For those who have attended almost any management or supervisory development programmed, motivation will immediately conjure up a range of theorists and psychologists who have identified key aspects of human motivational facts based on human behavior. The main contributors to our understanding of key motivational influencers include the research and theoretical work of Mayo, Maslow, Hertzberg and McGregor. They have helped us to gain an insight into what we might do to motivate, enthuse, drive, support and encourage people at work.
We will not examine the contributions made by each and every one of these theorists but will briefly look at the key aspects of their motivational approaches.
However, we really cannot begin this process without looking at what could be called the base-line understanding. So, a quick review of Maslow’s work is a good starting point for those who have not yet read up on any motivational concepts.
Maslow (1943) was one of the first to classify human needs and motivation, suggesting that they could be classified into motivating factors that influence behavior. He proposed that these needs be formulated into a hierarchy with basic needs as the base-line and higher needs at the top.
The most basic human need is the acquisition of the basic survival requirements of food, clothing and shelter (the physiological needs). During our human evolution over the millennia these basic needs has ensured our survival as a species and has changed little, despite our sophisticated lifestyles of the 21st century.
In countries which are not economically sound, or where there are social, political and cultural unrest or in those countries which suffer massive disasters (such as the tsunami), it is reasonable to suppose that this instinctive response to survival needs emerges and is as pronounced as it was in our early development.
Food, clothing and shelter are regular requirements in our daily lives. Once these are satisfied the next motivational need is to ensure that these are available to us on a regular daily basis, these are security needs. The safety and comfort of knowing that the basic survival needs will be met for some distance into the future becomes as important as the first step. Regular employment will at least guarantee that these basic requirements can be met on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. As these become an established part of our life they are no longer motivators. However, the sudden absence of these features would of course change this position. This is an interesting point about motivation, the need to achieve something is a motivator but once achieved and regularized into our life it may not continue to motivate to the same degree, if at all.
So, once these first two basic steps are satisfied what motivators tend to ‘kick-in’ next? The next level of motivation includes social needs such as, belonging, acceptance, interactions with friends and affiliations. In a work context this translates as social interaction at work, friends at work and teamwork. The final two levels are concerned with esteem and self-actualization needs. In today’s work environment we describe such needs as respect and recognition for good performance, respect and a status which reflects personal achievement, self-fulfillment and personal development.
Every manager, supervisor, charge-hand, team-leader or any other person who is responsible for getting work done through others must successfully work through the management steps of planning, organizing, controlling and the motivation of others to achieve the plan. So what makes the last element, ‘motivation’ so much more complex than the other elements? The infinite variations and complexities of human nature is the quick answer.
You can have a team of ten people of similar expertise / abilities all charged with the same objectives, but they will have different levels of personal motivation depending on their attitude, personal circumstances, relationships within the team, relationships outside the team and particularly their relationship with the leader or manager of the group.
McGregor took a view on motivation from managers’ behavior and reflected that there were, in his experience, only two types of managers. He called them the Theory X Type Managers and the Theory Y Type Managers. The Theory X Manager believes that humans are by nature lazy, avoid responsibility and the only way to motivate them is by constant control. The Theory Y Manager, on the other hand, has the perception that humans like work, like responsibility and, once involved in a shared objective, will be self-motivating and highly productive. These two approaches in fact represent styles of management behavior and there are a multitude of variations on these themes. Motivational styles throughout these approaches are often referred to as the ‘stick or carrot approach’, which is self explanatory.
Anyone interested in seeking their own level of understanding from which they can develop a progressive and suitable management, leadership and motivational style should read the various theorists and measure these against modern motivational success stories. For example what styles seem to be prevalent in larger companies and multi-nationals where Human Resource policies and practices have been evolving as proactive employee relations cultures in the Irish context, but with some foreign influences?
Summary Over the last fifty years the progressive organizations have incrementally changed their approach to managing people and the motivational style associated with such changes. There was more stick than carrot in the past. Now there is more carrot. So how do we define the ‘carrot’? Is it just necessary to provide the opportunity to earn more money? Is that the sum total of the carrot approach? No of course not, it is necessary to satisfy to some extent all the motivational needs of people at work and, as outlined already, these vary greatly. Money is still important. If it is a constant struggle to get fair pay it actually has a de-motivating affect but having the rate pitched right is not a sufficient motivator, in itself, to create high productivity. It needs other motivators to satisfy other needs.
So if you have several hundred employees, is there a core group of motivators which are common to all and will they adequately motivate all the employees to achieve high performance levels? Or is it necessary to individualize these approaches for maximum effect? Is this even possible given the potential variations in needs? There are, as you can see, many considerations.
There are core values in dealing with people but, these values need to be followed with due care and attention by managers and in a consistent way to ensure they are genuine (and clearly seen to be genuine). For example, the development of mutual respect, the identification and publication of core values reflecting principles of human dignity and mutual trust, the need to recognize and plan to satisfy some of the higher needs such as self-actualization. These are a few of the possible approaches which managers need to consider.
The next article will deal with some progressive and innovative motivational approaches in vogue at present.
Doug Dvorak is a certified sales trainer, management consultant and corporate humorist. Doug holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing Management. But Doug’s sense of humor is no less refined, as he is a graduate of the Player’s Workshop of the Second City, one of the oldest and most prestigious improvisational comedy schools in the world. But what is it that Doug Dvorak really does? First, one must consider, what is it that traverses all people in all places? What tool can improve an employee’s productivity, yet at the same time let them enjoy what they are doing? Humor. The power of laughter can quell the most volatile situation and bring real motivation and pleasure to the most tedious activities. Humor can bring true employee and customer loyalty. Through the unique, original character created by Doug Dvorak, Dr. Earnest Carpediem™ , Doug delivers a highly energetic and creative interactive presentation: “Mega Motivation With A Twist™.” Dr. Carpediem™ is a motivational speaker and gifted psychic that actively solicits audience participation in an enthusiastic and non-threatening manner. Doug conducts personalized presentations and workshops. He speaks to management groups, business owners, and professional associations that appreciate his customized programs which never fail to bring smiles to people’s faces. But regardless of Doug’s comical presentations, he is a consummate business professional whose primary goal is client satisfaction. In addition, Doug is a active member of the National Speaker’s Association® (NSA®).
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