Dear all,

Came across this article by Kellie Fowler.

Within every organization lies the opportunity for employee performance improvement. And, if you're a manager or in upper level administration, motivating your team is a must: it can be one of the quickest ways to increase the bottom line of your business.

Because of this, a great deal of time and effort has been invested in motivation practice and theories. Despite the various researchers who have worked to understand exactly what motivates us and the numerous theories that have been applied, one common denominator prevails: To understand motivation, one must first understand human nature.

We will dive into the various theories (theory y, theory z, achievement motivation and two factor motivation hygiene theory (some of which is touched on in this article)) in the second article of this series. But for now, we will work to understand that motivation in the workplace may best be defined as performance improvement.

So, just how can you increase motivation, improve employee performance and sit back and watch your bottom line grow?

Perhaps we should start with the old saying: "You can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink". The same is true for people. Thus, making the first step in this direction one that ensures your employees and/or your colleagues want to be motivated.

While it seems that some people are born with higher levels of motivation than others, this is not always the case. In fact, it has been proven that motivation is a skill, one that must be mastered to achieve success.

Motivation - A Key Contributor to Performance

Thus, performance is considered to be a function of ability and motivation. You can think of it as a simple equation

Job performance = ability x motivation

Ability is hinged, to some degree, on education, experience and training. This makes improvement a continual, lengthy process. By contrast, motivation can be quickly improved.

There are a handful of very basic, broad strategies that exist to improve it. These include:

a.. Positive reinforcement

b.. Effective discipline

c.. Treating people fairly

d.. Satisfying employee needs

e.. Setting attainable work-related goals

f.. Restructuring jobs when necessary

g.. Rewards that are based on performance

While motivation practices will vary widely from workplace to workplace, these are the areas you should draw on when looking to improve performance, hence motivation.

Frederick Herzberg's Findings

Now, it's worth going into a bit of theory here. One can look to Frederick Herzberg, a well-respected researcher who closely studied the sources of employee motivation in the 1950s and 1960s, to find answers relating to job satisfaction and employee satisfaction. While Herzberg's studies were conducted some time ago, they are strongly respected and underpin much of our current view of motivation.

As he found, the things that make people satisfied and motivated on the job are different in kind from the things that make them dissatisfied (or act as de-motivators), which points to a trend which is exactly opposite of the motivators commonly put in place in the modern workplace, i.e. compensation and incentive packages.

For, as discussed in his classic article in the Harvard Business Review ("One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?", January - February 1968), Herzberg determined that spiralling wages may very well serve to motivate employees; however, it may very well only be motivating the employees to seek the next wage increase and nothing more.

In fact, Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory, drawn originally from an examination of events in the lives of engineers and accountants and later paired with at least 16 other studies that utilized a broader sampling of professionals, suggests that the factors that determine job satisfaction (and serve to motivate) are "separate and distinct from the factors that lead to job dissatisfaction." Hence, the opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction, but rather no job satisfaction. Conclusively, the opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but no job satisfaction.

According to Herzberg, the factors to consider when working to enhance job satisfaction and motivation include:

a.. Achievement

b.. Recognition for Achievement

c.. Work Itself

d.. Responsibility

e.. Growth

f.. Advancement

And the factors which cause most dissatisfaction (Herzberg's "hygiene factors") include:

a.. Company Policy

b.. Administration

c.. Supervision

d.. Interpersonal Relationships

e.. Working Conditions

f.. Salary

g.. Status

h.. Security

So managers should seek to motivate people by giving opportunities for and celebrating achievement, and helping individuals enjoy and grow in their jobs. And they should actively minimize the bureaucracy and petty irritations that organizations often unthinkingly inflict on employees.

Herzberg concluded that motivators are the primary cause of satisfaction, and hygiene factors are the primary cause of unhappiness in the workplace. Taking an example: people are often only temporarily motivated by an increase in salary, however they can become very demotivated if they think salaries are too low or if they're earning less than their peers.

Now, it's easy to pass over this information without absorbing its significance.

Instead, pause for a moment and put aside your current assumptions about other people's motivations. Reflect on how you feel yourself. Isn't this true for you? Don't you get your greatest satisfaction from doing a good job, being recognised for it, and from growing your capabilities?

And aren't you most demotivated by the frustrations of bureaucracy, organizational stupidity, politics and being "taken advantage of"?

As it is for you, so it is for most other people.

A Surprising Summary

If you're a manager, you already know that an important part of your job is to motivate your team. In so many cases, the level of motivation of your team is a huge factor in its performance.

The role of motivating or "job enrichment" is, as Herzberg determined, more than a single project, instead calling on continuous efforts from management. In working to do this, managers should:

a.. Where possible, enrich jobs so that they offer a level of challenge equal to the skills of the person that was hired;

b.. Work to ensure those with ability are able to demonstrate it, and can win promotion to higher-level jobs; and

c.. Understand that the very nature of motivators (as opposed to hygiene factors) is that they have a much longer-term effect on employees' attitudes.

