What are the benefits and dangers of motivation theory for contemporary managerial practice?
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The first theory to emerge concerning management practice is that of Frederick Taylor in the late 19th Century. He proposed that workers were only motivated by monetary rewards, so introduced piece-rates to increase productivity. This still holds true for certain businesses today, a telemarketing company will have heavily weighted commission based pay in employees’ salaries, depending on the number of sales they make. A good salesperson at Yellow Pages will be highly motivated to continue working hard to sell additional advert space, as they can add up to 50% to their basic salary. However a continuous strive just to meet sales targets may become monotonous to employees over time, and monetary rewards will no longer be enough – what they now desire as a motivator could be job enrichment.
To merely follow Taylor’s scientific methods in such a modern day business would lead to very high staff turnover, to a point where recruiting and training costs would make the business no longer profitable. However there may be some pools of labour that today could still be subjected to methodologies of Taylor. The desire to meet the most basic needs of food and shelter as identified by Maslow (1954) and large numbers of people requiring work means sweatshop conditions are still commonplace in developing countries, where workers are paid very small piece rates for manufacturing goods. ok
Moving into the 20th Century the Hawthorne Studies were conducted between 1924 and 1932, by Elton Mayo, William Dickson and Fritz Roethlisberger. The results from these identified that workers had social needs, and could become more productive purely by their supervisors showing an interest in their work. Although the results may hold true in identifying a social aspect of motivation, I believe the methodology that these Harvard professors used was flawed, as reported by Alex Carey (1967, pg.410). The introduction of ‘friendly’ supervisors as one of the social changes led quickly to increased chatter and a fall in productivity. Some workers were reprimanded, and hence it was only the threat of further disciplinary action that led to an eventual increase in output. There are many other oversights that are not mentioned in the conclusions that were made from these studies, yet the ‘Hawthorne Effect’ is still widely referred to today. Mayo’s work is also later contradicted by Herzberg’s findings (1987, Harvard Business Review) that show ‘Supervision’ and ‘Relationship with supervisor’ as a hygiene factor, one that only serves as a de-motivator if not present. Perhaps these workers were not used to any attention to supervisors, which shows the importance of identifying with a workers emotional side, rather than the types of changes made in the workers environmental factors. Nice point.
The work of the Hawthorne Studies prompted further investigation to attempt to unravel the effects of human relations on motivation. The hierarchy of needs Abraham Maslow first developed in 1954 is still commonly used today to illustrate why people work and what they expect to get out of working, but to me it shows little more than common sense. The basic needs of survival and security are fulfilled in almost all jobs in the UK, with laws governing minimum wage, contracts of employment, redundancy pay and unemployment benefit. Instead managers should recognise it is now the higher level needs, esteem and self-actualisation, that should be met in order to increase motivation and boost productivity.
Frederick Hertzberg’s two factor theory (1959) found that meeting the basic needs did not serve as a motivator, only as a de-motivator if they were not met. In order to motivate employees managers should attempt to link Hertzberg’s top satisfiers (achievement, recognition and responsibility)