The joy of giving in a firm

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The 'Joy of Giving' mainly emphasizes a number of ways to reward the employees on a small scale, which has proven to be more effective than large bonuses for many companies. In companies, when the need to make every employee feel an important part of the organization becomes a priority, such gestures which are on an individual or group level play a vital role in fulfilling the need. This are also known as "Motivators" as they help in boosting the morale of employees and keeps them motivated and driven to fulfill the organization's goals , along with their own personal goals.

Motivation is the result of the internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be interested in and committed to a job, role, or subject and to exert persistent effort in attaining a goal. It results from factors like the intensity of desire or need, the incentive or reward value of the goal and the expectations of the individual.

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There are many motivation theories which support the gift giving behavior in the Joy of Giving, however, the study conducted in this paper will be of three of the renowned studies, and discuss them in detail while critically analyzing the methods used in the case study.

Frederick Herzberg's Two Factor theory (Kalleberg, A., 1977, pp. 124-143) about the motivation of the employees relates to that certain factors in the work place, which according to him lead to the presence of Job Satisfaction in employees in an organization. The specific factors might vary for every individual; the presence of these will motivate employees and the absence of these would lead to de-motivation among the employees. They will not add much value when they are present, but will cause a lot of damage psychologically to the employees which can result in lower productivity and level of output for the employees. However, they can be distinguished into two major categories, which include:

Motivators

These include the factors which lead to positive satisfaction. The main motivators for most people would be challenging work which requires effort and the successful completion of the tasks would lead to a sense of achievement. This sense of achievement is important according to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Also, recognition of work well done would also be a motivating factor, as the employees get acknowledged for the work they do. This gives them the confidence that the work they do is being noticed and is given importance by the organization.

Hygiene Factors

The other type of factor is the hygiene factor which includes elements like salary, job security, status and fringe benefits. These are the factors, when missing from the organization give immense dissatisfaction to the employees.

This Motivator-Hygiene Theory supports the gift giving behavior in the companies mentioned in the Joy of Living. The employees of Brassiere retailer, Bravissimo, have to deal with customers on a regular basis, and in the service industry, the higher the level of service, the higher the customer loyalty, the better the sales. Therefore, it is even more important in the service industry that the employees understand and implement the vision and the mission of the company policy.

There is a difference in fulfilling the job description and taking ownership of the job and going beyond by doing what is best for the organization. The extra mile is taken by the employees when they know they will be rewarded and recognized for it. For this, the company needs to keep the employees satisfied and motivated. One way of doing this, according to the Herzberg's Two Factor Theory is by providing them with motivators, like the little gifts that Bravissimo is already giving to its employees. Bravissimo does not randomly hand out gifts, it's a part of the well thought out strategy. They give gifts when at the times when the employee needs to be made felt special. Holiday times, birthdays always have the soft corner in everyone's lives, and when noticed and celebrated by small, thoughtful gestures like a bottle of champagne, chocolate snowmen at Christmas, etc., by the company leads to a strong goodwill, and a loyalty, which is rarely replaceable by generic bonuses to all.

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The additional factor that Bravissimo takes into account is the factor that it takes feedback from the employees to keep its gift giving up to date, and in tune with the needs of the employees, and corrects its policy wherever its employees feel it is lacking.

Another theory that supports the acts of companies like Peppermint PR, which is a communications firm and gives out special rewards to an employee working harder than usual, or going beyond their job description, is the positive reinforcement theory which is a part of the Operant Conditioning.

Operant Conditioning is when the environment is operated upon, and the consequences are then maintained. In simpler words, a few factors in the environment are changed, which then leads to the required behavior. The four contexts of the Operant conditioning are listed and discussed below in an organizational setting.

Positive Reinforcement

This is a form of reinforcement which is used to encourage certain wanted behavior of the employees. For example, the employer would want the employees to go the extra mile to provide better services to their customers, achieve the necessary goal in the time allocated, etc. Such behavior is encouraged by the organization, when it is followed by a stimulus that is rewarding to the employees, which then leads to a repetition in that behavior. For example, a difficult task when achieved within the deadline by an employee can be awarded with an additional bonus, or the effort can be acknowledged at the Reward and Recognition Night of the Company.

Negative Reinforcement

Such reinforcement is to again encourage certain behavior, but instead of rewarding, it continuously gives a negative stimulus, which is only removed when the certain required behavior is achieved. For example, in the case of an employee, s/he will have a portion of his salary removed till s/he is able to achieve the task at hand within the time allocated to the employee and with the resources allocated.

