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Motivation at Work


The Magic of Motivation

Motivation is the powerful mainspring driving all human actions.

With it, humans have summoned up from within themselves superhuman energies to climb the highest mountains, reach the moon, build huge cities and corporations, win terrifying wars and achieve almost impossible lifetime goals despite all obstacles. We marvel at the power of human motivation and intense determination as we read histories of George Washington and his foot-frozen men during the Revolutionary War, view on TV the last ounce of exertion of a winning Olympic runner, watch the quiet strength of a nurse tending the dying, listen to the shouts of patriots arming against invaders of their lands, scan through history the heroism of men and women still honored today as gods for their memorable deeds.

Without it, humans are near-lifeless, vegetative, drifting meaninglessly from one day to the next, merely awaiting clinical rigor mortis.

The Ultimate Power of Personal Motivation

Thus the secret or magic of any meaningful human life lies in the personal goals, motivation and bedrock determination driving it. The difference in their lives between an honored achiever and a useless drifter is seldom a function of mere mental or physical nature; it stems from deeply powerful inner motivation - or the lack of it. For leaders, this "inner trait" of high motivation and determination constitutes a central element of the century-old "trait theory of leadership."

Inner motivation (or lack of it) is the difference between heroic soldiers who face and stop an enemy - or run away and don't, scientists and other professionals who reach their career goals - or don't, comparably-skilled athletes who win - or don't, adults who "do drugs" and self-destroy - or don't, healthy men who work hard for self-reliance and shun the welfare pit - or don't, craftsmen and assembly workers who manufacture daily high-quality products with high productivity - or don't, humans who build significant lives for themselves and family - or don't. In the workplace, motivated people rise to heights of effort and work results while the unmotivated wither in mediocrity or sloth. In short, the key to productivity is human motivation.

 Defining What Motivation Is

 Although there is academic controversy among psychologists about a technical definition of motivation, whether it is solely "internal" or not, our practical definition here is simple: to "motivate" another person is to get him to do what you want him to do, to get his cooperation. To "motivate" yourself is to get yourself to do what you want (lose weight, start a particular career). How this is done, how we motivate others (or ourselves), is the main object of this book.

Academic Controversies about Defining Motivation

 Let's at the outset settle, then ignore as merely academic, several technical niceties argued profusely among behavior scientists and linguistic philosophers.

Even granting that "motivation" is essentially "internal" (i.e. generated from within a person, not by external others), it is obvious in practical language that one person ("A") can usually make another ("B") do what he wants by external influence.

If "A," a street mugger, points a gun into "B's" chest and demands his wallet, any rational "B" will do exactly what "A" is motivating him to do. Thus, in operational terms, it is accurate to say that "A" (an external agent) is motivating "B," and this is the plain-English language we will use here. (Technical language might be more correct in academic circles but too cumbersome and of no practical use for managers on the job.)

Similarly, we will use the term "motivation" as morally (ethically) neutral. To motivate others is, by definition and per se, only the act of getting others to do what you want them to do. How you motivate another clearly ranges from moral to immoral and legal to illegal (for example, the mugger above) based on standard ethical or legal tests of human behavior.

Thus we focus below solely upon theories and specific methods by which managers (and similar supervisors such as parents) motivate subordinates in the workplace (or children) to get the latter's' full cooperation. Only occasionally, and secondarily, will we note the (usually obvious) ethical dimensions of motivational methods.

 The "Economic Man" Theory of Motivation

Over human history, two forces have been the major motivators of workers: fear and money. Slaves built pyramids or Roman roads and medieval farm hands tilled soil from daybreak to nightfall, their lives a sequence solely of work and sleep, motivated by sheer fear from their absolute masters that doing otherwise meant instant execution or slow starvation for themselves and their families.

For thousands of years, the world's work has been forced by elemental fear on billions of humans with only the choices of desperate work or death. American colonists, early European farmers and African natives faced the same choices with nature their master, eternally working the soil or forests for food or fail and die.  Primordial fear for life and loved ones has dominated human history as always a sure and quick motivator.

"A Day's Work for a Day's Pay"

Money is the other and similar motivator. Pay for working is a more civilized form of coping with the natural fear of starvation, sickness and death. If you work hard, employers pay you the money to buy food, shelter, medical help and survival; without it, you and your family die.

From this simple "carrot and stick" approach, economists and factory managers operated upon the so-called "economic man" assumption underlying human motivation: that a worker's sole reason for working in factories and farms was economic necessity, to keep a steady job and take home pay for family necessities. The slogan, "A day's work for a day's pay" (and nothing more), sums up crisply employers' attitudes about worker motivation, even in early 20th century English and American factories.

Bosses' Absolute Power to Hire, Pay, Punish and Fire

 Employers and managers assumed that their sole obligation to workers was to pay them "fair" wages determined by strict supply-and-demand market forces, the more workers begging for jobs the lower the wage rate. Anything beyond "fair pay" was economic waste and superfluous (such as praise for good work, arrangements for safety or hygiene, participation in any decision making, medical, disability or pension benefits, comfortable working conditions, vacation or medical leave, etc.).

Knowing the stark realities of the job market, workers expected and got no more than their pay. In an age when medical insurance or unemployment compensation were unknown, survival of a worker's family depended upon unquestioned adherence to employers' rules and hard work under the constant eyes of supervisors. Motivating workers was simple and sure. Managers had no need for any motivators except their absolute power to hire, fire and punish by withholding pay as penalties for poor work or infraction of rules. Any protesters daring to strike against an employer were merely fired to starve homeless or beg in the streets.  Like the absolute power of medieval kings to decide instantly, on the spot without time-wasting "due process" or "appeals," who lives and who dies and when and how, the power of employers in the workplaces of the world was equally absolute. The boss in any workplace was king! (One is reminded of the English Lord Acton's profound political axiom a century ago: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.")

