Creech, Regina, Management Quarterly
Psychologists define motivation as "that which gives impetus to our behavior by arousing, sustaining, and directing it toward the attainment of goals" (Wortman and Loftus, 353). Because I supervise five individuals on a full-time basis and twenty people in the absence of my manager, I am particularly interested in ways to motivate employees. The purpose of this article is to gain knowledge, so that I might assist others in performing their job duties to the best of their ability while maintaining their quality of work life.
The work of Abraham Maslow helps explain why the process of motivation is not a simple process that can be administered externally. Rather, according to Maslow, it is the result of needs within everyone that make people act the way they do. Under his hierarchy theory, people are first motivated by the desire to secure first-level needs of food and shelter for survival. After that, security and safety become major motivators, followed by assimilation into social groups where ego needs can be satisfied to the final step of self-actualization (Personnel, 3411-3412).
Examination of how this hierarchy fits into present-day society will explain why the tools of motivation have been forced to change from early industrial times. Employees today have basically satisfied their first- and second-level needs as assured levels of income and purchasing power have basically risen above survival requirements. For this reason, pay alone is no longer the universal motivator. Now the workforce is more educated and able to handle creative, mental work. In fact, the employees demand it in order to satisfy the upper-level needs they find themselves at (Personnel 3412).
So what motivates employees? The "rewards" an employee may seek from the employment relationship can have varying effects on attitude and performance. In one instance, they can actually motivate the worker to work better in an effort to achieve personal and company goals if they are assured to be realized through better performance. On the other hand, the "reward" that an employee receives may just tend to avoid dissatisfaction by maintaining an emotional status quo with little or no motivational impact on the employee to perform better. Under the classifications developed by Frederick Herzberg, the former set of influences is called motivators while the latter set of influences are labeled dissatisfiers (Personnel 3406).
Dissatisfiers refer to matters that have been used by management in attempts to keep employees happy and, to some extent, avoid unionism. They relate mainly to an employee's maintenance and hygiene needs by providing a work situation that allows employees to perform in as much comfort as possible. Dissatisfiers include pay, physical plant conditions, supervisory behavior, supplemental benefits, company policy and administration, fairness of work rule enforcement, vacations and other matters that are basically peripheral to the actual job of employees. While these job aspects can have some motivational value, it will be of short duration (Personnel 3406).
Motivators, on the other hand, are more closely related to the work an employee does and usually function independently of hygiene factors. The aspects of motivational factors are usually a result of the feedback generated between the employee and the job. According to M. Scott Myers, motivational factors can be grouped into categories of growth, achievement, responsibility, and recognition (Personnel 3406).
Growth refers to the mental abilities of employees. Mental growth should not be limited to the young rising stars within the organization itself. Older employees may still be able to learn new aspects of their job that can make them work smarter. Also, promotion should not be viewed as the only means of growth (though often it is the most tangible), as many employees do not have to move out of their current jobs in order to experience mental enrichment on the job. An employee who is able to learn from the daily interaction with work will know that he is receiving a benefit above that of simple pay, and will be willing to put much more effort into a process that is making him a more interesting and educated person (Personnel 3407).
Achievement comes from the sense of accomplishment felt when an employee meets either long-term or short-term goals. Much of the lack of opportunity for achievement comes from the scientific school that seeks to have workers perform simple, repeatable tasks. This type of work ignores the capacity of the worker to think and assumes that employees do not want to face the challenge of more complex tasks (Personnel 3407).
There are individual differences in achievement motivation. Some people have a higher need for achievement than others, and they will persist longer and show better performance on whatever tasks they are asked to do. Other factors that help explain the differences in achievement strivings include the expectations that people hold regarding their potential for success or failure, and also the positive or negative value that someone places on success or failure (Wortman and Loftus 376-378).
Responsibility denotes a feeling that a person has toward the job, through a commitment that stems from a possessory interest in some aspect of that job. The employee is responsible for some aspect of the job and has the authority to carry it out. Without delegation of authority, the employee is merely an order taker, and the best that can be expected in such a situation is a force of obedient and conforming employees. Given a changing work force that does not hold authority in such deep respect as past generations, obedience and conformity will not be sustained for long (Personnel 3407).
Recognition should be earned directly through the job rather than be in the form of unexpected gratuities heaped upon the workers by a supervisor with the best intentions of being friendly. The recognition must be related to merit, so that the employee knows efforts are being observed and appreciated by management (Personnel 3408).
