Category Archives: Employee Attitudes

Creating Motivation? Or Creating Conditions Conducive to Motivation?

Countless leaders have wrestled with the issues of motivation. How do I motivate this or that employee? How do I increase collective motivation throughout my office, department, or organization?

These questions address important workplace realities. But are the foundations of such inquiry sound? Do leaders actually motivate employees at all?

Research has suggested that a great deal workplace motivation stems from a relatively small number of sources – things like opportunities for achievement and recognition, the enjoyment of work itself, opportunities for increased responsibility, and personal growth and development.

Such studies further suggest that true motivation is not something that can be given from the outside. A sense of achievement in work well done, the satisfaction of increasing responsibility, the pleasure of doing an enjoyed task—none of these can leaders give directly to employees, like they would a raise or a benefit package.

Rather motivation comes only from within each individual person. Leaders can create the conditions in which motivation flourishes, but they never create motivation directly.

Put simply, leaders don’t motivate employees. They create cultures and environments in which employees’ inherent motivation manifests itself.

What does this mean in practice?

It means that people have good reasons for wanting to work. We want to contribute to meaningful goals. We want to be thanked and appreciated for the efforts we contribute. We want our capacities are fully utilized.

This intrinsic drive seems to lie at the heart of W. Edward Deming’s comment that excellence is 100% voluntary. His words suggest that rarely, if ever, will managers be able to “motivate” employees to excellence through the brute force of sanctions and rewards.

What they can do is create conditions in which employees are inspired to voluntarily give their all to a project or goal they believe in.

Viewing employees as unwilling partners in need of motivation, leaders place themselves in the position of continually “pushing the rope” toward excellence.

But with an understanding of the basic human desire for meaningful endeavor, leaders can embark on the far more exciting prospect of unleashing and harnessing the human spirit already filling their workplace.

What Motivates People? (3 of 3)

Previously this series examined those environmental factors that most led to motivation and inhibited it. These might seem like two sides of the same coin, but there are indications that the two are less intertwined than one might guess. Research conducted by Frederick Herzberg suggested that, rather than opposing ends of the same spectrum, they… Continue Reading

What Motivates People? (2 of 3)

We previously explored research that Frederick Herzberg did on primary sources of workplace motivation —  things like achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, and growth and development. These findings are valuable in themselves, but Herzberg didn’t stop there. He also asked employees to describe times they had been particularly dissatisfied, uninterested, and unengaged in their work.… Continue Reading

What Motivates People? (1 of 3)

Motivation is a central workplace concern. Countless leaders ponder what stimulates it, how can it be sustained, how is it destroyed. Luckily such questions caught the attention of Frederick Herzberg, an American psychologist who became one of the foremost authorities on business management. Herzberg explored the issue of motivation through hundreds of in-depth, open-ended interviews.… Continue Reading

Motivation, Culture and “Bad Attitude” Employees

Almost nothing is more frequently lamented in management circles than “bad attitude” employees, those people it seems nothing can be done with. It’s true that few workplace dynamics are harder to address than antagonism, apathy and hostility. But rarely mentioned is the role that sincere and well-meaning leaders can play in creating such “bad attitude”… Continue Reading

Employees, Donkeys, and Getting Things Done

In some ways, motivation is less complicated than one might imagine. Involving people in decisions that impact them, recognizing the value of their contributions, giving them opportunities to assume responsibility in meaningful ways — study after study has shown the importance of factors like these. Yet countless workplaces fail to supply such sources of motivation.… Continue Reading

Perceptions, Authority, and Perceptions of Authority

Managers today often perceive relatively little hierarchical “distance” between them and their subordinates. Yes, they might shoulder certain responsibilities and make the final call in certain situations. But they generally see themselves as part of the team. That perception, though, is in many ways a consequence of the very authority they hold (and their subordinates… Continue Reading

Guest Blog: Involvement and the Thinking and Judgement of Others

I have recently been using the Hanging the Mirror: The Discipline of Reflective Leadership in my leadership coaching and consulting work. After reading the book at my suggestion, a leader in one of my client organizations had the self-awareness and courage to tell me that he believed he was doing a poor job in the… Continue Reading

How Culture Can Make (or Break) a Business

Think organizational culture is limited to the formality of dress and the length of coffee breaks? Think again. Culture shapes innumerable aspects of workplace functioning, everything from how information is shared and news is spread to how mistakes are handled and questions are received. But almost  no facet of organizational performance is more impacted by… Continue Reading

© Copyright 1999-2012 Management Associates. All rights reserved.