Evaluating Esprit De Corps: Jobs That Have Low Motivating Potential Are Often the Result of Poor Job Design. (Research Update)

By Williams, Al; Lankford, Samuel | Parks & Recreation, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Evaluating Esprit De Corps: Jobs That Have Low Motivating Potential Are Often the Result of Poor Job Design. (Research Update)


Williams, Al, Lankford, Samuel, Parks & Recreation


The challenge of motivating employees has long been recognized as an integral part of managing leisure-service organizations. According to Edginton, Hudson and Lankford (2001), motivation plays an exceedingly important role in moving an organization towards excellence. Moorhead and Griffin (1998) have suggested that employee performance is a joint function of ability and motivation. Therefore, motivating employees to perform to the best of their ability is seen as one of the manager's primary tasks. This fact was reiterated in the 1990s when public recreation managers ranked motivating employees as their most important goal to pursue (Edginton, Hudson & Lankford, 2000; Edginton, Madrigal, Lankford & Wheeler, 1990). This line of reasoning is also evident in the organizational behavior and management literature (Ambrose & Kulik, 1999; Barron, 1991; Dainty, 1986; O'Reilly, 1991; Selden & Brewer, 2000; Siropolis, 1994).

Yet despite the agreement over the significance of work motivation, there's considerable controversy over which of multiple factors motivates employees to work. The complexity of work motivation is evident in the interaction of the forces among an individual, the job and the work environment that account for the level, direction and persistence of effort expended at work (Steers & Porter, 1991). Pinder (1998) has described work motivation as the set of forces, internal (individual needs and motives) and external (environmental forces), that initiate work-related behavior and determine its form, direction, intensity and duration. Given the relative intricacy of work motivation, it's not surprising that numerous theories have been developed to explain this phenomena. These approaches include content/ need (Herzberg's two factors), process (equity and expectancy theory) and behaviorism (reinforcement theory).

Work-Motivation Research in Leisure Service Settings

As noted by Mitra and Lankford (1999), much of the knowledge base used by the leisure-services field has been borrowed or adapted from allied fields. This has also been true of work-motivation research. Therefore, much of the work-motivation research in the leisure services field has been grounded in established theory or has used combinations of theory and conceptual frameworks (Henderson, 1995).

Content/Need Theory: The literature on content/need theory revealed that the majority of research pertaining to motivation, and its relationship to management of leisure services, has been conducted in the public and nonprofit sectors using Herzberg's (1959, 1987) two-factor motivator hygiene theory. According to Edginton, Hudson & Lankford, (2000), the chief proponents of much of this research have been Larry Neal (1984) and his associates at the University of Oregon.

Herzberg's theory postulated that factors in the workplace causing positive attitudes towards one's job were different than the factors that generated negative attitudes. Herzberg identified 16 factors related to either job satisfaction or job dissatisfaction. Five factors were found to be strong determinates of job satisfaction. These factors tended to be intrinsic in nature and were labeled as motivators. Eleven factors were associated with job dissatisfaction. These factors were extrinsic in nature and were labeled as hygiene factors.

The bulk of the studies applying Herzberg's theory have been conducted with full-time managers and employees (Cannon, 1985; Costa, 1994; DeGraaf, 19952; DeGraaf & Edginton, 1998; Edginton, Neal & Edginton, 1989; Hoff, Ellis & Crossley, 1988; Lankford, Nea, & Buxton, 19952; Neal, 1984; Neal, Williams & Beech, 1982; Rothschadl, 1983; Voight, 1983; Williams, 1992; Williams & Neal, 1993;). Exceptions include Rothschadl's work on volunteers and DeGraaf's and Hoff's studies on seasonal employees. The studies conducted with full-time individuals primarily used ranking methodology to determine respondent preferences for individual motivation factors. …

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