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Case Study: Whinslo Ltd.

Motivation is the process of encouraging yourself and others to work in order to achieve personal goals or objectives of the organization. A systematic study of motivation from a psychological point of view does not allow to determine what exactly motivates people to work. However, the study of human behavior in work process gives some general explanations of motivation and allows to create a pragmatic model of employee motivation at the workplace.

For the effective implementation of motivation, a modern manager should deeply understand and distinguish the whole range of needs of an individual, their place in the process of motivation, their hierarchy and connection. Researching this problem, the current paper presents the basic principles, comparison and evaluation of processual motivation theories (equity theory, expectancy theory), and content theories of motivation by Abraham Maslow and Frederick Herzberg, applying them to the management of organization, in particular to the case of Lesley Watt.

Special contribution to the theory of motivation was made by Abraham Maslow, who developed the hierarchy of human needs.

According to Maslow’s motivation theory, the first stage in the rank of needs belongs to physiological needs, required for the survival of an individual (need for air, food, water, rest, and sexual needs). The second stage includes the needs for safety and confidence in the future. The third stage is taken by social needs, sometimes referred to as the needs for belonging to anyone or anything. The next stage of Maslow’s hierarchy is presented by the need for respect, including needs for self-esteem, competence, and recognition. The needs for self-realization and personal growth are put in the fifth and the last stage (Maslow 1970).

The theory runs that all needs can be grouped into a hierarchical sequence; i.e. the needs of lower levels require priority satisfaction, and therefore, affect person’s behavior before the needs of higher levels start affecting the motivation. In other words, before proceeding to satisfy higher needs, the person satisfies the needs of a lower level (Maslow 1970).

Although Maslow’s theory of needs has provided management with a useful description of the process of motivation, the subsequent tests have not fully confirmed it. People can be divided into quite common categories according to their needs of higher or lower levels, but the clear five-stage hierarchical structure of needs proposed by Maslow does not apparently exist. The concept of the most important needs hasn’t also received full confirmation; tests showed that the satisfaction of one need doesn’t automatically lead to the activation of the next level needs as a motivator (Beck 2003).

At the same time, the main claim to Maslow’s theory is that it does not take into account individual differences between people. For example, many people, who grew up during the Great Depression, are still characterized through the dominance of the need for security, despite their high level of welfare.

Another psychological theory of motivation was established by Frederick Herzberg in the late 1950’s. According to his two-factor theory, along with certain factors that cause work satisfaction there is a certain set of factors that cause dissatisfaction from work. In the result of experiments, Herzberg concluded that there are two main categories of factors in evaluating the degree of satisfaction from the performed work: hygiene factors (salary, company policy and administration, relationships with co-workers and managers, physical environment, supervision, working conditions) and motivator factors (achievement, recognition, responsibility, opportunities for career growth) (Herzberg, 1993).

Hygiene factors are associated with the environment, in which the work is performed. According to Herzberg’s theory, the absence or lack of hygiene factors leads to dissatisfaction with the job. But at the same time, if they are sufficient, they do not cause satisfaction by themselves and are not able to motivate a person to certain actions (Herzberg, 1993).

The absence of motivators, as they relate to the nature and essence of the work as such, does not lead to dissatisfaction, but their presence is sufficiently gratifying and motivating employees to the necessary actions and improves the efficiency. The concept is based on the assumption that employees should be personally interested in the performance of a particular job, and then the work itself will be the leading motivator factor (Herzberg, 1993).

Herzberg’s motivation theory has much in common with the theory of Maslow. Hygiene factors correspond to Maslow’s stages of physiological needs, needs for security and confidence in the future; motivator factors are comparable with the needs of higher levels presented by Maslow. But, these two theories are divided at one point. Maslow considered hygiene factors as something that causes a particular line of behavior. Herzberg, in contrast, believes that an employee starts paying attention to hygiene factors, only when their implementation is inadequate.

Despite the fact that the core positions of Herzberg’s theory found wide application, it also faced a lot of criticism. Several authors pointed out that one and the same factor may cause satisfaction of one man with his work and dissatisfaction of another one, and vice versa. The conclusion was made: what can motivate one person may not motivate another person, i.e. different people are motivated by different factors (Beck 2003).

Critics of the two-factor theory also noted that the motivation has a probabilistic nature and depends on the situation. The factors, that motivate a person in one situation, may have no impact in another situation. The theory doesn’t take into account the influence of many variables on the situation (Beck 2003).

Subsequently, scientists have concluded that in order to explain the mechanism of motivation a variety of behavioral aspects should be taken into account. This led to the creation of processual theories of motivation.

One of them, the expectancy theory, often associated with the works of Victor Vroom, is based on the position that the presence of an active need is not the only prerequisite for motivating person to achieve a certain goal. One should also hope that the selected type of behavior will lead to the satisfaction or achievement of the desired object (Vroom 1994).

In analyzing motivation to work, the expectancy theory emphasizes the importance of three interrelations: “labour inputs – results”; “results – reward”; and “reward – valence” (satisfaction with the reward). Expectation with regard to these relations is the correlation between efforts and results, result and reward, reward and its value (Vroom 1994).

If employees feel that there is no direct connection between effort and results, motivation will decrease, according to the theory of expectations. The lack of interrelation may occur in the result of employee’s incorrect self-esteem, poor or improper training, or due to the fact that an employee wasn’t given enough rights to perform the task. Similarly, if a person is confident that the results are rewarded properly, but these results cannot be achieved with reasonable inputs, the motivation will also be weak.