Managers Managing with Hands Tied Tight

The above events over the past fifty years can be noted only briefly here, each event and law a complex history. The references to this social upheaval are intended only to clarify today's new environment for managers who still must produce job results and somehow motivate workers despite the radically new social environment. Today's mountain of laws and court rulings protecting everyone (except managers) severely restricts or erases most of the age-old positional authority and power of American managers. Thus managers today, trying to motivate workers by fear or pay, no longer have any real motivational power at all. Thus, to survive, they need other incentives to motivate today's workers - or fail as managers. Not "kings" any longer, bosses must be skilled at influencing rather than commanding.

To learn new and more sophisticated ways to motivate workers, today's managers must thoroughly understand and use modem theories and methods of human motivation.

Early Theories of Worker Motivation

Apart from the primitive motivators of fear and pay, early-century theorists researched other possible motivators of people at work and methods for increasing productivity.

Frederick Taylor and "Scientific Management"

Frederick Taylor, a chief engineer at Bethlehem Steel stunned the corporate world with his Principles of Scientific Management published in 1911.   He devoted a lifetime career centered on manufacturing efficiency and productivity, workers' motivation an important but secondary means to those ends. He lamented "the great loss the country is suffering through inefficiency in almost all of its daily acts" and claimed the cure was "systematic management," "management as a true science.

Taylor experimented patiently for years with methods for doing best each tiniest part of a total job in order to prove statistically which were most efficient. He was the beginning of the "time-motions" efficiency experts. For example, with stopwatch in hand, he studied the differences in men shoveling rice coal and iron ore and designed the optimum size shovel for coal (light in weight per volume and thus a huge shovel) and iron ore (heaviest per volume and a small, short compact shovel). He invented fifteen different shovels for the variety of materials being moved hourly through the steel plant. After three years of these time-motion experiments, productivity increased by 300%! Reporting (in his book) on the phenomenal success of his new "scientific management," he urged it as a total national policy for all manufacturers, a universal methodology applicable to every job in the nation with equivalent soaring of each manufacturer's and the nation's total productivity. It was not his shovels, but his idea and method, which changed the workplace.

Taylor, as a foreman and later chief engineer, had always enormous respect for his workers. He solicited their suggestions and made his efforts at higher productivity valuable to them personally by using the "piece rate" system of pay (pay not by hour, but by amounts of production actually accomplished). For example, Taylor's 300% increase in shoveling productivity resulted in a 60% pay increase for the workers. One can only speculate how much of this success of "scientific management" was method and how much human motivation.  The Hawthorne studies, begun in the 1920s and spanning a decade, revealed much about this and launched the new, still flourishing, human behavior approach to managing work and motivating workers. At about the same time, but independently, intensive research had begun into the nature and methods for achieving the nation's much needed effective leadership at first line operational levels such as field officers facing World War I and manufacturers' foremen needing high production and productivity from their workers.

Elton Mayo and the "Hawthorne Studies"

Elton Mayo and his Harvard University colleagues began pioneering studies of workers' behavior at Western Electric's Hawthorne plant just outside Chicago.   Like Taylor, they were investigating optimum methods for workers' productivity. For years they patiently experimented with various groups of workers assembling telephone relay units in specially controlled "test rooms" using various combinations of work conditions, lighting intensities, temperature and humidity, assembly methods, timing and length of relief breaks and other variables.

Mayo, the Harvard researchers, Hawthorne managers and the "test" workers met regularly to design the most promising combinations of variables. So far, the research plan was an exact replica of Taylor's "time-motion efficiency" (scientific management) methodology. Worker productivity was measured daily and weekly against each combination of variables, in search of the optimum mix. Each day, often each hour, completed relay units, in full view of workers and the research "counters," were deposited into each worker's bin of completed units and counted as the critical measure of productivity. The gossip everywhere among Hawthorne employees and managers was about "how the Harvard experiments are going" and "who had been selected to participate."

Unfortunately (or fortunately) the results of the studies were unexpected, different than predicted and shocking.  From an original base set of work conditions and productivity measures (identified as "Period I") various combinations of variables in later periods resulted in as much as an incredible 50% increase in productivity.   The researchers and Hawthorne managers felt they were near the target of optimum work conditions. But, in a standard statistical check, the exact work conditions of the base Period I were tested again with the astounding result of the same 50% productivity increase linked to later periods.  After years of research, it seemed that "something," some variable other than work conditions created the new productivity.

The Significance of the Hawthorne Studies

A follow-up intensive research program, interviewing the test room workers, revealed the unknown variable, a psychological one: workers' attitudes were mainly responsible for their increased energy, enthusiasm, effort and productivity. They were motivated by the friendly and open atmosphere of their "special" test rooms, their sense of importance in being consulted regularly, participating in the research design decisions, recognized and praised for each productivity achievement as it got "counted" in their completed work bins. Work was no longer an anonymous machine-like chore but an exciting human experience, something to look forward to each day on the way to work, managers interested in them, concerned about the details of their work conditions and their opinions about their projects, appreciating their ideas. They, as persons, were deeply involved - and this was what had motivated them to such high productivity.

The unexpected, but landmark, results of the Hawthorne studies revealed an entirely new dimension of management and the productivity it sought: understanding and using, rather than ignoring, the human factor in the workplace. The Hawthorne studies had launched the now dominant "organization behavior" approach to management (most college textbooks in management today use this title or words similar to "organization behavior").   Let's note that the Hawthorne studies did not discredit Taylor's "scientific management" or "time-motion efficiency" efforts to create better work methods. These are basic and draw upon ingenious imagination of engineers and high-tech workers (provided that they are highly motivated to exert and use such imagination). Thus today's management theory includes a two-dimension approach to productivity: mechanical efficiency systems and human motivation concepts from psychology.

Current Theories of Motivation

Quite apart from the newly emerging studies of organizations, manufacturing methods and efficiency, psychology had also emerged independently as a respectable field of scholarly study with William James' pioneering textbook, Psychology, published in 1910 at Harvard University.   Since then psychologists (and psychiatrists, the field's medical branch) developed a massive array of theories explaining human nature and motivation.

