There is an old saying, “You can lead a horse to drink, but you can’t make it drink.” That’s right, you can’t make Blacky drink. If Blacky doesn’t want to drink, Blacky won't drink. The same applies to employees. You can show employees how to do something or request that they follow a certain policy, but you can’t make them to it. The key question for us then is, “How do we motivate employees to do the work and to follow what is expected?” The simple answer to that question is clear: we can’t motivate anyone. Yet everyone is motivated, but they are motivated for their reasons and not ours. So the foundational principles to motivation becomes: a) understand what motivates people; and, b) create a work climate for positive motivation.
Now here is the kicker. Not everyone is motived in the same way. What motivates me, doesn’t necessarily motivate you. We may be driven by different motivators. However there are a few general factors that encourage a motivated workforce. So in order to create a motivational environment two factors are at play: 1) what motivates a specific individual, and 2) what are the general motivational elements we can developed within the workplace that will encourage one to become motivated.
First let’s try to define motivation. Motivation relates to the internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested in and committed to a job, role, or subject, and to exert persistent effort in attaining a goal.
Generally motivation results from interactions among conscious and unconscious factors such as the 1) intensity of desire or need, 2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and 3) expectations of the individual and of his or her employer, team leader or supervisor. *
Motivation then boils down to the reason or reasons someone has for acting or behaving in a particular way, and, the general desire or willingness to do something.
Our motivational behaviors can be influenced by several factors: cultural, socio-economic, up-bringing, and recent research suggests by the neural programming of our brain.
Nearly everything we do is driven by a motivational force. Our internal drives and needs lead to tension, which turn into some sort of action. The need for water results into thirst which motivates us to drink.
Negative and positive motivational forces could include such factors as force (coercion) fear, influence, need, and desire. Depending how coercion, fear and influence are used, they could be negative or positive forces that act as drivers. For example a fear (negative force) of bodily injury could be used to implement a safety program (positive result).
These forces can be packaged as extrinsic and intrinsic motivational drivers.
Extrinsic motivation: Occurrences such as rewards, punishments, circumstances and situations which move us to action or behavior change. The force for extrinsic motivation may be positive or negative. Types of extrinsic forces include fear and incentives and at first appear negative e.g. “you do this or else;” “you do this, and you get that.” But fear motivates us when we are in danger, and an incentive may motivate to achieve. Usually fear and incentive motivation in the workplace are not long lasting.
Intrinsic motivation: Doing something for its own sake without any obvious external incentive for doing so. For example: one wants to master public speaking for its own sake and not connected to any reward.
An intrinsic motivational force may also be positive or negative depending on one’s need or perceived by another, for instance: I am motivated to sleep longer in the morning, which I perceive as good for my health, but viewed negatively by my employer if I am late for work.
Types of Motivation
So what are some of motivational drivers that may affect our motivational behaviour.
Achievement Motivation: An intrinsic desire to go after and achieve goals. Here an individual is up-ward mobile and wishes to achieve objectives and advance on the ladder to success. A sense of accomplishment is important for its own sake and not for the rewards that accompany it. “To be the best” is their motto.
Affiliation Motivation: An intrinsic drive for social relationships. People with this type of motivation work best with compliments about their favorable attitudes and co-operation.
Competence Motivation: An intrinsic drive to be good at something. The individual wants to do quality work. People with competence motivation what to take mastery over the job and take pride in solving problems and find creative solutions when obstacles are in their way. They are good at learning from experience.
Power Motivation: An intrinsic drive that pushes people to change a situation. These people want to create an impact in the workplace and are not afraid to take risks.
Attitude Motivation: An intrinsic drive based on feelings. It relates to self-confidence, belief in one self, their attitude towards life and how they view the future and how they react to their past.
Incentive Motivation: An intrinsic individual or team drive to reap a reward from some form of activity. “you do this, and you get that” sort of mentality. They look for awards, certificates, prizes, incentives to work harder.
Fear Motivation: An extrinsic force that coerces someone to act against their will. It is immediate, gets the job done but doesn’t last in the long term.
There are over a dozen theories which attempt to explain motivation. Each has their place, but each is limited in scope. However taken together we can find some generic ideas that give us a better understanding of motivation as a whole. I will leave a review of these motivational theories for another time. For now here are three common ones you may wish to look up at your leisure: Jeremy Bentham’s Carrot and Stick Approach, Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Theory, and Douglas McGregor’s Theory “X” and Theory “Y”
Tips for creating a Motivational Environment
Here are twelve tips for creating a motivational environment that I have found work well within any organization.
Thank you for reading,
Richard P Fontanie.