply their talents, creativity, and innovation to exploit their full potential (Soni & Soni, 259, 2016).

The different levels of needs at Maslow’s hierarchy are the foundations of motivating workers. Social work managers must recognise that the desire to meet unmet needs is a source of motivation (Soni & Soni, 2016). Once a need is satisfied, it stops being a motivator, and the immediate unmet need becomes the source of motivation. For example, a person who can comfortably meet the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter cannot draw motivation from the desire to meet these needs but rather focus on the next immediate needs.

Social work managers must understand how Maslow’s theory influences their management styles and avoids misinterpreting its founding principles. Most social workers follow that career path guided by the desire to help people and the community. However, it would be misguided to ignore that their needs are essential and must be satisfied. Social workers are also a human being and have individual needs whose satisfaction are critical and influences the delivery of their services (Hopper, 2019, 2019).

Human experiences have shown that Maslow’s pyramid represents a flexible, attainable, and the equally critical need for human existence. For a social worker, Maslow’s summary of needs can present troubling challenges (Downes, 167, 2018). Paradoxically, the theory exposes potential flows in the modern social work environment where social workers focus on a single element of a client ‘s problem rather than a holistic approach. For instance, making a real difference in a homeless person’s life may need more than providing a home. Such a person may need social workers to consider employment, counselling services, child support, financial literacy, and a support system. Like Maslow’s hierarchy or pyramid of needs, the US welfare system stresses goods and services provided and activities provided. The welfare system rarely considers intangible human aspects such as autonomy, self-esteem, support system, and spiritual nourishment.

A holistic approach in social work provides each individual with empowerment. It influences them to develop a personal vision that provides the tools for the advancement and power of breaking social barriers (Fallatah & Syed, 50, 2018). From my perspective, effective social work involves assuming a holistic approach that blends social connectedness with other human aspects to care for vulnerable people. Social work programs should appreciate the value of human dignity, autonomy and emphasising these needs like Maslow’s first-tier needs, such as housing and transportation provided.

McClelland’s Trichotomy of Needs

McClelland hypothesised three needs that motivate individuals: the need for power, affiliation, and the need for achievement (Verma, 70, 2017). The needs are not ranked in any hierarchy. McClelland holds that all three needs influence workers, but strong motivation is drawn from one of the three factors. Effective management requires managers to understand which of the three needs strongly motivates their workers and uses that knowledge to design measures that will maintain motivation for that particular employee.

Power is about being in control and influencing others. People who draw motivation from power and control are more productive assigned positions of authority and influence. Such individuals typically have outspoken personalities and exploit their potential through power and influence. The theory identified two forms of power that influence people’s actions: socialised and personalised power. The latter motivates individuals to gain personal influence and power without due concern to the organisational goals. Personalised power can be a setup for shared goals because persons motivated by this kind of power are often willing to sacrifice shared goals to gain personal power.

Socialised power involves influencing people towards achieving organisational goals. Opportunities to lead people to achieve the desired goal or deliver a specific mandate are sources of satisfaction for people motivated by socialised power. The two powers’ needs can also explain the reasons why different leaders apply different leadership styles. The source of motivation influences a social manager’s leadership style and the weight placed on other goals and objectives (Doeze Jager-van Vliet et al., 10, 2017).

Persons motivated by affiliation needs are more productive when working in an environment where they feel accepted and expect little rejection. These are the kind of workers who are typically non-judgmental, friendly, and always avoid conflict. Social workers with affiliation needs may be motivated by having them included in social gatherings. On the other hand, achievement needs motivated social workers are influenced by the need to succeed and fear of failure. Social workers motivated by the desire for achievement may sometimes have unattainable and unrealistic goals. It would be critical for managers to help such workers acknowledge small successes and set realistic goals.

It is challenging to manage a group of people with diverse personalities. When one is leading or managing a team, it is critical to understand the members’ motivating factors, understand how they respond to different stressors, and what responsibilities exploit their talents and potential. Theories provide a framework for isolating individual motivating factors that can help a manager give feedback effectively, assign workers the appropriate tasks, and ignite and maintain motivation. Each social worker has a dominant motivator, and it is upon the social work manager to determine what it is and provide the appropriate drivers. For example, suppose you identify an individual who always takes charge of projects, persuades others in meetings, and delegates responsibilities to achieve shared goals. In that case, they are likely motivated by the need for power.

