Workplace Behaviour Reflective Journal
Motivation in the Workplace
MOTIVATING GENERATION Y’ERS IN THE WORKPLACE
Reflective Journal on Motivating Generation Y’ers in the Workplace
‘If only our employees were motivated, then we'd get the results we need.’ How many times have you heard a similar statement at work?
Effective management generally entails the creation, development and maintenance of an environment in which individuals in an organization work together to accomplish common organizational goals. To achieve this, a manager needs to know how to motivate people to perform. Ideally, organizational roles, the staffing of those roles and the entire process of leadership must be built on the knowledge of motivation (Koontz & Weihrich, 1988). Zimmerman (1988) further reiterates that an organization cannot effectively achieve its mission without motivating its personnel towards the achievement of its set goals. Thus, employee motivation is imperative to the success of any organization.
What is motivation? Reece and Brandt (2008, p.161) defines motivation as ‘the influences that account for the initiation, direction, intensity and persistence of behavior’. Motivation, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult pieces in the management puzzle. Over the last five years, my department has seen an influx of younger generation employees whose needs, expectations and values are markedly different from the existing staff who belong to an earlier generation. The traditional ‘tried and tested’ methods of motivation no longer worked for everyone. As a manager and a team member, I agree that motivation is key to employee performance but after a few years in the trenches, trying to develop, reward, and improve staff performance, I began grabbing for any old bit of the motivational jigsaw and in frustration, attempted to jam ill-suited pieces into place at times. The lecture by Dr Jo Pryce on Motivating Yourself and Others was timely as it has helped me to re-examine myself and my understanding of human behavior in terms of motivation and put me in a better position to address this issue in my workplace.
Motivational theories can broadly fall under two categories: scientific and behavioral. In this paper, I would like to review the behavioral approach advocated by Abraham Maslow, Douglas McGregor and Frederick Herzberg in the light of my workplace experiences. The figure below suggests how these theories contribute to my understanding of motivation.
Employees’ Needs + Manager’s Attitude + Employees’ Job = Employee Motivation
(Maslow) (McGregor) (Herzberg)
Understanding Employees’ Needs – Maslow
In the article, “A Theory of Human Motivation” (Maslow, 1943) argues that individuals are motivated to satisfy different kinds of needs, some of which are more prepotent than others. He represents this prepotency of needs as a hierarchy as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The hierarchical nature of this framework suggests that higher, unsatisfied needs usually appear after the satisfaction of those on the lower level. Each of these needs operates at all times, although one deficient set dominates the individual at any one time and circumstance.
Judging by the policies, procedures and practices in my organization, it has to a large extent addressed these needs. It provides up-to-date amenities, a safe working environment, good salary, job security and retirement benefits. We have a childcare center in our premises and a plethora of talks, social activities etc. aimed at improving social networking and work-life balance. In addition, there is adequate provision for achievement and recognition and clear channels for personal growth and advancement. The level of motivation is therefore expected to be very high. Yet, on the ground this is not the case.
One of the key reasons can be traced to the marked difference in the work ethics, values and behavior of the younger Generation Y (those who were born between 1980 and 1994) ( Davie, 2009, p. A6) staff and the incumbent Generation X. The original staff is a tightly knitted group who are above 45 years of age. Most of us share similar life experiences and are at about the same stage of life. We hold conservative values of hard work, humility, respect, commitment and interaction which mirror the ethos of the organization. Thus, the level of motivation exhibited by the existing group is very high. However, the Generation Y’ers in my department do not share these values. They would rather be ‘Facebooking’ with friends (belongingness and love needs) rather than socialize with the rest of the staff during breaks. During meetings, they can be rather blunt with their comments and display impatience (esteem needs) inadvertently irking some of the older staff members. The new attitude of Gen Y to the workplace has lead to some uneasiness between the generations in the department. A survey by Lee Hecht Harrison in 2005 found that 60% of employers experience tension between employees from different generations. This tension is often two-way with 70% of older employees dismissive of younger workers’ abilities while 50% of younger employees are dismissive of older co-workers.
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Most of them have also voiced their disappointment over the strict dress code and regimented work schedule and feel that they should have the flexibility to report late or end earlier as per their teaching schedule (physiological needs). They reason that they could do their administrative work at home and students could have access to them any time through their cell phones or via the internet.
According to a global report by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (2008), 61 per cent of CEOs say they have difficulty recruiting and integrating younger workers. Thus, it is no surprise that I find it increasingly difficult to manage the expectations of the younger staff and keep them motivated.
