Employee Motivation Lessons From Literature: Guidelines for Managers

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Basics of Motivation

The understanding of the word “Motivation” helps a manager understand the desires of an employee and influence his or her behavior to work efficiently. Many motivation theorists like Frederick Herzberg (1966), David McClelland (1987), and Abraham Maslow (1968) have explained the concept of motivation through various models and theories. This article aims to guide managers to understand human behavior and to focus their energies to achieve the desired goals.

The two approaches to motivation (psychological and managerial) throw some light on the fact that one can utilize the managerial approach in context to different behavioral theories to extract the best from workers.

Two Factor Theory

As classical theory states, the manager’s work is to assign jobs to employees and keep a check that the instructions are followed and work assigned is completed in time. However, human resource theory claims, to complete a task the manager should mutually set objectives and solve problems with the workforce. Therefore, a manager decides which strategy will be well matched to the current situation in order to obtain required results.

A theory of motivation-hygiene that was popularly known as the two-factor theory was given by a psychologist named Frederick Herzberg. In his theory, he examined and listed the attitude of people toward their job. The conclusion from his findings gave rise to the two factors: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Talking about the people’s view, intrinsic factors like advancement, recognition, responsibility, and achievement were promoted by those who were satisfied with their job. However, the disappointed workers cited factors like supervision, salary, organizational policy, and working environment – Herzberg referred to these as extrinsic factors.

The theory also states that the factors leading to job satisfaction are very different from factors leading to job dissatisfaction. Therefore, a manager may get rid of unsatisfied employees by omitting the extrinsic factors and by giving importance to hygiene factors, but this will not help in motivating people. Therefore, to motivate workers, one needs to emphasize factors linked with work itself like promotional opportunities, recognition, etc.

Equity Theory - Input vs Output

In addition, from the point of view of Equity theory, people analyze their job outcomes in relation to what they devote or give to the job (inputs) and then they compare their effort and rewards with other co-workers in the same organization working under one roof. In addition, if one’s inputs and outputs do not match, the person will be highly demoralized.

Moreover, the practicing managers should understand the rigidness of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. Instead, managers should impose Alderfer’s ERG model that was introduced by Clayton Paul Alderfer as a modified version of Maslow’s needs. In his theory, he presented three groups of core needs:

  • existence
  • relatedness,
  • growth.

It elaborates the concept that instead of starting with basic needs of satisfaction, one can work to achieve growth needs or relatedness needs directly. Or else, an individual can work on all three needs simultaneously without following or considering the traditional way to start with basic needs. From this theory, it can be derived that a culture is a drawback of Maslow’s theory that is taken into consideration by ERG theory.

Control Emotions

It has been argued by Joe Takash (2008) that practicing emotional control is one of the major factors that justify the importance of motivation to an organization, as emotion is the issue that affects a manager’s thoughts and decision. Anyone can be nice and soft spoken in good times but when a person, especially a manager, during his bad days, controls his emotions and reveals great understanding with the workers while maintaining objectives, it matters a lot. This indirectly motivates the employees to be loyal to the organization.

One can effectively use motivation as an influential management tool by applying relevant theories to the situations they are best suited for and getting optimal solutions to achieve the targeted organizational goal.

Basic Guidelines

The main point for managers to remember when trying to motivate employees is to ensure that the employees retain a feeling of freedom while still having a clear understanding of expectations. Follow these basic guidelines to ensure a motivating work environment:

  • State only the most necessary rules and policies.
  • Publish the rules and policies so all employees have a copy.
  • Identify organizational values and write a professional code of conduct.
  • Address individual needs by counselling and performance evaluation programs.
  • Communicate all expectations and guidelines clearly.