A detailed understanding of motivation can be used to examine the causes of different employee behaviours in an organisation and assess the impacts of specific management actions ((Verma, 70, 2017). Research suggests that knowledge of the motivational factors influences the goal-oriented incentives presented in organisations. All organisations are set with particular objectives and goals, and it is the goal of every management team to deliver on these goals. Social work encompasses many objectives that must be met. The delivery of social work goals is dependent on the greater network of social workers. Social work managers must understand the motivating factors critical in pushing the workers to deliver the best results out of every situation. A focused individual and a motivating environment can create a collective group that is determined to push a common agenda.

Human Relations Theory

The human relations theory of organisations is developed on three main components. The first component is that it places a great focus on the organisation’s value. A human being is more than a machine because of his or her capacity to respond to the environment (Nicotera, 60, 2017). Human productivity maximisation requires a working environment that takes into account the unique individual characteristics. The second element is that the theory considers informal setups in the working environment (Nicotera, 60, 2017). A worker’s productivity is influenced by many variables, some of which fall out of the official organisational formation, such as relationships with peers. Third, the theory stresses the value of participative management. Participative management are approaches built on the belief that workers are likely to be more productive if they are engaged in making critical workplace decisions (Nicotera, 2017). Failure to seek employee’s opinions makes them feel like their contribution is not value and respect, something that can create demotivation and diminished productivity.

The modern world has been influenced by diverse beliefs and a shift from the traditional belief system that believed social order is a design of God’s will. The Enlightenment has changed most of the conventional reasoning. For example, the belief that kings were divine has been substituted by the belief that people can use their independent reasoning instead of relying on others’ authority (Oyerinde, 130, 2017). An autonomous human being is capable of making choices and behaving in a moral, rational way. The qualities can be exploited in social work to deliver services that are sensitive to human needs.

Social workers and social work managers’ relationships are of substantive importance in the social care setting (Kapur, 30, 2017). Human relations involve equipping employees with the relevant skills, addressing their needs, cultivating an excellent workplace culture, resolving emerging conflicts between different groups, and understanding how human relations impact social work to underscore their value.

Human relations are a critical part of what makes service delivery efficient. Workers have to collaborate and interrelate in different ways to achieve shared goals. Without a friendly and motivating workplace culture, many challenges are bound to emerge in people management and logistics. In the end, the objective of any social work project might be challenging to achieve (Kovalenko, 2019). Social workers must be well trained and motivated to foster loyalty and meet the rapidly changing social care setting’s challenges.

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Studies on participative management strategies have highly focused on their positive motivational effects and the various ways workers commit and involvement in a decision-making process increase their productivity. Participative practices also contribute to employee job satisfaction. Participative approaches are sources of motivation that enable employees to gain greater independence and develop a sense of ownership. Social work is a demanding practise that requires social workers to be motivated and to own the process. However, participative practices have limitations, especially if the organisational culture and management practices are not congruent.


Management theories impact social work in many ways. Theoretical perspectives influence many decisions in diverse ways. From the literature, it’s apparent that social work managers should get relevant knowledge of the correlation between motivation and management. The paper has attempted to synthesise three management theories and their potential implications to the social work setting. Social work managers should make deliberate efforts to learn about the relationship between motivation, management, and leadership.


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Downes, P., 2018. Complexity in social work. International Journal of Emotional Education10(2), pp.167-168.

Fallatah, R.H.M. and Syed, J., 2018. A critical review of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Employee Motivation in Saudi Arabia (pp. 19-59). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Hopper, E., 2019. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Explained. Viitattu12, p.2019.

Kapur, R., 2017. Management of day-to-day organisational human relations: a Henri Rey perspective. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy31(1), pp.21-36.

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Soni, B. and Soni, R., 2016, July. Enhancing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for effective leadership. In Competition Forum (Vol. 14, No. 2, p. 259). American Society for Competitiveness.

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