In todays competitive world it is imperative that any company that want to succeed to have positively motivated employees. It has become important for top management to develop, maintain and nurture a positive relationship with employees. One way to achieve this is adequately motivating employees. The word "motivation" is one of the most familiar, most researched and most misunderstood words in the English vocabulary. In this short paper I will look at motivation with special emphasis on the South African workplace, including a look at certain motivational theories and how these can translate into a positive motivational management.
Motivation comes from the Latin word movere, which translated into English means "to move". According to Robbins et al (2009:144) motivation is the process that accounts for the interaction between an employee's intensity, direction and persistence towards attaining a goal, bearing in mind that this will differ in employees. From this we can isolate 3 parts: intensity, direction and persistence.
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Intensity - The effort and energy that an employee puts in to achieve a goal.
Direction - The goal towards which the employee is motivated.
Persistence - How long the employee tries. Employees that push on even when they feel like quitting.
1.2 The South African Workplace
To set the stage we first have to look at the SA workplace and how it differs from workplaces in the UK and US. The SA workplace is a lengthy topic and not one which will be discussed fully in this paper. The SA workplace offers a unique environment because of the following:
11 Official languages
Broadly Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE)
High National Unemployment
Skew distribution of wealth
Managing the above are words any South African manager have become accustomed to. In South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, these concepts are frequently confused, and misunderstood.
1.3 Theories of Motivation
Numerous theories have been developed over the years in an attempt to help managers understand the factors influencing motivation. Motivational theories can be divided into two groups: content and process theories.
1.3.1 Content Theory: Maslow's hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow's theory of motivation is very popular all over the world and has given managers a guideline for motivating employees. Maslow indentified five basic groups of human needs that emerge in a specific order (Appendix A).
According to Lunenburg and Ornstein (2007:95) the core of this theory state that once one of these needs is satisfied another need will emerge to take its place. To judge its validity in a SA workforce we have to look closer each of the needs that Maslow identified and its implications for a manager in a SA work environment.
Physiological needs: Provide lunch, tea breaks, and salaries that are sufficient so an employee has the opportunity to acquire the essentials
Safety and Security Needs: Provide a safe working environment and retirement benefits
Love (Social Needs): Create a sense of belonging, love and affection
Esteem Needs: Provide recognition to employees. Make employees feel valued and appreciated
Self-Actualization: Provide employees a challenging environment and the opportunity to reach their full career potential
Maslow's hierarchy of needs has the following limitations:
In a country as diverse as South Africa, lower income earners will try and satisfy their physiological needs first where as more advantaged employees will seek the satisfaction of higher level needs
In a large business with many employees a manager will not have time to identify where each employee stand on Maslow's hierarchy
Aswathappa (2005:359) notes that employee needs is different across different countries. Maslow's needs hierarchy applies to American and British managers. Japanese managers will place social and security needs higher
Employees are not necessarily motivated to satisfy one need at a time
In extraordinary cases such as the "starving artist" employees neglects lower needs in pursuit of higher ones
1.3.2 Process Theory: Skinner's reinforcement theory
Reinforcement theory, also called positive reinforcement or behavior modification is primarily based on the interesting but controversial work done in 1953 by BF Skinner. Skinner started out by studying animal's and how their behavior would change through reinforcement. Tantawi (2008:11) explains that there is a direct link between the type of feedback an employee receives and his behavior, he continues by stipulating that behavior followed by positive feedback will be repeated because the employee will be motivated to do it again whereas behavior that are followed by negative feedback will be stopped because the employee will want to avoid the negative feedback. The use of reinforcement to motivate employees should be a positive experience for both manager and employee. Unclear task expectations and evaluation standards frustrate employees. Managers should encourage positive employee behavior such as punctuality and productivity.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Skinner's reinforcement theory has the following limitations:
Reinforcement theory takes into account behavior and consequences and forgoes the idea that all employees are unique and different
Managers need to be careful as a company with a identity to punish can lead to long-term negative consequences (Borkowski, 2009:141)
The idea of rewarding behavior is considered unethical / bribing in certain cultures
Rewards and punishment often become less meaningful and losses attractiveness over time
It is easy to reinforce one employee but it becomes very difficult to effectively use reinforcement theory on a large workforce. Research that Skinner did was done one a single rat at a time and worked remarkably well, people often work is groups
There are several guidelines for applying reinforcement theory in the workplace. Employees need to have a goal or purpose and understand what is expected of them. Managers must keep track of performance; quality and quantity of work on a continual basis, only once a baseline has been indentified can reinforcement begin. Finally, managers need to observe the effectiveness of the reinforcement.