Psychology textbooks today thus include a host of theories about human motivation. They fall into two general categories:  Theories focusing on human needs as the inward source of motivation (often called Content theories) and those focusing on how people are motivated (Process theories). For practical purposes, the distinction is unimportant. Most of these theories suffocate college students with technical terminology and jargon. But, for the practical manager, four current theories of motivation remain solidly researched, valid, with minimum jargon and consistently effective in motivating workers on the job. Here are the four.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

Probably today's most fundamental theory of motivation (excepting the still [rightly] controversial and questionable Freudian tradition) is the profound, but common-sense, motivation theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1950s.

Known today as the "Hierarchy of Human Needs," Maslow's theory of human motivation reveals much of the essential nature of humans, why they are driven inwardly to do what they do, why they work enthusiastically, lazily or not at all. His theory offers also the merits of simplicity of structure, easily intelligible language, and, most importantly, practical application to the workplace.

The essentials of Maslow's theory are as follows:  Human beings are driven to decisions and actions 'Secondary needs hundreds of deep needs which can be classified into five categories as in the hierarchy at left and these into two classes, primary and secondary needs.  Psychology and all behavioral sciences being necessarily less exact than the physical sciences, Maslow's categories and classes are often overlapping at the borders and subject to exceptions in the complexities of individual personalities. But, in general, the hierarchy portrays the need priorities driving the human being. Generally, we first strive to satisfy basic primary needs. Only after these are satisfied are we much motivated by less pressing secondary needs.

Priorities: Primary Needs versus Secondary Needs

Primary are man's basic physical and physiological needs such as food, water, air, health and safety from dangers of all kinds. These utterly basic primary needs are gene-deep in all animals, essential to elemental survival of animal species, and the basic, primitive and animal part of every man.  They generally take priority over specifically human (higher-level) secondary needs such as social activity, rest, recreation, love, recognition, praise, accomplishment and self-actualization. As expected in any such generalization of human nature, these need priorities are relative, varying with different individuals in different situations and, indeed, even reversed in rare individual cases.

Similar to the "contingency theory of leadership," what effectively motivates people at any given time and place is contingent upon each one's individual needs and circumstances.

To illustrate such relativity among human needs, the modern American's perception of a basic need typically includes a car, TV set, central home heating (basic food and clean water taken for granted as always there), while a street beggar's "basic needs" in a third-world country or a New York street are fully satisfied with enough food for this one day and thinks only of food (or alcoholic drink) for the next. In his situation, even warm shelter from freezing winds is "secondary" to food.

Reversals of the hierarchy's priorities are most common among extremely emotional zealots such as religious (or political) preachers leading crusades, whipping up furious emotional energies by their rhetoric in mob-like crowds of "true believers." Many risk severe physical pain, death and martyrdom, sacrificing their primary needs in the intense personal quest for satisfaction of overwhelming secondary needs such as power over nations or people (Hitler, Napoleon, presidential campaigners, Martin Luther King, Jim Jones cultists, research scientists in their labs, etc.). Iraq's Saddam Hussein and his Moslem martyrs, in Iraq's obsessive war against the United Nations in 1991, are a most recent example of such zealots who entirely escape Maslow's hierarchy - or any other human classification system such as the MBTI [Myers-Briggs Type Indicator] . But, apart from these as dramatic exceptions to generalized and normal human nature, Maslow's hierarchy depicts the fundamental drives of most "average" humans and their daily need priorities, especially in routine activity in the workplace.

Practical Applications of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The practical on-the-job applications of Maslow's need priorities are immediately obvious for managers trying to motivate workers to high productivity: you can not motivate another by appealing to and satisfying his secondary needs until and unless his primary needs are satisfied.

Also, you cannot motivate another through primary needs if these are already satisfied. Satisfied needs do not motivate; only Unsatisfied needs motivate. In the animal world, a fat cheetah, satiated with a huge recent meal, ignores a now non-motivating antelope walking by while, days later, pangs of hunger motivate him to 70-mph dashes to catch food. In the workplace, a newly-hired young man, just married, a child on the way, deep in debt with college loans and car payments, can easily be motivated by the offer of a basic-need money bonus to perform any difficult project, no matter the effort, evenings and weekends demanded. Decades later, financially secure, mortgage and bills paid, his wife resuming her career, two paychecks each month, banking much of their income in savings, basic-need money is no longer much of a motivator.   An imaginative manager might now, with understanding of this older worker's new need priorities, motivate him to high effort and demanding projects, but only by secondary needs such as his new need for a prestigious team-leader position, maybe a high-status executive title or special vacation-time arrangements permitting him to visit far-away grandchildren or pursue his new personal interests such as volunteer community work or ballroom dancing.

Crass, Crude but True: "Human Brokerage"

The major practical implication of Maslow's hierarchy of needs can be likened to a kind of highly individualized "human brokerage," a mutually beneficial "trade", as a manager tries to motivate a worker or a parent motivating a child. You can not motivate people i.e. general, each individual being different with different need priorities at different ages and life situations. Motivating people requires knowing each individual well, his here-and-now need priorities, what that one individual really wants here and now. Then match his need with yours. You can not even begin to motivate another until you know him, that individual, well. This, in concept, ignoring the pejorative semantics, is essentially "brokerage" (from the French noun meaning a "change agent").

Brokers, in the business world, negotiate and arrange trades, such as an agreement between a home seller and a home buyer. The seller needs to cash out his equity in the home and the buyer needs the home itself, not his cash. Neither yet knows the needs of the other. It is the broker's skill, imagination and hard work that "finds" them (for a well earned finder's fee) and successfully brings them together, matches their needs and arranges a mutually satisfying done deal. In much the same way, a parent might invent a human "trade" to motivate her child into completing school homework before 7pm (her need to educate him) before and as a condition for allowing him to watch his favorite TV show at 7pm (his felt need). In the "deal" and thanks to her imagination, she gets what she wants by providing him with what he wants. Both gain by such win-win trade (the historic motivator behind all international trade).

Similarly, a manager today must be an imaginative "broker," matching the individual personal needs of each of his workers with the organizational goals he seeks (as in the case above with the older worker no longer motivated much by money). Purists might cringe at the crass and crude words (trade, brokerage, "bribing" a child, etc.) but, superficial semantics aside, the reality remains that such trading or brokerage works as effective motivation.