Managers, trying to improve motivation, are provided with useful tips due to the expectancy theory. For example, as people have the variety of needs, one and the same reward is estimated in different ways; so managers should correlate it with needs of each concrete employee. In addition, for effective motivation it is important to establish a clear relationship between results and rewards, i.e. to reward people for the effective work and to deprive of compensation for bad one (Buchanan & Huczynski 2004).

Managers should establish high but realistic expectations regarding the results of their subordinates’ activity and try to convince them that they are able to achieve these results, putting maximum effort. The way employees evaluate their strength greatly depends on what managers expects from them (Mullins 2007).

In general, researches confirm the correctness of the expectancy theory. However, some of its critics believe it is necessary to conduct studies that would take individual and organizational contextual factors into account, while others require further development of technical, conceptual and methodological aspects of this theory (Cervone et al. 2006).

One of the most popular and widely used theories of motivation is the equity theory, which postulates that people subjectively determine the correlation of the received reward to their efforts, and then relate it to rewards of other people performing similar work. If the comparison shows imbalance and injustice, i.e. a person believes that his colleague received more pay for the same job, the psychological tension appears. As a result, it is important to motivate this employee, release the tension and correct the imbalance in order to restore justice (the motive of justice) (Young 1995).

The main conclusion of the equity theory for the practice of management is that until employees start believing they receive fair compensation, they will tend to reduce the intensity of labor. Studies show that typically, when people think they are underpaid, they begin to work less intensively. If they think they are overpaid, they are less inclined to change their behavior and activities (Pierce, Cameron & Banko 2003).

Since the labor productivity among the staff, considering their pay is unfair, will reduce, they should be explained why there is such a difference. If it is formed due to different labor efficiency, it is necessary to explain the staff earning less that when their performance reaches the level of their colleagues, they will receive the same reward increase (Mullins 2007).

The peculiarity of the abovementioned approaches is that they are trying to consider motivational process from the inside, not taking into account the fact that motivation as such, is a part of organizational climate, a complicated and relatively independent system of human relations. Consideration of motivation in that perspective might be called a systemic-functional approach, or even a special theory of motivation.

Motivation through personal needs is a creative process, which bears a probabilistic and individual character, changing in time and depending on each particular situation.

Regarding the case of Lesley Watt, an accounting department employee in Whinslo Ltd., the situation could be discussed both from the viewpoint of personal needs and from the viewpoint of expectation. First, it should be mentioned that Lesley initially belongs to the rare group of employees with strong inner motivation: from the first day of working in the company she tried to show her abilities, serious approach, rational mind and desire to work.

Looking at the case through the prism of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Lesley Watt has successfully reached the third stage, having satisfied her social needs by making friends with some of her colleagues. Now the employee needed recognition, respect and self-realization, which is proved by her desire to discover better ways of handling invoice and requisition flows and providing Mr. Foreman with them. According to Herzberg, for Lesley her job could easily be a motivator as such, which in fact happens in rare cases. But the employee actually shows enjoyment with the work even in situation she finds herself in.

The most important explanation of the case is covered by processual theories. For the whole year Lesley lived with the expectation of proper reward for her productivity improvement ideas, but she not only was deprived of verbal praise, but also received an annual merit increase equal to other employees’ percents. Her reward was no more corresponding to her expectations; and the motivation decreased. Besides, the fact that John Ford, a new employee, received a higher reward according to some inadequate and unknown criterion pushed the process of psychological tension and personal imbalance.

Motivation really enhances the basic productivity. Highly motivated staff actually works better. Organizations, whose employees work well, in general show better results; and the change in attitude of employees to work increases the profitability of the company. According to abovementioned conceptions, it’s easy to identify the steps that would help Mr. Foreman to improve the motivation in his company and increase the efficiency:

1. The employees should be aware of the criteria they are estimated by and clearly understand the company’s reward system, which should be an objective one. Besides it’s important to teach them how to estimate their own efforts and the degree of their success. Employees, who constantly monitor their activities, are able to observe the growth of their own professionalism, and be realistic about their abilities.

2. Monitoring of the level of motivation is needed in Whinslo Ltd. If managers systematically measure motivation, they will soon learn how to manage it.

3. Mr. Foreman should improve social contacts with his employees. It’s impossible to increase the motivation of people without talking to them.

4. Manager should find an individual approach, but not estimate and reward everybody equally. Different employees have different goals, and therefore, they need to be provided with different opportunities for work and professional growth.

5. A bank of ideas could also be created. It would motivate more employees to share their ideas, and even if some of them can’t be implemented, they could be appropriately honored by placing them in a bank.

6. Mr. Foreman could reward his subordinates in smaller amounts, but more frequently. In most companies, a common practice is to give employees valuable awards and pay large premiums on the completion of the project, quarter or year. These events are rare and attract attention of all employees. But they usually influence motivation less than not that big, but more frequent rewards (Burns 1994).

7. Besides, there could be implemented the idea of increasing the importance of work. If an employee knows exactly how the results of his activity will be used, he begins to feel the importance of his own work, which stimulates him to the implementation of work with good quality.

Thus, motivation of company’s staff is based on individual needs; it’s a very delicate and difficult work, requiring a large volume of relevant knowledge and skills. In order to motivate employees properly, a manager should have a clear idea of different categories of needs and their     interrelation. In addition, the careful study of concrete employees is significant in order to identify their personal needs and personal priorities. It is necessary to take into consideration individual and national differences in the structure of needs, the specifics of mentality, culture, and social group.

Proper application of theoretical knowledge in this area in practice will enable managers achieve the goals of the organization quickly and efficiently through effective motivation, and give the organization a competitive advantage.

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