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How Best Can Managers Ensure Employees Are Motivated At Work?

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How best can managers ensure employees are motivated at work?

There are two reasons why people do things, first because they want and willing to do, or second because they have no choice. If people do things when they have to, it is likely that they will do no more than necessary, and they will stop doing as soon as they can. Therefore, the term “motivation” is introduced, in order to make people want and willing to do things. This essay will be looking at how best managers can ensure their employees are motivated at work, because this is important for an organization to achieve its goals. Before we start, we have to clarify the term: motivation.

Motivation has to do with a set of independent/dependent variable relationships that explain the direction, amplitude, and persistence of an individual’s behaviour, holding constant the effects of aptitude, skill, and understanding of the task, and the constraints operating in the environment.

To begin with traditional theory X, it assumes people are lazy, they do not like working and want to avoid it as soon as possible, plus, they have no ambition, and take no responsibility. The only reason they work is for rewards (simply in money). In this case, managers must monitor their staffs all the time.

In sharp contrast to theory X, Douglas McGregor introduced a total difference thing called theory Y. He believes people want to work and learn, not only for paid, self-development is more important to them, they enjoy working while challenge themselves. Therefore what managers do, is to design the plan for the best outcome, for both employees and the organization, and ensure the plan works properly.

The above two paragraphs clearly show a relationship between employers and employees, and that is the employment relationship. This simply means:

 Employer hires employee’s capacity/potential to work

пЃ¬ Employee exchanges his/her capacity to work for wages.

However, in further, employment relationship means far more than these, because people in the real life are not as simply described as in theory X or theory Y, what they think may be too complex to be evaluated. For example, in one of the most elaborate studies on employee motivation, involving 31,000 men and 13,000 women, the Minneapolis Gas Company sought to determine what their potential employees’ desire most from a job. This study was carried out during a 20 years period from 1945 to 1965 and was quite revealing. Surprisingly, the result shows that factors such as money, benefits were given a low rating, but job security was given the highest concern. So that, no one can definitely say that what their employees want from the job and employers. Regarding to this, Abraham Maslow tells us that people’s actions are motivated by a set of needs, arranged in a “hierarchy” (illustrated in Fig1). Each need only begins to have a strong effect on behavior once the previous need has been (largely) dealt with.


Therefore, in order to ensure employees are motivated at work, firstly, managers must satisfy the basic needs (physiological needs), such as foods, warm, etc. then move step by step towards the top (self- actualization needs).

Next, in order to achieve the best result in motivating employees, and maximum their discretionary efforts, management has to establish a “psychological contract” with their staffs. The term “psychological contract” was first used in early 1960s; it has been defined as “the perceptions of the two parties, employee and employer, of what their mutual obligations are towards each other”. Basically, it involves 3 factors: fairness, trust and delivery of deal.

It is no doubt that people would like to be fairly treated, by comparison with relevant people, e.g. colleague. However, it is quite hard to achieve a level where everyone perceives themselves to be fairly because people’s perceptions of their own may be different from the estimation from others, but this problem can be solved by using performance appraisal. It rates the employees’ performance into different level, therefore management level can decide whether to praise or punish their employees with enough evidences.

Trust plays an important role in a psychological contract, also in an employment relationship. If the level of trust is low, means the relationship is in stress, in fact, one way to tell when a relationship is under-stress is when the timescale over which the “balance sheet” is balanced, shortens. In such situation the participants begin to expect almost immediate repayment of favors done. Therefore, trust can be seen as the most important factor, which ensures the psychological contract runs smoothly.

Delivery of deal can be seen as the promise that management brings to employees. Research evidence shows that, where employees believe that management have broken promises or failed to deliver on commitments, this has a negative effect on job satisfaction and commitment and on the psychological contract as a whole. For example, employer promise training will be provided for staffs, but sometimes it cannot be done due to financial or other reasons, this will hit the employees’ morale, and will be blamed.

To sum up the above three points, it is clear that psychological contract is to tell both employers and employees what they are required to do, and what they can expect from other. Denise Rousseau described it as “individual beliefs, shaped by the organization, regarding terms of an exchange agreement between individuals and their organization. It is useful for mangers in order to maximally motivate their employees.

Furthermore, as well as looking at ways to motivate individuals, we also need to concentrate on their job, which is known as job design. Jobs exist to fill roles, in order to design different kind of jobs, firstly, the manager has to assign and clarify the job’s role and its relationship in the organization. Regarding to this, Hackman introduced “five core job characteristics”

1. Skill variety- the degree to which a job requires different kind of



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