Motivation in the Workplace
To understand what is best for employees it is essential to know what motivation is and its factors and application in the workplace. Motivation is defined as the process that accounts for an individual’s intensity, direction, and persistence of effort toward reaching a goal. This definition can be expanded to those three elements listed above: intensity, persistence, and direction. Intensity is the level of effort an employee has, direction is where the employee is channeling their efforts, and persistence is how long an employee can maintain effort.
Motivation is often viewed incorrectly as a personal trait, some have it, some do not, but this is not the case. Along these lines, two theories have been proposed with distinctly different views of employees. Theory X, which is primarily negative, suggests employees don’t enjoy work, will try to avoid it, and view employment as a means to get by. On the latter, Theory Y, which is primarily positive, indicates that employees like work, are creative, seek responsibility, and will exercise self-direction if they’re committed to the organizational goals. Neither of these theories fully account for employee behavior, but what is known is that motivation is the result of the interaction of the individual and the situation. For example, someone may be able to finish a novel in one sitting, but struggle to even read an article out of a textbook. It is important to realize that what motivates an individual, may not work for others. Theory X implies that employees are primarily driven by extrinsic motivators, being tangible rewards like bonuses and benefits, and Theory Y suggests that individuals are motivated by interest, challenge, and personal satisfaction. This is easy to assume, but again, motivation is situational.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation is the most widely accepted in organizational behavior, in which he hypothesizes that every individual has a hierarchy of five needs. Maslow predicts that a need that is fully satisfied by the individual no longer motivates, so as each of these needs becomes fulfilled, the next becomes the priority. Maslow’s theory says you must understand where an individual is on the pyramid and focus on pleasing their current
needs. Maslow also explains that not all the needs are satisfied the same way, he divides them into higher-order needs and lower-order needs. Higher-order needs (social/love, esteem, self-actualization) being those that are met intrinsically, and lower-order needs (physiological, safety) being met externally.
A great example of the hierarchy of needs is the holiday turkey, which is a very common gesture. An employee who perhaps is still taking classes towards a degree may look at this as an excellent compensation, as a turkey can go a long way for someone living on a budget. Meeting this employee’s lower-order needs could in-turn motivate the employee and boost productivity in the workplace. An example of a higher order needs that would suit an employee in the tourism industry would be benefits such as a golf membership, or discounted food & beverage rates. Resorts and some Food and Beverage operators offer these perks as a part of a benefits package, but this is another example that is dependant on the demographic of your workplace. Offering discounted room rates is also an incentive that almost any employee can benefit from and it comes at very little cost to the organization.
In conclusion, Maslow’s theory continues to gain recognition among practicing managers because it is logical and easy to understand. When applying this theory into your workplace, keep in mind that needs can change from day to day, and what motivates someone may not work for another. It is important to line up your organizational objective with the needs of your employees to avoid reaching a conclusion that is unfavorable to the employee.
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