Whether an employee is concerned with motivational factors or hygiene factors depends upon the workplace environment. It is only in the environment where motivation needs can be fulfilled that employees become motivation seekers. These employees will show positive feelings about their work and experience greater satisfaction and motivation. Therefore, it is the supervisor who becomes a key element in making sure that management affords the motivational opportunities required for workers to be really productive. The supervisor must see that his workers are provided conditions for motivation while at the same time maintenance needs are catered to. This in turn requires planning and competent organization of work so that each employee has the control over his work task needed to foster motivational opportunities (Personnel 3409).
One of the most important lessons from B.F. Skinner is the supervisor's role of positive reinforcement, of rewards for jobs well done. Positive reinforcement not only shapes behavior but also teaches and in the process enhances our own self-image (Peters and Waterman 70).
Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, authors of In Search of Excellence, feel their general observation is that most managers know very little about the value of positive reinforcement. Many either appear not to value it at all or consider it undignified or beneath them or not macho. The evidence from the excellent companies strongly suggests that managers who feel this way are doing themselves a great disservice. Excellent companies seem not only to know the value of positive reinforcement but how to manage it as well (70).
As Skinner notes, the way the reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount. First, it ought to be specific, incorporating as much information content as possible. Second, the reinforcement should have immediacy. Third, the system of feedback mechanisms should take account of achievability. Companies should reward small wins. Good news swapping is common in the excellent companies. The fourth characteristic is that a fair amount of the feedback comes in the form of intangible but meaningful attention from top management.
Finally, Skinner asserts that regular reinforcement loses impact because it comes to be expected. Unpredictable and intermittent reinforcements work better. Small rewards are frequently more effective than large ones (Peters and Waterman 71).
As a supervisor, I firmly believe in positive reinforcement. As an example, I supervise three employees whose main job function is to talk with consumers either by phone or in person, and to take information regarding a meter set, consumer change, or disconnect. In addition, they have also become very proficient in finding and collecting bad debts from some of the consumers who moved off of our lines and left owing us money. I tease them all of becoming "bloodhounds" in researching and collecting these monies.
I had asked each one to write down their figures throughout the year and to turn them in to me at the first of December. Just before Christmas, I surprised these employees in a private meeting with the general manager and my boss, the manager of office services. I wanted upper management to know that these three employees go beyond the call of duty in collecting bad debt before they set up the accounts. I recognized each one individually by providing the exact dollar figure for each employee and adding a short story about each one. For instance, one employee had managed to collect from one consumer who left owing uS at three or four accounts and no one, including the collection agency, had been able to catch up with them, but "Delores" did! She had managed to recover a total of $1,204.94 from that one consumer alone.
Each employee was presented with a certificate of appreciation, and the employee who collected the most was presented with a "traveling trophy," which was a sandcast bloodhound, to be proudly displayed on her desk until next year. I also had refreshments of cupcakes with dollar signs on them.
This meeting gave me the opportunity to let top management know how proud I am of these employees and what an excellent job I felt they were doing. I had the chance to let the managers know that these employees average 1,000 calls per month, which they handle smoothly and efficiently, and that they may be the only contact a consumer will have with the cooperative. It also gave me an opportunity to sneak in a comment on their excellent attendance records and their willingness to help each other when one is on vacation, out sick, etc. I brought my camera and took pictures of them with the two managers, and left feeling so proud of their accomplishments.
This may seem like a small gesture, but it proves to me that with just a little time and very little expense, employees can be recognized and rewarded. And it has done wonders for their dispositions - they have become even more motivated than they were before this meeting.
Much has been written recently about American laziness and the decline of productivity. But what do American workers think about these problems - and most important, what kinds of solutions do they suggest?
A survey of 689 working Americans was conducted randomly by telephone in February 1992 by TeleNation, an independent survey organization headquartered in Chicago, on behalf of the SITE Foundation, a New York City-based research group. Respondents reflected a cross-section of American workers, with 6% in positions requiring an advanced degree; 22% were managers and administrators; 19% were teachers, registered nurses, technicians, or analysts; 10% were craftspeople or artists; 8% were in sales; 9% were clerical workers; 20% were laborers or in service positions; and 6% were in other positions (Quick 113).
The survey revealed that nearly 95% of American workers rank a cash bonus as a meaningful incentive. I was surprised at some of the other things that workers perceived as meaningful. For example. 87% believe that special training is a positive incentive, followed by stock options (85%), a trip to a desirable destination with a spouse or guest (77%), and recognition at a company meeting (76%). Tied at 63% were merchandise incentives and the simple and inexpensive "pat on the back" (Quick 113).