Appendix B illustrates four types of behavior that a manager has to his disposal to modify the behavior of employees: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment and extinction.
1.3.3 Vroom's Expectancy theory
According to Robbins et al (2009:157) Vroom's expectancy theory is one of the most widely used and accepted models of motivation used in organizations today. Crowthe and Green (2004:42) explain that the theory is based on the idea that employees will expect a certain outcome or result if they behave in a certain way, so employee's behavior will be affected by what is perceived to be the rewards on offer and the importance of those rewards to the employee. Looking closer Vroom stipulated that motivations consist of 3 components namely: Expectancy, Instrumentality and Valence.
Motivation = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence
Expectancy refers to the perceived probability that if an employee puts in the effort and hard work that the actions will lead to successful completion of a task
Instrumentality refers to the perceived probability that if an employee successfully completes his task that we will be reward for it
Valence is the value that an employee associates with the reward he receives
Vroom's Expectancy theory has the following limitations:
Expectancy theory doesn't take into account the emotional state of an employee.
Can be difficult to implement in a large group
In order for the formula of motivation to work Expectancy, Instrumentality and Valence can't be zero otherwise the formula fall flat
Application of the theory is limited because reward doesn't necessarily quote a happy more productive employee. There are other factors that need to be looked at including: position of the employee, educational level and responsibility
Daft RL (2008:234) states that Expectancy theory is often categorized under the "carrot and stick" approach to motivation
Recently the approach has come under fire because it is linked to creating a corporate of fear
Employees rarely sit down and share a list of anticipated outcomes
Employees get used to the fact that performance will earn reward and when the reward stops, performance might also stop
2.1 Management implication of 2 additional motivational theories
In the next couple of paragraphs I am going to discuss Adams Equity Theory and Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y, with special emphasis on the practical implication for the manager in a South African context.
2.1.1 Adams Equity Theory
Employees want to be treated equal and fair. According to Landy et al (2009:375) equity theory notes how employees look at their world in terms of 2 components: inputs and outcomes. Employees calculate what the inputs (effort and training) are to a specific job and compare this to the outcome (rewards) they are receiving. This outcome / input ratio then get compared to other employees with similar output / input ratios.
Outputs can be perceived as either positive or negative by the employee. If an employee perceive that their input is been fairly rewarded they are generally happier and motivated to continue. If employees perceive that they have received less and put in the same outcome / input effort this could lead to depression, unhappiness and a demotivated employee.
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Adams equity theory has the following management implications:
Managers must understand that people are different. Outcomes should not always be in monetary terms. A single mother possibly prefers prefer time off instead of money
SA is a culturally diverse environment. Managers must get to know what is important and frowned upon in different cultures
Employees should be treated as equals but they should also be treated uniquely
Managers should be able to effectively explain why some employees might get a raise while others don't. Communication is essential
Equity theory is based on perceptions and managers should be aware of this. Two employees might be rewarded exactly the same but might not perceive it the same due to different standards of living for both employees
Managers can control what the outcomes are for employees in their employment but it's difficult to control employees comparing their reward structure to another similar company. Industry related salaries and reward structures will help minimize the risk
2.1.2 Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y
Theory X and Theory Y was created and developed by Douglas McGregor at MIT in the 1960's. McGregor made the observation that manager's perception of employees will ultimately influence their behavior. These perceptions were either classified as Theory X or Theory Y.
McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y
Theory X: Assumptions about Employees
Theory Y: Assumptions about Employees
Dislike work and avoid it
Work is important and natural
No ambition, responsibility
Will seek and accept responsibility
Not particularly intelligent
Have imagination and creativity
Needs to be threatened
Committed to organizational vision
Focused on security
Problems with Theory X:
Managers believe that all problems result in the blaming of someone
Managers use money as the main motivation
Management and Leadership is based on threats and punishment
Employees need to be controlled through rules and processes
A state of conflict rules the workforce
Theory Y has the following management implications:
Manager acts as a consultant and mentor to employees
Managers tend to give employees freedom to perform to the best of their abilities
Manager tend to involve employees in the decision making process
Managers are more open and have a positive view on employees
Managers believe that the satisfaction in doing a good job might be enough of a motivator
According to Adair (2007:66) managers should always treat employees as if they are great
Keeping employees motivated is a challenging and very often a difficult task, hence the reason why we have so many motivational theories available to us.
Each of the motivation theories discussed explains motivation in a slightly different manner. As was pointed out to the reader most of the strategies have positives, negatives, strengths and weaknesses associated with them. Not one of the theories discussed in this paper offered a comprehensive solution to motivating employees.
Managers must take note and understand of all the motivational theories discussed. Collectively they form a great base as to where from a manager draw inspiration from.