Alexander Saus  

Motivation Collapse: What Should Leader Do to Inspire People Instead of Manipulating Them

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It’s no big secret that management technics can be learnt in class or derived from books. However it’s impossible to teach the art and practice of management. It always depends on common sense and life experience. Motivation is one of the aspects that need using both of the above. 

I will try to use this “M” word as little as possible. Do numerous speeches appealing to motivate or even overmotivate undermotivated and unmotivated employees at the conferences also set your teeth on edge? They surely do mine.
Father of macroeconomics John Keynes once exclaimed: “Capitalism is an impressive belief that the most immoral person does the most immoral things for the common good”. Modern corporate management and HR both represent astonishing belief that the most ordinary people will do the most extraordinary things should you just rewrite their job offer and, I nearly forgot it, tap them on the shoulder with a fatherly smile.

Let me remind you two-factor motivation theory of Fredrick Herzberg. Those two factors we consider crucial for employees’ motivation i.e. salary and working environment combined by friendly attitude of top managers and relations in the team are in fact only retaining, or basic factors. It’s evident that exceeding the certain limit of income does not make us happier. Once the employee has enough money for all the things he needs, it becomes a hard task to justify efforts for earning more money for the things he doesn’t really need.

It’s worth noting that Fredrick Herzberg researched white collars. To my mind, the classification by sociologist Gerchikov V. is more suitable for blue collars. He introduced a theory which in its essence is more cynical, but at the same time, more practical for post-soviet employees.

Goal of any business is to get return and use it for creating something bigger and better
Fredrick Herzberg proved that only achievements, responsibility, career growth and recognition of success could be the only factors of motivation. However defining what success is in the modern society of abundance is one of the most difficult tasks to solve. I am sure, though, that goal of any business is to get return and use it for creating something bigger and better. People don’t remember how long it took someone to earn his money or how much he earned, but how well he spent it in the end. Following this logic we can conclude that manager’s mission is not to give the illusion of security to his employees. Once again, we should not forget that all of the above refers to the white collars who are creative people at most. Slogan of motivation according to Herzberg comes down to the simple “Do what you are good at the best”

His opinion continues the thoughts of Aristotel who introduced the word “eudemonia” meaning success, i.e. uniting efforts to achieve one goal. Great American psychologist Eric Fromm believed that happiness was not gift from above but an achievement possible thanks to one’s productivity. On the contrary, unhappiness is the stress caused by too narrow area of responsibility and insufficient use of one’s abilities.

Naturally enough, stress also can be caused by overworking. Busy people are exposed to it the most. Although they feel being useful and needed at the same time. People who lack decision authority to do something useful or necessary often start demonstrating destructive behavior. Such employees are tempted to use their power of opposition as the only way to show their significance.

In order to enjoy doing their job employees do not necessary need to shake the world. As Volter once said: “The importance of what I do is infinitely small but the fact that I do it is infinitely important”.

It’s enough to give your employees a chance to associate themselves with both their successes and successes of company as a whole. In this case people feel that they do not just do their job but create value. Besides, it also allows not focusing on eternal dilemma of working for someone vs working for oneself. Once people start to create, they begin to cooperate.

Of course, all of the above correlates with manager’s experience and common sense. Any school is aimed at teaching everything one can learn but not everything one should know. True knowledge and skills are acquired only through practical experience. It well may be that you will not earn praise for allowing your employees grow personal through expanding their area of responsibility. But you will definitely be remembered for what good your underlings have learned from you.


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