The answer to the problem lies in what could be seen as a generational shift from the Esteem category to the Self-Actualization category. According to Maslow (1943), people in the Esteem category have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually) high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others. After all, high pay and high positions are all valuable to someone who needs to feel like they are an important contributing factor to an organization's success. And while these needs may have been the driving force for my generation, it is not the case for
One reason is that Generation Y has grown up in an environment that stresses the importance of self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others from the very beginning of their education (Business Week, 2005). Movements such as feminism and anti-discrimination laws have all helped to shape the idea that they are valuable and worthy. Unlike in the past, Generation Y does not need that kind of validation from their employers. Instead, Generation Y is approaching employment with the goals and needs espoused in the Self-Actualization category, which "refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming." (Maslow, 1943).
This realization has got me re-examine my attitude as a manager in the light of McGregor’s Theory.
Evaluating Manager’s Attitude – McGregor
Heil, Bennis & Stephens (2000) wrote: "Douglas McGregor's most important legacy was neither Theory X nor Theory Y. It was his insistence that managers question their core assumptions about human nature." (2000, p.20). McGregor proposed that managers use their authority in a positive manner to create an environment that would augment employees’ natural desire to satisfy their needs. In order to create such an environment, managers should examine their core assumptions of human behavior to see how these cognitions impacted their managerial behaviors. For McGregor, managers are only able to change how they lead by first changing their thinking.
This is aptly illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Managerial Behavior.
Source: http:// 2005-2009
McGregor (1960) identified two sets of assumptions held by managers – Theory X and Theory Y. In Theory X, managers assume employees are inherently lazy, dislike work and will avoid work if they can. Thus, employees need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. In Theory Y, managers assume employees may be ambitious, self-motivated, exercise self-control and they enjoy their mental and physical work duties. Thus, given the right conditions, most employees will want to do well at work.
Given the social, educational, and political desirability of Theory Y, one would think that this is the assumption that any organization or manager would hold. My experience suggests that this is not the case. The organization I work for has a hierarchical structure with a limited span of control at each level consistent with Theory X assumptions. While the mission statement and values of my organization espouse Theory Y, many of the practices are geared toward the ‘soft’ Theory X. To illustrate, all staff members are required to log into a computer system upon arrival and at the end of the day. Regardless of their teaching schedules, they are expected to be in the office before nine and leave after five. Another common practice amongst managers is to keep detailed and dated records of unsatisfactory performance or non compliance of their charges for review during staff appraisals. Such Theory X ‘controls’ were of no issue to the older employees as it was an extension of our own work values. Yet, the Generation Y’ers found them unacceptable, inflexible and draconian.
At a personal level, my own style swings from Theory X to Theory Y and vice versa depending on whom I dealt with, the circumstance and the task at hand. This is supported by Campbell and Swift (2006) who found evidence that managers differ in whether they make internal or external attributions for good and bad performance, depending on whether the employee is an in-group member or not. It is possible that managers have a Theory Y mindset with respect to in-group members and a Theory X mindset with respect to out-group members and engage in correspondingly different managerial behaviors. I could not agree with them more; I regarded the Generation Y staff as out-group members and had the tendency to be more critical over their performance and behavior. In short, I was applying Theory X attitude hoping to achieve Theory Y results!
This revelation made me realize that I should not only engage the Generation Y’ers by creating a conducive workplace but also display attitudes that are guided by Theory Y principles in order to motivate them to realize their full potential. What could I do at the department level to energize and move my Generation Y staff into goal-directed behavior? Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory provided the answer.
Employees’ Job Scope – Herzberg
Frederick Herzberg (1959) said, ‘If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do.’ Herzberg was the first to show that satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work nearly always arose from different factors, and were not simply opposing reactions to the same factors, as had always previously been (and still now by the unenlightened) believed. Herzberg’s Theory has a two component approach: hygiene or maintenance factors and motivators. The maintenance factors consist of a set of extrinsic job conditions that include job security, pay, benefits, working conditions, company policies, quality of technical supervision and quality of interpersonal relations in the workplace. According to Herzberg these factors are associated with dissatisfaction. If they were not acceptable, employees will be dissatisfied. Yet, if they were present in the workplace, they do not lead to motivation or satisfaction. The maintenance factors parallel the lower level needs of Maslow’s hierarchy: physiological, safety and social needs. In contrast, motivators are intrinsic job conditions that are associated with motivation. These include factors such as achievement, recognition, personal growth, responsibility, personal development and career advancement. These factors, which mirror the needs of Generation Y’ers, correspond to the higher level needs on Maslow’s hierarchy. Interestingly, if and only if, these factors were present would employees be satisfied and motivated.
Herzberg's idea of two-factor motivation makes complete intuitive sense in a McGregorian framework: that Theory X needs must be met before Theory Y behaviors can be encouraged. To illustrate, pay aligns itself among what might be identified as the Theory X factors described by the term "hygiene" (Herzberg et al., 1968). While pay may have its limits in motivating employees to go above and beyond normal expectations, it is an obvious element of basic motivation.