Furthermore, despite the hard and harsh words, such "human brokerage" is fully ethical since, upon realistic analysis, all participants gain personally needed goals and no one suffers any unethical loss.


The New Breed of Managers

Managers in the 1990s, operating still as if the "boss is king," trying to motivate merely by ancient workplace fear or money, are now obsolete in most modern American workplaces. To function as a successful manager today, motivating people to their highest effort, creativity and productivity, requires sophisticated understanding, skills, imagination and subtle use daily of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs and its practical application of "human brokerage." Managers lacking these abilities quickly fail as managers with enormous personal tragedy and organizational disasters.  And they often never know why it happened to them.

It becomes, therefore, the urgent responsibility of the nation's Training & Development Departments to design and implement management training programs for managers, especially newly-appointed managers, to equip them properly, "train them well" (like airmen in the U.N.-Iraqi war) with the "survival" skills of motivating modern workers on the job.

Theories "X" and "Y" (and "Z")

Douglas McGregor, with credentials among university scholars equaling his practical experience as a corporate executive, wrote two books which became classics and still exert a profound influence upon modern management theory and practice.    These books explain his experience with two utterly different assumptions (operating consciously or subconsciously) which managers tend to use in dealing with workers. In the interests of objectivity and to avoid the "complications and prejudice of labels," he dubbed them simply "Theory X" and "Theory Y."

Theory "X" Managers and Theory "X" Workers

Examining the history of the relationship between managers and workers, kings and subjects, how they perceive and "view" each other, McGregor noted that managers throughout history assume, a        just take it for granted, that workers are naturally lazy, hate work, try to avoid it, care not at all about an organization's goals and must simply be forced to work against their will by threat and fear. This assumption by managers he called "Theory X" ("X" managers) and workers with indeed such anti-work attitudes "X" workers.

Leadership by "X" managers over "X" workers had to be firmly, even cruelly, autocratic with tight control and constant supervision over each worker ("supervision" literally means "watching over," overseeing). Without tight and forceful supervision, "X" workers slack off or cease work at every opportunity.  Given the grim and life-threatening conditions of work throughout history, from dawn to nightfall in the cold or heat and danger of primitive farms and factories prior to today's modern workplace, it is little wonder that most managers and workers were "Xs." The natural condition of the workplace was therefore bluntly adversarial, managers against workers and vice versa, managers forcing work and workers resisting in every way possible. Needless to say, in such an "X" work environment, workers do the least they can get away with and managers get the least of the high human potential of people at work.

But when "boss was king," the prevailing condition throughout most human history, he did get work results and could force extremes of hard work from workers (despite their hatred of it and him) by the sheer raw power of fear, threat and sometimes money. Thus and then the "X" work environment was highly effective because of the unlimited power of managers over workers.

Today, however, in the 1990s, managers no longer have such unlimited power, workers now protected by a host of "workers' rights laws" as noted above. "Theory X" no longer works well or even at all. Few managers can look a worker in the eye and threaten him with "do this or else'." Most workers today would just laugh at the threat. For most, the "or else" means not starvation but merely a slightly inconvenient change to unemployment compensation, government welfare income and similar safety-net social programs, maybe a few hours a day moonlighting - and probably a lawsuit against the employer. Unlike "X" bosses of the past, motivating workers to extreme effort with virtual life-and-death power over them, today's managers have no such power; "X" workers just pass the time, clock-watching, breaking for coffee, socializing and waiting for 5pm with little work results done. This is the typical "X" work environment today with no effective motivation.

Theory "Y" Managers and Theory "V Workers

Because an "X" work environment had become powerless to motivate people to high productivity, McGregor speculated about other means of motivating workers, a different assumption managers might use, the assumption that under certain circumstances workers actually like and enjoy working. This assumption by managers he called "Theory Y' ("Y" managers) and workers with indeed such /wo-work attitudes "V workers. In theory, "V workers love their work, look forward to it and enjoy it. Clearly, managers are spared all of the motivational problems of an "X" work environment; "Y' workers are highly self-motivated.

At first glance, the "Y' assumption seems idealistically unreal and unnatural. Human experience shows that most people just naturally dislike work and hence the historical prevalence of "X" work environments with harsh bosses forcing work from ever-resisting laborers. However, a "V mindset is possible and even common among people working at projects they naturally enjoy and from which they gain high personal satisfaction or rewards.

Common examples of a "V" mindset are people building their own small businesses, engineers or scientists virtually obsessed with their ongoing projects, lonely singles of all ages relishing the human contact at their jobs, professional athletes training and straining to the extreme for personal pride on the field and money bonuses, salesmen nearing big commissions with extra but rewarding effort, women in hot kitchens baking pies for their children and friends, men straining hard at cherished hobbies or home improvement projects. For the Japanese, culturally imbued with their deep need for group and family approval, high-quality productivity on the job is the standard path to it and a powerful self-motivator.   Indeed, many people are extreme "Ys," "workaholics," wedded to their jobs as joy even more than their wives or husbands.

For such 'Ys" there is no difference between "work" and "play" - they become one and the same. "Ys" bring the same high energy and enthusiasm to their adult work as they did to games and favorite hobbies when kids delighting in the strenuous play of running, kicking, catching footballs and playing games they loved. As adults, their serious, now world-enhancing work is still their ever-new, joyful play - providing they like their work ("play") whether at age 7 or 70.

In a "Y' work environment, there is no need for managers to motivate people (it is already there, built in!) - except to maintain the human conditions creating it. Sophisticated managers of today build and maintain a healthy "Y" work environment by sensitive awareness of each worker's individual needs (as in Maslow's Needs Hierarchy above), consulting with each worker about his work ideas, preferences, methods and progress, recognizing and praising good work often, arranging work assignments to fit the individual as well as the organization's goals ("Human Brokerage" again). Instead of the ancient (and obsolete) "X" force and fear motivation, today's managers gain their organization goals by permitting, not forcing, workers to do their best work. McGregor summarized it well:

"Theory X places exclusive reliance upon external control of human behavior, while Theory Y relies heavily on self-control and self-direction.   It is worth noting that this difference is the difference between treating people as children and treating them as mature adults."

