‘Motivation’ is perhaps the most used, and at the same time, the most ‘misused’ term in the entire corpus of management literature. Used, because motivation is the lubricant of the machinery of management. Nothing and nobody works, and cannot work, without motivation. Misused, because there are umpteen interpretations of this seemingly innocuous phenomenon. Theoretically defined, motivation is the strong urge or drive that impels an individual to hit targets and achieve goals. In gross practical terms, motivation is probably a fancy term for manipulation. If A is able to make B do A’s work under the illusion that it is B’s own work, this phenomenon is grandiosely referred to as B being motivated by A, but, in effect, it is a sheer case of B being manipulated by A. So, the point being driven home is that this concept called motivation is not as flawless as it is made out to be. There are a large number of contradictions and inconsistencies involved herein, which lead to a lot of grey areas, which can collectively be called motivational complexity.
Motivation has been defined as the drive to move from the present position to the desired position. It is a very complex internal force within human beings. There have been numerous examples of motivation where almost impossible feats have been accomplished in a matter of minutes. There is a military axiom, “It is the man behind the machine that matters.” It signifies the strength of a motivated force and it even holds true in the organisational context. Motivation is concerned with getting someone to do something you want or, on an individual basis, wanting to do something for yourself for a particular reason. For many businesses, the most expensive asset they possess is their human resources. These resources are hired for the value that they add to a business. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that the business gets the best out of those resources.
Work motivation is considered to be a major psychological variable that significantly influences the work behaviour of the employees. It can be defined as the complex force inspiring a person at work in an organisation to intensify his desire and willingness to use his potentialities for the achievement of organisational objectives. It is something that moves a person into action and continues him in the course of action enthusiastically. It is a fact that motivation moves a person to optimise his potential and achieve results much beyond his perceived limitations.
Motivation has long been a management issue and controversy. It is more complicated in the present times when technology, globalisation and workforce diversity have been changing the workplace. Often, it is difficult even for the management to fully comprehend the magnitude and impact of change and staff can be even more confused. In the present state of ambiguity, there comes the basic question of how to motivate and for what. There are ‘n’ number of motivation types like extrinsic, intrinsic, tangible, intangible, group, individual and so on and so forth. Understanding each type of motivation is theoretically very easy but understanding what applies to whom and under what circumstances is the crux of motivational complexity.
We need to take note of certain complexities in motivating staff, seemingly common sense but often overlooked:
(a) The psychology of fair process, or procedural justice, stresses that a fair process builds trust and commitment, which, in turn, leads to voluntary cooperation and drives performance. While staff cares about the decisions the supervisors make, they care even more about the process the supervisors have used.
(b) Diversity in an organisation can act as a motivating force or a source of conflict. Motivation, because of the competition it inspires, and conflict, because of the friction that may be caused among people of diverse backgrounds.
(c) Demographic characteristics: There are a number of demographic characteristics contributing to diversity, which act as a major hurdle in motivating employees. The most widely recognised are age, gender, education, social norms, economic status, etc.
Some myths about motivation:
a) People can be motivated: Not really – they have to motivate themselves. We can't motivate people any more than we can empower them. Employees have to motivate and empower themselves. However, an environment can be created where they can best motivate and empower themselves.
b) Money motivates: Certain things like money, a nice office and job security can prevent people from becoming less motivated, but they usually don't help people become more motivated. It is very important to understand what motivates whom, as at an individual level each of us is different.
c) Playing with fear psychosis: Fear is a great motivator, but for a very short time. That's why a lot of yelling from the boss won't seem to "light a spark under employees" for a very long time.
d) Increased job satisfaction means increased job performance: Research shows that this isn't necessarily true at all. Increased job satisfaction does not necessarily mean increased job performance. If the goals of the organisation are not aligned with the goals of employees, then employees will never put in their 100% towards the achievement of organisational goals.
e) Motivation is too complex to comprehend: Not at all. There are some very basic steps that should be taken so that a culture can be developed where employees feel trusted, supported, empowered and, above all, generate a sense of belongingness. In fact, this will result in greater productivity, lesser absenteeism and turnover in the long run.
Handling Motivational Complexity
Jack Welch believes that for motivating employees to work harder it is necessary to instil in them a sense of empowerment, a feeling that they are the “owners” of their business. Each individual is unique and so should be the way to handle individual problems and factors motivating them. Learning individual needs and handling situations with empathy could work as panacea to solve motivational complexity to some extent.
People are most deeply motivated by work that stimulates and excites them while also achieving organisational goals. The highest point of self-motivation arises when there is a complementary conjunction of individual's needs and the organisation’s requirements. With appropriate motivation, staff contributions can transcend organisational charts and job descriptions, and lead to extra-role performance. Worker empowerment is a positive force in maintaining productivity, increasing efficiency and staying competitive and is something we strongly promote in times of turbulence.
Human motivation is a complex, changeable and dynamic phenomenon that requires management initiatives, perception, efforts, sensitivity and judgement. However, care for individual staff remains an indispensable step in this HR process. Managers need to make vigorous attempts to overcome cultural, social and gender biases. Internationally, the issue has been recognised as one that needs to be managed seriously and in a diplomatic manner. Managers need to initiate programs that ensure the complete elimination of built-in biases.
Dr Deepti Sinha
JEMTEC Greater Noida