The existing staff saw the organization as one that is high in hygiene factors and motivators; the Generation Y’ers saw it as one that is high in hygiene factors but low in motivators. Thus, it is imperative that the department provide Generation Y’ ers a workplace that possessed high hygiene factors and high motivators.
It is clear that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, following the older Generation X’ers’ preferences, is no longer appropriate for the Generation Y’ers. While I may not have the authority to make changes to the existing organizational policies, I have the ability to influence the decision makers to make gradual changes to current policies to become more Generation Y friendly. Given that their focus is on personal development and fulfillment, Generation Y’ers would be interested in training and educational opportunities, fast-track schemes for employees with potential, job enrichment schemes, mentoring programs etc.
Nadira (2007) reports that Generation Y’ers do not have the same deep connection to the world of work as the earlier generations. Their perspective on work indicates that flexible work options are important to them. As such, work-life balance strategies such as job sharing, flexible hours, and working from home options need to be seriously considered.
As company’s are quickly realizing, Generation Y expects to be treated with respect, be constantly challenged with new and innovative tasks, and have the freedom to set their own schedules. As Daun Paris, president of Eastern Consolidated points out, “They want to be able to create their own situations and do it their way.” (Marsh, 2007). Thus, it makes good sense to implement such strategies since the number of Generation Y’ers in our organization is only set to grow in the future as they replace the older generation who retire.
On my part, I would need to tailor ‘ill-suited’ policies and practices in the department to meet Generation Y needs and motivate them. 'Tailoring' the policies to the needs of each individual will be difficult. To do so means that I have to be aware of not only the organization's expectations of our performance, but also what each of my staff is most passionate about, what took energy away from them, and what the obstacles were to their reaching the highest level of Maslow's hierarchy on a more consistent basis. I now see my role as removing those obstacles. Rather than quickly labeling Generation Y’ers as selfish or fickle, I focus on ways to challenge my young staff on more personal levels by offering opportunities for self-directed work and new projects.
One other area to explore would be job enrichment. While it provides the opportunity for growth, care will be taken to ensure that the job enrichment involves vertical job loading and not horizontal job loading. Horizontal loading is basically adding another meaningless task to the existing one. Vertical job loading, on the other hand, would be removing controls while keeping accountability and introducing new and more challenging tasks not previously handled. This is likely to appeal to the Generation Y’ers.
In addition, with the consensus of the staff, I plan to kick off two motivation programs that I believe would promote greater understanding and eliminate the ‘them and us’ attitude in my department.
For a start, I would like to narrow the widening communication chasm between the two camps by employing the FISH! Philosophy (Lundin, Paul & Christensen, 2000). The FISH! Philosophy consists of four principles designed to create a great experience at work: "Play," "Make Their Day," "Be There" and "Choose Your Attitude." The simple, practical tools would help to build a conducive work culture, improve relationships and create more connected teams. This program is simple to administer and has helped thousands of individuals, teams and organizations to rediscover the importance of human relations in establishing a great culture, creating higher levels of morale and motivation, and producing a higher quality of life at work.
Mentoring / Reverse Mentoring Program
Second, I would like to revive the mentoring program. According to Bryce (2008), mentoring is starting to experience a resurgence as companies find it to be an effective approach for developing employees and promoting teamwork. Thus, implementing an effective mentoring program would help the younger people make the transition into the corporate culture and build stronger ties with their older counterparts. In addition, Raines (2002) suggests the setting up of a reverse mentoring program so that the older employees can tap on the Generation Y’ers’ technological capability and expertise. Such a program would definitely benefit the older staff as many of us would love to incorporate technology such as podcasts, RSS feeds and blogs into our lessons but may not know how to. In addition, it would provide a platform for the older staff to understand the mindset, norms and values of the Generation Y’ers and help to foster greater understanding and camaraderie between the two groups.
A Chinese proverb states, “For every hundred men hacking away at the leaves of a diseased tree, only one man stoops to inspect the roots.”
As managers, we are often busy tackling symptoms of organizational problems rather than seeking out their causes. We should stoop to inspect the roots. The lack of motivation is an important cause of work-related problems. With the changing environment and diverse workforce, the solutions to motivation problems are becoming even more complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates employees changes constantly (Bowen & Radhakrishna, 2001). Each generation requires a different set of standards to motivate them at work. The challenge for organizations is to create an environment that meets the needs of all employees, regardless of the generation to which they belong. I believe that in order for an organization to be truly successful, all co-existing generations in the workplace need to understand and value each other, even when their perspectives and goals are vastly different.
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