Theory "Z" Managers and Theory "Z" Workers

As McGregor was well aware, theories "X" and "Y" are polarized extremes of workplace attitudes - implying the more realistic daily condition among workers of degrees between the extremes. Let's conveniently think of such degrees on a scale of "I"-to-"10," a "1" meaning a pure 100% "X" and "10" a 100% "Y." Any management trainer or consultant with actual experience in today's workplace knows that a pure "10" (100% "V) workplace is idyllic; to expect it in the realistic limitations of budgets and recessions is naive. Few managers, even with the most sophisticated motivational efforts, will succeed in achieving a "10" (100% "Y') workplace for every worker every day and every hour.

Thus a pure "Theory Y' workplace is intended as an ideal, something rarely fully reachable but rightly to be sought after by managers, still always aimed at and worked for. But realists know that actual managerial success consists usually in a partial, but high and significant, achievement of a "Theory Y' workplace, seldom the pure "10" work environment. This more realistic "half-way" position about human motivation is now called "Theory Z." "Zs" make every effort to achieve a "10" workplace but, knowing its impossibility as a pure ideal, accept as reasonable success significant progress toward the ideal, higher and higher partial successes in daily productivity. The only alternative to such a balanced ("Z") approach by managers is to become impatient, frustrated by "half a loaf," abandon Theory "Y' entirely and revert to an "X" environment.

Many (most) managers abandon realistic, achievable use of "Theory Y' in two most common ways: (1) by never trying it at all, or: (2) by excessive and unrealistic expectations, trying it, failing to achieve quick 100% success (a "10" workplace), then in personal frustration abandoning all efforts and reverting to a familiar autocratic, but fail-for-sure, "X" environment.   (The latter [#2] is typical of managers completing short, often excitingly video-dramatic, management training programs with excessive and unreal expectations. When these fail back on the job, as they will, managers soon revert to a near-extreme "X," a "2" or "3.")

As with the now generally accepted "Contingency Theory of Leadership," always closely linked to human motivation on the job, Theory "Z" is equivalent to a "Contingency Theory of Motivation" in which managers must match and fit daily the most appropriate motivation methods to each person and situation, depending on here-and-now contingencies.   Typical managers today don't or can't, but should. Otherwise, they are forced to revert to or remain in a failed "X" workplace, with little or no productivity for organization goals, until they or their workers leave it in utter frustration (by choice or being fired).


The Modern Manager as Innovative "Problem-solver"

The implications of theories "Y' and "Z" (and current "Contingency Theory") mean overwhelming changes for today's managers and the survival of their careers. And also for management training programs and those who design them. No longer can a "boss" survive, succeed, achieve demanded organization results and motivate workers in an "X" workplace, relying upon old simplistic force and fear. In America, those old simple days are gone forever. Modern managers must be innovative, imaginative "problem-solvers" daily, easily and minute-by-minute.

"Problem-solving," as used here, does not refer to the highly-conscious and systematic decision making process but to a daily awareness of slight deviations and instantly adjusting them. The term "problem" is defined analytically and precisely as "deviation from a desired standard," such as your body temperature being over 100F or your car veering slowly left toward oncoming traffic or a usually enthusiastic worker dull for several hours and clockwatching. Driving for hours to N.Y. or L.A, you automatically and easily "problem-solve" by adjusting your steering wheel or accelerator pressure second-by-second based on instant feedback from the actual behavior of your car. Unlike a new student driver, you feel no intense effort or strain. It's just routine "problem-solving,", automatic, subconscious, easy, even as you converse with someone in the front passenger seat.

Similarly, modern managers, like experienced car or truck drivers, "problem-solve" with almost subconscious, easy, natural, correct and minute-by-minute adjustments to events in their workplace, both mechanical and human.  For example, noting that a usually enthusiastic worker seems distracted or lapsing slightly from his typically high work energy, a sophisticated manager instantly reacts by approaching the worker, talking about him and his concerns until the "deviation from standard" is resolved with mutual satisfaction. You could find out importantly, for instance, that his immediate frustration is merely long lines at the photocopying machine for a document he needs now; and so you invite him to photocopy it on your own office machine. Simple things like this, automatic adjustments to "unexpected turns of the road," the right word or decision at the right time, remove minute-by-minute deviations and solve problems in a "Theory Y or Z" style, quickly, at the instant of time when needed. (An "X" boss would have wasted time "documenting" the worker's lapse by type and date and confronting him with it at his stiff (and useless) semi-annual "performance rating" of the worker, gaining no productivity and alienating the worker.)

McCIeIIand's 3-Needs Theory

David McClelland built a theory of worker motivation solely upon the secondary needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (social needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs). Ignoring primary needs (food, safety, etc.) as generally satisfied in modern American workplaces and hence irrelevant as motivators, his research revealed three major and now effective classes of needs: power, achievement and affiliation.

The Human Need for Power

The need for power is manifested as one's satisfaction in influencing and controlling others, being "in charge" and dominant. But, as McClelland is careful to stress, this need for power in modern work environments can not be any sort of primitive oppression but, much more subtly, effective persuasion:

"Those individuals with the highest need for power, that is not expressed in a win-lose, dominance-submissive style, but a more socialized form of influence, should be groomed for advancement into higher managerial positions. Personal dominance may be effective in very small groups, but if a human leader wants to be effective in large groups, he must rely on much more subtle and socialized forms of influence.

This positive or socialized face of power is characterized by a concern for group goals, for finding those goals that will move men, for helping the group with the means for achieving such goals, and for giving group members a feeling of strength and competency they need to work hard for such goals.

The Human Need for Achievement

The "achievement" need is equivalent to Maslow's highest in his hierarchy: the urge for self-actualization, working for and realizing one's true and ultimate personal potential. Carefully to be noted, the achievement need must be sharply distinguished from the "esteem" need, i.e. the need for recognition by others or status in one's society, this itself a powerful motivator but different from Maslow's "self-actualization" need or McClelland's "achievement" need.