Obviously, not all jobs can be enriched, nor do all jobs need to be enriched. As Herzberg concluded, if a small percentage of the time and money that is dedicated to hygiene was instead allocated to his motivating factors, the return in employee satisfaction and motivation, as well as economic gain, would be one of "the largest dividends that industry and society have ever reaped.."

Now, time to put this into practice. How are you going to motivate your team? How will you make good motivation a routine part of your approach to management?

Adams' Equity Theory-

Balancing Employee Inputs and Outputs

Why Use the Tool?

Adams' Equity Theory calls for a fair balance to be struck between an employee's inputs (hard work, skill level, tolerance, enthusiasm, etc.) and an employee's outputs (salary, benefits, intangibles such as recognition, etc.). According to the theory, finding this fair balance serves to ensure a strong and productive relationship is achieved with the employee, with the overall result being contented, motivated employees.

The Theory Summarized:

The Adams' Equity Theory is named for John Stacey Adams, a workplace and behavioral psychologist, who developed this job motivation theory in 1963. Much like many of the more prevalent theories of motivation (theories by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg's Theory, etc.), the Adams' Equity Theory acknowledges that subtle and variable factors affect an employee's assessment and perception of their relationship with their work and their employer.

The theory is built-on the belief that employees become de-motivated, both in relation to their job and their employer, if they feel as though their inputs are greater than the outputs. Employees can be expected to respond to this is different ways, including de-motivation (generally to the extent the employee perceives the disparity between the inputs and the outputs exist), reduced effort, becoming disgruntled, or, in more extreme cases, perhaps even disruptive.

How to apply the Adams' Equity Theory:

It is important to also consider the Adams' Equity Theory factors when striving to improve an employee's job satisfaction, motivation level, etc., and what can be done to promote higher levels of each.

To do this, consider the balance or imbalance that currently exists between your employee's inputs and outputs, as follows:

Inputs typically include:

a.. Effort

b.. Loyalty

c.. Hard Work

d.. Commitment

e.. Skill

f.. Ability

g.. Adaptability

h.. Flexibility

i.. Tolerance

j.. Determination

k.. Enthusiasm

l.. Trust in superiors

m.. Support of colleagues

n.. Personal sacrifice, etc.

Outputs typically include:

a.. Financial rewards (salary, benefits, perks, etc.)

b.. Intangibles that typically include:

a.. Recognition

b.. Reputation

c.. Responsibility

d.. Sense of Achievement

e.. Praise

f.. Stimulus

g.. Sense of Advancement/Growth

h.. Job Security

While obviously many of these points can't be quantified and perfectly compared, the theory argues that managers should seek to find a fair balance between the inputs that an employee gives, and the outputs received.

And according to the theory, employees should be content where they perceive these to be in balance.

Key Points:

Much like the five levels of needs determined by Maslow and the two factors of motivation as classified by Herzberg (intrinsic and extrinsic), the Adams' Equity Theory of motivation states that positive outcomes and high levels of motivation can be expected only when employees perceive their treatment to be fair. An employee's perception of this may include many factors (see outputs above). The idea behind Adams' Equity Theory is to strike a healthy balance here, with outputs on one side of the scale; inputs on the other - both weighing in a way that seems reasonably equal.

If the balance lies too far in favor of the employer, some employees may work to bring balance between inputs and outputs on their own, by asking for more compensation or recognition. Others will be demotivated, and still others will seek alternative employment.



From India, Pune

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Hi Rajat,
Good article. Am waiting to read the continuation of it. Would be better if you could cite case studies/ examples so that the theories can be better understood in relation to today's practices and applied in our daily work situations.
Warm regards,

From India, Bellary

A useful dip in to some of the more classical thinking on motivation theory. Thank you for the posting.

A suggestion - in keeping with the rules of the forum about not copying articles from other sources, but making reference to the article (e.g. web address, book or journal article e.g. "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to The Universe" by Douglas Adams, published by the BBC, 1978, London)

This is a long post, and whilst I am just as guilty as the next person in not doing what I'm about to suggest, I'm going to suggest it anyway!!

At the start of a long article, please provide a brief summary of what it's about, why it's interesting, and whom might be interested in it. That way the reader can decide BEFORE reading it whether it is going to be useful to spend time reading it, or to read something else. I find it a pain discovering at the end of an article that sounded it may be useful, that after 10 mins of reading, it isn't.

I'd like to be able to get hold of the entire article, in its original context - for which I'll need the full reference.

I'm not sure which part of the article is Rajat's, and which is Kellie's. From Kellie's perspective this appears to be copyright infringement, irrespective of the good intentions.

It would also be interesting to have the poster's own view on the article - so what are Rajat's own views? Now they may well be contained in the article, but as this isn't made clear, is it right to assume that Rajat didn't provide any?

Kind regards


From United Kingdom,

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