Motivation at Work - 17 August 2010
It’s been a month of high-profile crime in Australia. A few days ago, the patriarch of a mafia family was assassinated. Last week, a woman’s body was found in a park with her head, arms, and legs missing. The week before, 6-year old Kiesha Abrahams vanished from her suburban home and hasn’t been seen since.
Whenever such crimes become big news stories, I always wonder what it is that motivates people to commit these atrocities. So, I researched the motivations that compel people to become criminals, and stumbled across four main academic theories. Like much in life, each of these can explain the motivations not just of the illicitly minded, but for employees, too.
Classical theory: This theory suggests that crime is caused by an individual’s free will. Criminal decisions are made rationally with an awareness of potential consequences.
To encourage employees to make a rational decision to be motivated of their own free will, use the following seven intrinsic motivators as developed by the University of Rochester. The right motivator will differ for each employee. (1) Challenge [a task that stretches]; (2) Curiosity [an activity that’s new]; (3) Competition [a comparison of performance]; (4) Control [delegation and empowerment]; (5) Recognition [a meaningful acknowledgement]; (6) Cooperation [an exercise requiring collaboration]; (7) Fantasy [creativity and learning].
Biological theory: This theory proposes that criminal behaviours are determined by genetics and influenced by DNA and hormones. In effect, criminal tendencies are inherited.
This inheritance feature is obvious at work. There’ll be some employees who are naturally motivated; they can enthuse themselves without any intervention from their manager. But then there are others who are antipathetic no matter where they work. This is why recruiting for attitude rather than skill, and hiring the friends of your best employees are great tactics.
Sociological theory: This is when a person’s criminality is propelled by impacts such as damaged family relations and poor schooling. Criminals don’t see any benefit in behaving.
Employees’ actions are based upon two factors: they’re either fleeing some kind of pain or heading towards a certain pleasure. Therefore, you can use negative motivation (exploiting fear to scare people into compliance), or positive motivation (one of the seven listed above). Negative motivation works in the short term, but is never sustainable in the long run.
Interactionist theory: And this theory says that people become criminals when they associate with other criminals. They have very little self-direction.
We’re working in an era where employee loyalty to organisations is extremely low, whereas loyalty to peers has never been stronger. This means that colleagues are influenced by each other more than they are by the boss. A solution is to get struggling employees to spend time with passionate workers, and avoid placing unmotivated people in positions of influence.
Lastly, always remember that your demeanour influences employee misdemeanours. Staff members are only ever as motivated as their boss.
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