Positive Punishment

Positive Punishment is used to discourage an action, this occurs when an action is followed by an unwanted reaction. For example, if an employee falls short on the job, the supervisor can then have a meeting with him/her to give him/her a warning. This will ensure that the employee does not slack off on the job again.

Negative Punishment

This is to discourage an action by taking away a wanted stimulus. For example, a portion of the salary will be deducted from the employee's paycheck, followed by an unwanted behavior.

Keeping in accordance with the Positive Reinforcement theory from Operant Conditioning, the Peppermint PR gives out thoughtful gifts to appreciate some work, or extra help that an employee provided to the organization, or to another employee, as stated by Carolyn Axtell "To be singled out….more likely to motivate someone to repeat same positive actions". The factor that Peppermint PR keeps as most important is that individuals should be highlighted, and the gifts should be given soon after the positive behavior demonstrated.

According to the Alderfer's ERG theory (Boshoff, C. & Arnold, C., 2002, pg. 677- 719) there are three types of needs, existence, relatedness needs and growth needs. Existence refers to basic needs that are required for an employee to keep working. Relatedness need refers to the social environment that an employee craves for. Growth refers to the desire for the personal achievement that an employees from a job. A basic salary covers the basic needs, a thriving office environment and culture covers the relatedness needs, whereas, the reward and recognition which leads to the sense of achievement is the highest stage of the three needs. Growth need is very important, and small token of appreciation, such as the gift giving in the companies, can also be used to create that necessary sense of achievement which motivates the employees and drives them to further achieve goals and tasks allocated to them.

The gift giving behavior of the companies mentioned, is supported by all three theories. Every theory accepts the need of the basic factor which makes employees join the labor force and an organization, however, more than that is required to keep the employee satisfied, motivated and productive. The pushing factor may vary for different employees in different organizations, however, the gift giving behavior is enjoyed and appreciated by the employees of the above mentioned companies.

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Reward defined in simple terms is the return for service, or merit. The reward in order to be effective, and noticed, needs to be tangible enough to be seen as recognition of the service or merit.

One of the myths from Pffeffer (1998 b, pp. 9-13), is that people work for money. This myth has been believed by people for centuries now. That has been the reason why to reward employees; the employers give the employees the bonuses or raises in the salaries. However, according to the Alderfer's ERG theory (2002, pp.677-719), after the existence needs have been fulfilled, other needs like relatedness and growth need to be fulfilled, otherwise, there is no satisfaction in the job. The basic salary is the existence need, but other needs also need to be catered to, to keep the employee motivated. For loyalty, and for rewarding employees, companies like Madgex appreciate the work of the employees with cakes. Such gestures are said to cater to the other needs of the employees, which a basic salary does not fulfill.

Hawthorne Studies (Frank & Kaul, 1978, pp. 623-643), provides a theory quite contrary to the one which has been implemented by Madgex. Hawthorne Studies cut out the breaks of the employees, and brought the women back to longer working hours. This, contrary to popular belief, instead of reducing productivity, it gradually increased it. When studied in detail, it was concluded that the social environment also helps in the productivity of the employees, where they can create the atmosphere of their own choice, where they can socialize, talk, and enjoy the atmosphere they work in. The raised self-esteem of the employees was the reason why the productivity increased.

The conclusion of the Hawthorne Studies, (Frank & Kaul, 1978) proves that monetary benefits, or material gifts are not always the ones that will lead to an increase in motivation and productivity, a factor like the work environment can also prove to be of great significance. In some cases, to make the employees work harder, factors other than material benefits might need to altered, and in such scenarios, no number of gifts would increase productivity or motivation.

The method of giving gifts, may not be the most appropriate to increase the self esteem of the employees. If the employees perceive the gifts to be of little value, cheap or meaningless, they will not add value to the employees self esteem, and might even prove to be unfavorable. For example, Recruitment manager at Metaswitch believes that generic gifts should be given to the employees as they would have broader appeal. This would have little value for the employees if the gift is as generic as a bonus, and is not even that value adding.

If the employees start perceiving that the gifts are being given to the favorites of the employers, then instead of seeming as a reward, they will start resenting it. If given to too many employees, then the employees who will not receive it will be de-motivated and it might raise a level of frustration. A similar policy is followed at Bravissimo where "little-and-often" approach is followed while giving out gifts. When these rewards come too often, they become expected and lose their value, and the reason for the gift giving gets nullified. This, instead of increasing motivation will decrease the morale of the employees.

There are advantages of giving gifts to employees, but there are also cons if the gift giving strategy is not thoroughly thought out and major factors like the time interval and the number of recipients is not considered. If handled well, the gifts can lift morale, if not, and then it can lead to adverse consequences for the organization and the self esteem of the employees.