Leadership Strategies

Key Elements of Motivation and the Modern Manager

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"Key Elements of Motivation and the Modern Manager"
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The manager in today's work environment holds the key to two doors: one that motivates employees and the other that inhibits their motivation. The effective manager understands that using the right key, motivation, leads to a more productive and efficient workplace. Indeed, the manager's job is to utilize employee potential in order to get tasks completed in the workplace ("Employee Motivation," 2005). Unfortunately, motivation is often misunderstood by the manager and rarely is motivation practiced in the manner that it was intended ("Employee Motivation," 2005). As mentioned in Employee Motivation (2005), the primary benefit to the manager for using motivation is that motivated employees are both more productive and creative on the job. This implies that today's modern manager must use motivational techniques in the workplace to obtain the greatest benefit from his/her valuable resources, the employees of the company. Most importantly, the modern manager needs to gather a comprehensive understanding of both the principles and application techniques used to effectively motivate employees.

Interestingly, Erven & Milligan (2001) explain that the majority of employees prefer to be motivated (p. 1). However, the many characteristics of motivation theory and practice can seem onerous to even the most educated manager. To break down motivation theory, Erven & Milligan (2001) explain that underlying motivation is the desire of employees to have their needs satisfied, but it is also important to keep in mind that motivation does not rectify all performance problems (p. 2). Erven & Milligan (2001) argue that synergy between the employer and employee is necessary for motivation to take place, which means that the employer and employee achieve greater gains working in unison compared to working separately (p. 3). Managers must allow a "top down" and "bottom up" system in the workplace, where they culture ideas from employees and follow through with praise for employee ideas.

Rewards serve as excellent motivators for employees, but it is important that managers reflect on findings that monetary rewards do not always act as the greatest motivators for employees in an organization ("Employee Rewards," 2005). Interestingly, it is explained in Employee Rewards (2005) that rewards should be meaningful and also vary with the employee's performance so that they are specialized for each employee. Ensuring employees receive unique rewards makes them meaningful and gives the manager a great motivational tool, since the employee would be able to easily identify his/ her unique reward with an individual action that took place to obtain the reward . It is important to provide rewards quickly after a positive activity takes place and the reward needs to be related to the employee's performance ("Employee Rewards," 2005). Rewards are a key component for a manager to utilize in their overall motivational scheme, since rewards have been found to increase employee productivity between twenty and thirty percent ("Employee Rewards," 2005). The increased productivity gains associated with rewards that are tangible should not be ignored, since increased employee productivity equates into greater profitability and productivity for the firm as a whole.

The effective manager will also be sure to keep in mind the importance of equity and equity theory in the workplace. With the use of rewards as a motivational factor for employees comes the possibility of favoritism among management towards certain employees in providing rewards. Allen (1998) explains that employee performance is directly related to an employee's perception of the reward(s) they are receiving for the work being done and that the employee will adjust their work output to accommodate the quality of rewards they are given. However, as previously mentioned, the use of small, symbolic rewards have been found to have the greatest effect on motivating an employee, thus increasing their job output as well as their motivation, without the excessive cost associated with monetary rewards ("Employee Rewards," 2005). Managers must ensure all employees are rewarded equitably and offered recognition to offset any perceived inequities, otherwise employee productivity will continue to decline to a level that the employee feels is appropriate for his/her pay scale and given job responsibilities (Allen, 1998). The efficient manager could employ conditioning strategies adopted by B.F. Skinner's research, which aim to control behavior through rewards (Allen, 1998). The manager would also need to consider the ethical implications of attempting to control employee behavior to obtain a desired result and combine this reasoning with the company's need to achieve greater output or increased employee morale. If the manager can employ conditioning in an ethical manner and employees respond positively to the rewards given, motivation will have been increased and both the employee and employer will benefit from the management strategy.

The managers' of today act as the gatekeepers for companies and are usually the ones directly responsible for company profitability as well as other factors including employee morale, satisfaction, and work ethic. The manager that ignores motivational opportunities in the workplace fails to embrace the employee needs for growth and achievement (Allen, 1998). The best managers are those that provide rewards that are unique to each employee and have a symbolic meaning to the employee's positive action. Furthermore, the manager that creates an inviting work environment by fitting the employee into their preferred line of work will see employees that are more motivated and productive ("Employee Rewards, 2005). Motivation theory is a challenging concept for today's manager, but it is one aspect that companies and their managers can not ignore, because the result of failing to embrace motivational techniques in the workplace results in employees that are less satisfied with their jobs and exhibit less effort when working, thus contributing to lower company output. For the smart company, it makes ethical and financial sense to employ motivational techniques company-wide.


Allen, G. (1998). Motivating. Dallas County Community College District. Retrieved March 18, 2006, from http://ollie.dcccd.edu/mgmt1374/book_contents/4directing/motivatg/motivate.htm

"Employee Motivation." (2005). accel-TEAM. Retrieved March 18, 2006, from http://www.accel-team.com/motivation/index.html

"Employee Rewards." (2005). accel-TEAM. Retrieved March 18, 2006, from http://www.accel-team.com/motivation/employeeRewards_00.html

Erven, B. & Milligan, R. (2001, July). Making Employee Motivation a Partnership. Ohio State University Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics. Retrieved March 18, 2006, from http://aede.osu.edu/people/erven.1/hrm/motivation.pdf

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