The employees also wanted information about the operation of the company, including its plans and projections. They wanted to be a part of the inner workings of the corporation (Quick 121).
LEADERS VS. MANAGERS
I believe you must be a leader to effectively motivate employees. A lot has been said and written about the lack of leaders in America, but what exactly distinguishes leaders from managers?
Managers are typically well-educated, very experienced individuals who develop plans and make decisions in organizations. They are sincere and hard-working and stay abreast of management science by attending seminars, working toward advanced degrees, and reading the best periodicals and management literature. They habitually make use of the latest management strategies and are constantly in the process of implementing some new "tool," such as total quality management, quality circles, and the like. Their training and liking for staying current cause managers to be very predictable, because they are sure to be implementing the latest business fad. Managers are acutely aware of "the system," with its rules and procedures, both documented and unwritten (Hill 16).
Leaders, on the other hand, are visionaries who do not seek to perpetuate the existing establishment. Leaders are innovative and rely much less than managers on "accepted management techniques." They may consistently violate the chain-of-command concept by going directly to the source of information in the organization, rather than communicating through the company's formal management hierarchy (Hill 16).
Managers are firm believers in highly quantitative measurements to determine progress and value. They focus heavily on short-term achievement and black and white results (Hill 16).
Leaders believe that simplicity is a major key in successful operations. They tend to communicate simple improvement-oriented operational techniques to all of their people, as opposed to managers, who are prone to teach complex techniques to a few experts in the organization (Hill 16).
Effective managers understand that they are paid to plan, organize, staff and control their company's workforce. Quite often, much of their activity is based on the unspoken premise that subordinates, though competent, are never quite motivated or trustworthy enough to make significant progress in the absence of fairly elaborate controls and nudging (Hill 16).
Leaders provide well-communicated, clear-cut visions and goals, and work with an attitude of equality with their people, as opposed to one of superiority. Leaders routinely provide very high goals for the people in their organization. They acknowledge high levels of talent and motivation among co-workers, encourage them to be innovative, and trust them in their areas of competence. They acknowledge that the real experts in any area are those actually performing the work. They encourage risk taking and accept failures as steps in the process of growth and goal achievement (Hill 16).
Managers are typically very busy people and, because of this, they are often inaccessible or have little time to listen to the people they manage. It is not uncommon for them to slowly lose touch with the day-to-day realities of their organization and the people who are involved in really doing the work. They usually appoint several levels of management between themselves and their people to overcome this problem (Hill 17).
When profits or results are down, managers seem drawn toward tight-fisted cost reduction and controls to raise profits. They also tend to tell workers what they must do to overcome this problem, and it usually involves working harder or longer, as opposed to soliciting ideas (Hill 17).
Leaders see themselves as resources and helpers to the group or organization, as opposed to being the pushers and controllers. Leaders seldom use real or implied threats as a motivator, and they emphasize the benefits of goal achievement to everyone. They are unpredictable, inventive, and imaginative movers and doers whose situation-oriented innovations facilitate the achievement of goals and eliminate or circumvent obstacles. When profits or results are down, leaders usually ask team members for help and look to positive avenues such as building market share or developing innovative new marketing approaches, as opposed to managers' focus on controlling and cutting costs (Hill 17).
Managers are intolerant of mistakes in themselves or others. They seldom encourage their subordinates to take significant risks in order to improve operations or grow personally. They typically do not admit mistakes, nor do they feel any obligation to apologize for having made them (Hill 17).
Managers believe that crises require them to reestablish who is in charge and to aggressively direct the people in the organization to elicit the performance they want. Still, managers are very conscious of what others think of them and strive to be liked by their subordinates and peers, even though they often conclude that this is impossible because of the conflicting roles of management and workers (Hill 17).
Leaders are usually candid in acknowledging their mistakes and are not afraid to openly take whatever steps are necessary to rectify them. They are conscious of what others think about them, but are usually less concerned than managers about whether their subordinates like them. They do, however, value having the respect of subordinates. They often exhibit humility, but are totally confident in the value of their visions and of their ability to lead movement toward them. Leaders have a reputation of maintaining a very high level of personal ethics. They value co-workers and always work toward their best interests. Employees exhibit a fierce loyalty to leaders and will even make personal sacrifices for them (Hill 17).