The achievement-driven worker is found in two basic forms:

(1) the worker who achieves in order to both achieve for himself and also more importantly impress and win the admiration of others (he will do almost anything and make any effort to win the acceptance and recognition of others); and

(2) he who cares little or not at all about what others think of him, only what he thinks of himself, his own goals and accomplishments. People in the former class (#1) are typically highly dependent on acceptance by others as important or even essential to their own self-image and satisfaction. People in the latter class (#2) thrive on achievement and self-actualization for its own sake, for themselves, with little or no interest in the opinions of others or status of any sort. The latter is often deemed eccentric or "strange" by colleagues, wrapped always in his work, oblivious to others or their opinions, and often even disdaining them as irrelevant or distractions from his important work. In either case, a manager must understand each 'of these individuals and appeal to each of these kinds of motivation for high productivity from the very different individuals in his workplace.

The Human Need for Affiliation

Many people have little interest in either power or achievement per se. They are motivated instead by their need for companionship and love, human "connection," affiliation with others (Maslow's "social" needs). Affiliatives can indeed also achieve much, even heroic heights of effort, or struggle for critical power positions (especially in war) but only provided that such effort serves as a means to their affiliative need. They thrive on "giving' of themselves to others, pleasing those they love, becoming thereby accepted and appreciated. Reciprocity in kind is essential to them. An affiliation-oriented person lives and strives for human relationships.   He might settle for minimum achievement, power and income for himself alone but, married with a child, will work cheerfully 80-hour weeks to build an annuity for his child's college education and/or his wife's "home of her dreams."

In general, affiliation-oriented people are best motivated in jobs and projects allowing lots of social interaction such as visiting pertinent offices for key information, conversation, telephoning, even "gofer" chores. Especially they love periodic one-on-one conversations with their boss, reporting current results of their work and thrilling in enthusiastic appreciation of it. Somewhat like children, affiliatives need constant parental approval. Many a "busy," task-oriented (and unaware) manager misses such signals and needs, ignores and quickly dismisses an affiliative worker - who, then, instantly loses all interest in the job and stops producing. (An oblivious boss never understands why.)

Managers, Matches and Mismatches

Affiliation-oriented workers thrive and are highly motivated by time with others, especially their companionship, friendship and approval. They will achieve high productivity, indeed, but for the appreciation and praise of others, not for the sake of achievement per-se.

Quite oppositely, an achiever resents time with others or in his boss's office, reporting on progress, a painful distraction; he's uncomfortable, wants quickly to get back to what he loves: his important achievements in his own office or lab. For him, time with others instead of "his work" is a frustrating waste of time, counter-productive as a motivator. For him, achieving self-set goals is a genetic passion; not just the best thing in life, but the only thing.

In order to motivate today's workers, managers must daily be fully in tune with individual differences and with the insights of Maslow's hierarchy and McClelland's 3-Need theory. Otherwise they fall quickly into "mismatches" between what they offer a worker and what the worker really needs. They might, for example, be trying uselessly to motivate an achiever by mere money (when what he really wants is a challenging project) or an affillative by a challenging project (when what he really wants is warm friendship and personal appreciation). Using the "Human Brokerage" concept above (p.l2), successful managers and salesmen correctly match their motivational appeals with each individual's real needs.   They value seemingly casual coffee-break conversations with employees and associates, ask light "leading questions" and listen alertly, discovering thus "who each really is" and his real needs (power, achievement, affiliation, etc.).

Managers must daily note and know their employees' individual differences in order to get the best from each of their very different workers, each different one from another and each from day to day - as each life circumstances and "contingencies" change daily and hour-by-hour.

The Myers-Briggs MBTI and Motivation Theories

This complex reality of individual differences is the essence of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), a psychological instrument designed to identify different personality types as generic and .all "OK" (instead of specific personality attributes, some "OK" and many not). Most "personality" tests pose as authoritative arbiters determining by their test "scores" whose personality attributes are "normal" or "abnormal." Like judges in court, they "fix" with finality each of us as "OK" or not.   Essentially judgmental, they often insult both one's intelligence and ego.

Uniquely, the MBTI is not judgmental but recognizes individual types as merely different, only that, and each with its own strengths and positive values. The goal of the MBTI is to understand individual differences, not judge them as "good" or "bad." Understanding (rather than judging) such differences provides the practical benefits of improved human relationships, communication and cooperation among people, reducing destructive misunderstandings and conflict.

Like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Theories "Y' & "Z" and McClelland's "3-Needs" theory, the MBTI is a vital key to the daily motivation of people based on each individual differences. Isabel Briggs Myers, whose life work was the development of the MBTI, now explained fully in her final (1980) book, titled it perfectly: Gifts Differing.14

Summarized briefly here, the MBTI identifies eight basic types of human personality (designated by the initials S, N, T, F, E, I, J and P), arranged in four pairs of polarized opposites based on the following human functions, attitudes and orientations:

(1) Our Perception (S or N): how we "see" and know the world, select and get information about the world, ourselves and others. People tend to be predominantly Sensors or Intuitors.

Sensors face life observantly, with a keen eye and ear for here-and-now facts, specifics and details. They are more oriented toward present realities than future possibilities, plans or dreams. Sensors are often considered to be "doers," high-achievers, focusing on hard facts and getting immediate goals done now. They excel in jobs like auditing and investigative reporting.

Intuitors face life expectantly, with a driving imagination about future possibilities rather than present realities. They focus more upon what might be or can be than immediate facts. They excel in jobs like long-range planning and scientific research.

(2) Our Decisions (T or F): how we use (what we do with) our information in making judgments about the world, making decisions and taking actions. People tend to be predominantly thinkers or Feelers.

Thinkers value logic, reason and systematic analysis over emotional sentiment. They are more concerned with things and events than human relationships or feelings. They are more cool "head" than warm "heart," avoid subjective feelings (their own and others') in their judgments and are cool, cautious, businesslike decision-makers. They excel in jobs like financial analysis and line management.

