All 2 entries tagged Motivation

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February 17, 2011

The surprising science of motivation

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

I decided to write about motivation today, after watching this video, during my break from doing research on the same subject! This is particularly relevant to performance appraisal, and the mini-project we're working on regarding it. You should watch it before you read on.

So, the speaker presents the case for intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, and in a powerful, convincing way. Carrot and stick (reward and punishment) motivators just don't work, at least for the majority of tasks. The reason for this is the kinds of things we do now require THINKING, not just mechanistic, zombie-like, ability. He says it best at 6:30, financial incentives might work, but only if the problem to solve is 'for dummies'! It doesn't work.

Let me repeat. THESE THINGS DON'T WORK!

What I don't get, is if the science is quite clearly there, why do organisations and managers continually try to go the other way? It's been repeatedly proven, around the world, in all kinds of situations, that pay-for-performance actually achieves a NEGATIVE effect, and yet, this news seems not to have made it up to senior management in most companies.

Knowledge is not being made use of; in fact, it is being actively ignored to the detriment of excellence. Deming is turning in his grave...

I haven't gone into what does work here, but the video covers it pretty well I feel. I'm thankful for companies/leaders who learn and then think, like Google, Atlassian, Semco, or the likes of Vineet Nayar.


October 18, 2010

Seminar 1 – Motivating Employees

How would you handle employees who are dormant and passive or active and negative?

I think motivating people can be achieved in two main ways: rewards, or inducing fear. I personally prefer the first approach.

Having worked with children quite a lot, I always found that encouraging them to do something they didn't want to do suddenly became a lot easier when they might get a treat out of it. They would turn their attitude around, as they had a goal to aim for. They really wanted the sweets/ice cream, and they'd try their hardest in order to get it. And they'd do it again, in the hope they might be rewarded again. But if you tried the opposite approach, i.e. you told them to do something, or they'd be punished, you might get a response out of them, but it wouldn't ever be enthusiastic, neither would they care too much how great the result was. They would want to avoid punishment, which became their main goal, but they resented being cajoled and bullied into doing something they didn't want to do.

I'm not saying employees are like children who most be guided; that would be patronising. But the example is a microcosm of human behaviour, and good managers must be able to guide employees to get the best out of them, particularly in the identified situations. The pessimistic approach effectively assumes the worst of people, and only recognises people's basic motivational needs (as per Maslow's Hierarchy). I think that generally, better managers would take the positive approach, and target the higher end needs as well, such as self esteem, as these will lead to a far more fulfilled workforce.

So, once the approach has been decided, how do you tackle the two groups in question? For the first, I think you have to excite them about what they are doing, show how they can be involved and are important. By raising their energy and passion, their willingness to get more unto it may also increase. Arguably, the second group is harder. If people are actively negative, they have energy, but are directing it the wrong way. Turning that around would involve very careful management, and I think you'd have to talk to them to get to the root of the problem.

I think ultimately, you can't allow individuals to bring down the organisation, and if people are unresponsive in the long term, and not good at their work, you might have to fire them. But I don't think that threat should ever really be used as a motivational tool!


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