Managers are totally dedicated to adhering to and nurturing the organizational system within which they operate. They often acquire a staff of people reporting to them who possess backgrounds, beliefs, and operational modes similar to their own. Managers ask subordinates for "participative input," but rarely encourage real dissent with their own views (Hill 17).
Leaders routinely recognize and reward all their people for effective performance, and team members usually have an accurate impression of how well they are doing (Hill 17).
Leaders are often autocrats. However, their autocracy is dissimilar from traditional autocracy as taught in most business schools. Leaders have an autocracy of values in areas such as integrity, consideration for the individual, insistence on the highest achievable level of quality, continuing growth, and consideration of the customer and his needs. The leader advocates continual improvement in both people and operations.
In a Cooperative environment, there must be leaders. As I stated earlier, leaders are visionaries, and while our cooperative has many leaders, one in particular comes to mind. He has a vision for our cooperative, and that vision is to make certain that we remain the "utility of choice."
He has displayed his leadership role in many ways, and that role moves beyond the traditional comfort level. Rather than perform "business as usual" on a daily basis, he has been innovative in taking us down different paths to accomplish his vision.
He has shown a healthy attitude by embracing competition. He, along with other staff members and the Board, went through an extensive strategic planning process in which they discussed and agreed upon the competitive forces that our system is facing and, together, made decisions regarding the actions to be implemented. Importantly, the entire organization now understands the competition we face. As a result of this planning, we have offered a rate reduction to our consumers for the second consecutive year. We have begun to refund capital credits to our new consumers, as well as to those who have been on our lines for many years.
He continually strives to improve our quality of service in all areas and to stay abreast of the charges to consumers and how those charges might affect our relationship with that consumer. He has used initiative in giving our cooperative a growing, expanded role by developing an industrial park, so that we might add on load to our mostly residential population. He has ensured that our cooperative will have a sufficient power supply by negotiating a long-range contract with our supplier.
He recognizes and appreciates the importance of community, for our cooperative must be dedicated to the vitality of the communities in which we serve. He wants us to be seen, not just as an organization who provides electric service, but as individuals who comprise the organization and contribute to the welfare of the community. We do this is many ways. Aside from the involvement in the many civic organizations, our employees construct floats and participate in local parades; we contribute to and participate in the United Way and March of Dimes; we send students to Washington, D.C. for the Youth Tour; and we assist in hanging lights at schools and ball fields. It is through his directive that we are allowed to become involved in the community and to establish ourselves as good citizens.
He proves himself to be effective by continually using foresight and initiative to make our Cooperative "Number One." Realistically, he knows that he can't do it all by himself, and this is where his leadership abilities come into play once again. All of his employees must understand his vision, and he communicates that vision to them through regular meetings. As he explains his plans for the cooperative, he has an aura of competitiveness and confidence that we can feel and see. We know that this should also be our vision, and that he will let us know when we have done something well to assist in accomplishing this vision. The vision can only be achieved if high standards are established and met by everyone.
I am proud to say that we have leaders at our cooperative. Whenever managers displace leaders, according to author F. Cecil Hill, performance and creativity will decline.
Hill, F. Cecil. "Are You a Manager or a Leader?" Industry Week April 1989: 16-17.
"Personnel Practices/Communications." Human Resources Management. Chicago: Commerce Clearing House Inc., 1994: 3306-3412.
Peters, Thomas J. and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. In Search of Excellence. New York: Warner Books, 1982.
Quick, Thomas L. "What Motivates Best?" Sales and Marketing Management April 1992: 113-121.
Wortman, Camille B. and Elizabeth F. Loftus. Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1992.
Regina Creech is the Assistant Manager, Office Services at Cuivre River Electric in Troy, Missouri. She supervises five employees, manages the daily activity of cooperative funds and serves as Wellness Coordinator. She possesses an associate degree in business from Missouri Baptist College and is working toward her bachelor of science degree in business administration. Regina completed the NRECA Supervisory Training Courses in 1993. She has worked 20 years for Cuivre River, nine of those in her current position.
Cuivre River Electric is currently the largest cooperative in Missouri, serving more than 35,000 consumers spanning a four-county area. In addition to the main office in Troy, the cooperative has two branch offices located in Lake Saint Louis and Harvester.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Employee Motivation. Contributors: Creech, Regina - Author. Journal title: Management Quarterly. Volume: 36. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 1995. Page number: 33+. © 1999 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.