Feelers value highly the meaningfulness of their friendships and loves, their human relationships and the emotional content of the human experience. Strong subjective feelings and "gut instincts" guide their decisions. They excel in jobs like teaching, nursing and fiction writing.

(3) Our Orientation (E or I): whether one is naturally outer-oriented (to others) or    oriented (within oneself). People tend to be predominantly Extroverts or Introverts. 

Extroverts get their vital stimulation and energy from vigorous interactions with other people. They are socially oriented, thrive on visiting, parties, group activities, being "out" at shopping malls or group classes or other constant involvement with others.  Even studying alone, they will have their radio on in the background for a sense of the presence of others. They dislike being alone and excel in jobs such as sales and personnel counseling.

Introverts enjoy being alone and in silence (no radios, unless deliberately tuning in briefly on the day's News). They get their vital energy from within themselves rather than from others being around them. They treasure time alone to think, to examine their own thoughts and plans, thus "re-charging" their inner batteries before facing again the outside world.  Most can cope well on the "outside" (at meetings, shopping malls, speech-making, etc.) for a while but soon feel uncomfortable with the "outside" stimulation and yearn to return to their own rejuvenating inner world. That is their real energy base and source (as for extroverts it is social interaction). Introverts excel in jobs like basic research, technical or philosophical writing and computer systems design.

(4) Our Organizing of our worlds (J or P): whether one prefers to organize and control his personal environment or prefers more to "wait and watch" events and life unfold - naturally. People tend to be predominantly Judgers or Perceivers.

Judgers need to organize and structure every aspect of life day by day, hour by hour, both their career and personal lives. They make Firm schedules, deadlines, lists of agenda and execute each item exactly on time. They are frustrated and anxious when any matter, big or small, is left "hanging" and undecided. They never procrastinate and enjoy making prompt, firm decisions. For them, the world must be "orderly," a place for everything and everything in its place. They excel in jobs like air traffic controllers, lawyers, doctors and line managers.

Perceivers prefer a spontaneous, .unstructured world, letting nature, events and others make decisions for them. They want only the sheer watching and enjoying of it all, sharing in and "perceiving" the world as it unfolds, not interested in organizing or controlling any of it. Somewhat like Pacific South Sea island natives, they just enjoy life with no need to control it. With no interest in an "orderly world" per se, their desks and floors are cluttered in disarray but they find from it what they need when they need it. They excel in jobs like investigative or protective surveillance, personnel counseling and parenting.

Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Model

Little of Maslow's, McGregor's or McClelland's theories had ever been rigorously tested by empirical evidence. Most was mainly intuitive and anecdotal. In the 1960s, Frederick Herzberg's research team launched massive empirical studies of American workers. Thousands of workers, in all kinds of jobs, were interviewed to determine what really motivates them on the job. Herzberg's "motivation-hygiene" model of motivation emerged from these studies.

An Objective Definition of "Motivation" on the Job

In the literature on management and leadership, the terms "job satisfaction" and "motivation" had often been used loosely, often confused with mere subjective feelings such as "contentment" or "happiness" on the job. Critics of such research and certainly practical line managers wanted a definition of job motivation linked to the objective purpose of human work, i.e. productivity.    Even Herzberg's original studies included such ambiguities. With time, however, the mushrooming "motivation-hygiene" studies refined the definition of motivation into an operational definition, i.e. motivation expressed objectively in terms of productivity instead of subjective feelings.

Workers in the studies were asked to recall times on a job when they were "highly motivated" (actually producing work at high levels of quantity and quality, apart from any subjective feelings). Using this strict definition of motivation, workers were then asked to indicate which motivational factors from a standard list were most influential in "motivating" them to high productivity.

The Motivators of Worker Productivity

As the responses of thousands of workers were tabulated and ranked in order of motivational influence (from highest [1] to lowest [14]), a clear pattern emerged generally as follows:

1. Sense of Achievement

2. Earned Recognition

3. Interest in the Work Itself

4. Opportunity for Growth

5. Opportunity for Advancement

6. Importance & Responsibility

7. Peer & Group Relationships

8. Salary (Pay)

9. Fairness of Supervisors

10. Company Policy & Rules

11. Status & Perks

12. Job Security

13. Friendliness of Supervisor

14. Working Conditions

What most motivated workers to high productivity were factors linked to the nature of the job itself and its content, factors such as achievement, recognition and interest in the work itself. What least motivated them - or motivated them not at all - were factors linked merely to the work environment such as working conditions, job security and a friendly atmosphere.

Let's note, in line with "contingency theory" above, that these are statistical results, strong general trends; occasional individuals were obvious exceptions to the general trends and motivated differently. Also, in line with "contingencies," the studies were done in the booming 1960s when job security was a rare problem, not during a recession when "job security" might appear much higher on the general trend. But, allowing for such exceptions managers must recognize in individual cases, the studies continued to reveal in general which motivational factors are effective for managers, and which are not.  Obviously, managers relying lazily on an organization's mere routines of fair pay and decent working conditions were ignoring and making no effective use of the many best "motivators" that drive workers to high productivity.

"Hygiene" Factors: Dissatisfiers - Non-Motivators

In the list of the fourteen factors (above), a strange phenomenon continued to reappear.   While the relative rankings remained about the same from one study to another, there was typically a huge gap between the top six factors and the rest clustered close together and very near the bottom. A typical chart, using a scale of "1-10" ("10" = highest "motivator"), looked like this:















Clearly the top six (achievement, recognition, etc.), cited by the large majority of workers as motivators, were indeed by strict definition genuine "motivators."   Only a few workers were motivated by the other factors which, in general, simply were not "motivators" at all. So they were given (appropriately) a more accurately descriptive name: "hygiene" factors.

