by Dianne-Jo Moore
How does a manager effectively motivate his workers? Are some methods more successful than others? Does effectiveness vary from one situation to another? From one person to another?
Stephen J. Carroll and Henry L. Tosi, management consultants and co-authors of several books on management, point out seven strategies which managers can use to guide workers to a higher level of job performance. The strategies are discussed in order of effectiveness, not in order of frequency used. Some may be applicable to your water treatment business.
When possible, skillful managers form work groups with the hope that peer pressure will induce high levels of performance. This is an effective means of motivation because individuals appear to be more concerned with living up to the expectations of fellow workers than living up to the expectations of their bosses.
Complexities arise when an entire group conforms to a low level rather than a high level of achievement or when a particular work setting makes it difficult to structure group activities.
Workers who are allowed to set their own performance levels will usually try to meet their own expectations, but it is very important to have the worker make a verbal commitment regarding the anticipated achievement level. According to Carroll and Tosi, “There is … evidence that individuals and groups are most likely to attain goals when they make a public commitment to do so. This may be because such commitments are promises and most people view themselves as persons who keep their word.”
The major problem with this strategy results when workers have a low self-concept. At this point, managers need to motivate a worker to think positively about himself so that his self-concept will correlate with high performance. On the whole, this strategy is effective, but it might require that a manager reinforce an employee’s strengths first.
With this method, managers structure jobs so the work itself provides fulfillment. According to Carroll and Tosi, “The experiment in job enrichment underway at the Saab-Volvo automobile manufacturers in Sweden illustrates rather nicely how job enrichment works. Rather than the monotonous production system which characterizes auto manufacturing in the U.S., at Saab-Volvo they use a team-assembly concept in which workers rotate the tasks required for building an auto. Basically, the entire group is responsible for assembling the entire auto.”
One of the difficulties with this motivational strategy is that workers want to be compensated adequately for the work they do. When employees are expected to perform more complicated jobs, they expect increased compensation. If this does not happen, the work alone may not provide enough internal incentive.
This type of planning is based on the behavior modification approach in which workers are believed to repeat or increase the desired work performance if they are given rewards. It is also hoped that poor performance will be eradicated once the subordinate comprehends the relationship between commendable performance and rewards.
Generally, the reward approach is successful, but is not without its complications. Individuals are unique and maintain different value systems. What may be considered rewarding to one worker may not be an incentive to the next. “Some people prefer pay increases. Others seek promotions. Still others may desire new rugs on their office floors,” state Carroll and Tosi. Establishing meaningful incentives which relate to performance can be a difficult task for a manager.
Sometimes managers promise special privileges in exchange for desired work performance. A supervisor may allow a worker to leave early if he completes his task for the day, or he may be allowed a day away from the job if he finishes a required project within a specified time.
Mutual exchange is a frequently used strategy but not necessarily the most effective. Problems arise when the employee feels the exchange is out of balance or when he cannot come to an agreement with his supervisor as to what constitutes a mutual exchange.
In this design, workers compete against one another for certain bonuses or prizes. Banners, plaques, vacations and free dinners are examples of some rewards offered. Sales jobs often use this strategy.
Difficulties occur when managers design contests that do not offer employees a fair opportunity to achieve the specified goal. If the same individuals and groups win the prizes time and time again due to the design of the contests, interest in competing is likely to grow lukewarm for many of the workers. Also, competition is against the other person, not a cooperative strategy, and work performance can actually suffer due to the hostility that competition can trigger.
Punishment and Fear
The least effective, but frequently used, method of motivating a worker is with a negative consequence such as a verbal dressing-down, suspension or the loss of the job. Punishment may achieve immediate results, but it does not accomplish internal motivation for several reasons. First, adults are not inclined to remain in employment where they are threatened or intimidated. Second, workers who are backed by a strong union may dissolve the threat with a higher level of authority. Third, intimidation can create animosity toward a superior, and employees may respond with hostility and subversion.
According to Carroll and Tosi, “Another problem with the fear strategy is that it creates a punitive climate in which individuals are afraid of being different from or of offending others. This diminishes creativity and can lead to intellectual stagnation.”
It would appear the most effective motivational strategies demand the most time and concern on the part of the manager. Threatening a worker with punishment takes but a moment. Forming a cohesive work group using the team-building approach demands effort and elbow grease.