A long, long, time ago, in a management course at Cochise College in Arizona, I was introduced to the work of psychologist Frederick Herzberg. He’s the guy that proposed that there are two factors that influence people at work, aptly named the two-factor theory (and also as the motivator-hygiene theory) of motivation. I recently came across a reference to the theory in an article on motivating a team.
Essentially, the theory states that there are issues in a workplace that can demotivate people. These are things like inadequate pay, uncomfortable physical environment, perceived job insecurity, etc. When these items, called hygiene factors, are missing they will tend to demotivate people. When these hygiene factors are present, however, they do not serve as motivators.
The factors that motivate people are things like job recognition, promotion possibilities and autonomy in how the work gets done. These things do not necessarily demotivate when absent but will motivate when present.
The conclusion is that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposites. The opposite of satisfaction is no satisfaction. The opposite of dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction.
Author Daniel Pink lists three factors that motivate people: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy is the ability to be self-directed in our work. This allows us to make meaningful decisions regarding the completion of our work. The satisfaction and the motivation come from knowing that we accomplished something of value.
Mastery refers to the satisfaction of our inner drive to get better at whatever we do. This can only be achieved when the tasks are not too easy and not too difficult. Too easy is boring and too difficult is unrealistic and unachievable. People are motivated by working on Goldilocks tasks which are not too easy and not too hard.
Purpose refers to the feeling that what you do is part of a greater outcome. When we feel that what we do brings value to something greater than ourselves, it is easy to get up in the morning. We look forward to going to work to continue adding value to the greater cause. This is why we in this industry are all so very proud of saying that we are in health care, which is for the good of humanity.
Every leader should be aware that their people can be demotivated very easily by removing some of the above hygiene factors. That is why we give people desks, chairs, bathrooms, the right test equipment, etc. That is why people should be paid enough to “take money off the table.”
Providing employment is not itself enough to engage people to act in the best interests of the organization. Neither is concentrating on providing the hygiene factors. To motivate team members means to empower them to engage in their work and to view themselves as valuable to the organization. Leaders make their team members feel good about their jobs and work.
I recently wrote about recognition. When we publicly and privately recognize achievement it drives people to achieve more. By privately, I am talking about one-on-ones, which is the single most important way that leaders can be sure to address business issues, personal issues and ensure that everything is on track with each individual. I am amazed at how many managers tell me that they are too busy to conduct one-on-ones with their people. How is it possible to be too busy to communicate with your people? Communication is key.
In today’s cost-cutting environment it appears that management is taking the attitude that people are lucky to have a job and that should be motivation enough. There is no need to engage people because the threat of losing their job should make people do a good job. I contend that even under the most difficult environment for the managers, there are things that they can do to become leaders.
Organizational constraints should not be an excuse to not provide the things people need to eliminate the hygiene factors. These constraints should not apply to how leaders treat people and communicate with them. Poor managers blame the organization and those above them for the conditions people work under. Leaders find ways to push the right buttons for each individual to allow them to self engage. Which are you? I am neither since I am semi-retired now and write crazy articles once a month.
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