Interviews with workers revealed that factors mainly related to their work environment rarely motivated them but often merely "dissatisfied" them.  For example, good working conditions, excellent food in the cafeteria, prompt availability of supplies or photocopying services, etc. were not even noticed and had no conscious effect on them as a motivator or otherwise. These "givens" were just "taken for granted" as normal and expected minimum conditions in any respectable workplace. It was only if any of these conditions of their work environment became lacking or inadequate that they sparked attention or created an effect: the effect being severe, often highly vocal, dissatisfaction. But, management success in correcting these environment conditions had no effect on "motivating" people to higher productivity. Workers just became less dissatisfied and returned to their usual complacency with the restored normal conditions.

In terms of psychological effect on people, working conditions and other job environment factors were exactly analogous to our body's health or "hygiene" factors: if one's back or head doesn't hurt, he remains utterly unaware of it, takes it and generally good health for granted as normal; a backache or headache, however, will instantly command full attention as a dissatisfier. Hence most factors on the motivation-factor list (except the top six) are properly named as "hygiene" factors, .not motivators.

The Difference Between "Morale" and "Motivation"

As a practical matter for managers needing genuine motivation and productivity, this key distinction between "hygiene factors" and "motivators" becomes critical in the motivation of workers. Like a doctor curing aches and pains (hygiene problems), a manager can not ignore inadequate working conditions or other "hygiene" factors dissatisfying his people and damaging their productivity. But, after the effort to correct inadequate conditions, a manager must know that he has importantly, but only, accomplished a first step: restoring worker morale, not "motivating" anyone. The second step is entirely different and must be pursued with equal effort: actually "motivating" people to high productivity by imaginative daily use of the "top six" motivators on the list. Most managers don't; it is the responsibility of management trainers to show them how.

For example, many a manager, after hard hours of phoning to fix a worker's problems with his air conditioning, computer system and personnel office insurance files, restores that worker's morale, then sinks exhausted into his chair - as if that's "job done." Not done at all! He's done well the first step, restoring morale; but has not even begun the second step of searching out new ways to motivate the worker to high productivity.

Salary (Pay) as "Hygiene" Factor

Salary (or pay) is a massive example of the human dynamics of motivators vs. hygiene factors in the workplace.  The Herzberg studies have been criticized (rightly) for huge ambiguity in their definition of the "Salary-Pay" category. "Pay" is generic while "salary" is a specific form of "pay."

Many forms of "pay" are clearly motivators while "salary" is generally a mere hygiene factor. When a salesman is paid solely by commissions on sales (production) he actually makes, his "pay" is directly related to his effort: the harder and "smarter" he works, the more commission pay he takes home (clearly a motivator - and a strong one). The same is true for factory or other workers paid by "piece rate," the usual method of payment for work prior to the rise of labor unions in the 1930s (i.e. paid a set amount for each actual piece of production accomplished, such as an iron horseshoe or a water-proof barrel, not for mere hours of time on the job).

Today, however, most American workers are paid by monthly or weekly salary, or by an hourly wage rate, all virtually guaranteed just for being present on the job - no matter what they are accomplishing or not. There is no direct or immediate relationship between a worker's effort on a particular day and the dollar amount on the paycheck. This kind of "pay" is automatic, just "there," taken for granted like decent work conditions or any other hygiene factor. An office worker, for example, might spend one day lethargic and reading magazines and another getting real work done but still gets the same paycheck at the end of the week or month. Like a backache, roach-infested cafeteria or other poor working conditions, an unsatisfactory salary or wage rate is a hygiene-type, dissatisfier, related to morale but not to motivation. When, importantly, the backache or working conditions are corrected and made again satisfactory, much has been done to restore morale - people are happy, relaxed and contented again. But this is not motivation for higher productivity. Managers must go far beyond mere, but important, morale maintenance to gain real productivity. They must use imaginatively motivators (sense of achievement, interest in the work itself, etc.) with each worker each day and each hour, if they realistically expect to achieve genuine productivity from their people.

In short, today's competent manager must both (1) do all necessary to maintain morale, but also (2) go much farther and build motivators into his workers and his workplace.


 Job "Enlargement," Job "Redesign" and Job "Enrichment"

Herzberg's "Motivation-Hygiene" theory and surveys, revealing "interest in the work itself as a powerful motivator, led quickly to management efforts to make workers' work "more interesting in itself."

First, "job enlargement" was tried (adding or substituting more, but similar, tasks to the job to increase the job's variety of tasks). This tactic worked sometimes, but not often (a commercial dishwasher found little variety in washing spoons one day and spoons plus forks the next). Job enlargement soon became a joke, not a motivational strategy.

However, job enrichment by job redesign did tap the power of the "interest in the work itself motivator. For example, IBM redesigned an assembly line where each worker had been soldering a single part of a 22-part computer unit and then passing it on to another worker to solder the second part and so on. Instead, the job was redesigned so each worker soldered all 22 parts, stamped the unit with her worker number as "her work" and got periodic feedback about the number of her units that passed inspection or were returned as defective. A bonus system was also added, rewarding workers with extra money for each inspection-approved unit they completed. Productivity soared as workers now perceived their new work as radically enriched, of high variety and interest, identified as theirs, with pride and recognition for work well done - no longer anonymous cogs in a boring assembly machine routine.

An accounting firm achieved similar results by cross-training accountants to handle not only one phase of the business such as accounts receivable but also, and differently, accounts payable, taxation modifications and control of individual accounts by letter and phone. Many firms achieved markedly higher motivation and productivity with other variations of job redesign and job enrichment by job rotation, redesign of office or factory physical layouts, new status-increasing job titles and uniforms, new specific responsibilities such as arrangements of executive meetings, etc. While job enlargement generally failed as frivolous or merely insulting, genuine job redesign and enrichment proved out as sure means to high motivation and productivity.

New Breed of Managers in a New World of Work

The world's economic competition for sales and revenues is no longer merely domestic but international - and fierce. Thus worker productivity is the key to survival for any firm's managers. Moreover, in America especially, workers are no longer motivated to peak productivity by the old tactics of fear, dependence on managers or wages. Today's new breed of workers demands a new breed of managers, skilled in the use of the four motivation theories, able to "problem-solve" daily with imagination, innovation and a sound sense of "human brokerage."