Motivational strategies for supervisors Essay

INTRODUCTION

In a bid of spurring workers or subordinates to put in more effort and be more productive in their work, superior or managers tend to motivate them with financial incentives, material or economic benefits, or even sometimes through acknowledgement of hard deserving work from industrious worker by giving awards and recommendation. Thus, there is no one way of motivating people at work place. What may constitute as a basis for motivating worker ‘A’ may not be a motivating factor for worker ‘B’.

The motives of an organization are to expand its productivity base, have a good relationship between the organization and its customers, and make profitable operations. It is through the workers attitude to work and how they are properly motivated that will make them, work effectively towards attaining these objectives for the organization. If they are not properly motivated, it means they will not be in a position to contribute meaningfully in the actualization of these set objectives and goals of the organization. In this view, Garner (2003) argues, “It can be a mighty strategic weapon in the battle to increase market share, penetrate new markets, boost sales, and raise profits. It can also become a quagmire of poor morale, stuttering performance, and high turnover. The key, experts agree, is in how you motivate, reward, and treat your call center agents”. Thus, motivating workers rightly is a significant and indispensable activity required for an organization to increase its productivity base and attain its organizational objectives and goals.

This write up will look at the strategies needed by supervisors in motivating their subordinates.

CONCEPTUALIZATION OF TERMS

The term ‘motivation’ is derived from the Greek word ‘moverre’, which means to move or to push. There is a plethora of definitions on the term motivation. However, it is generally agreed that motivation is a force, which gingers or spur an individual or a group of people into going the extra length of performing their assigned duties. Thus, motivation brings about increased productivity, when it is rightly applied. For instance, money may not be a motivating factor to some people, no matter how large the sum they get as remuneration; they may be actually motivated by self-actualization, recognition and achievement, rather than monetary incentives. However, for some other people there may not be satisfy with the amount of money they have. Thus, they tend to continue to accumulate more wealth. It is then the responsibility of the supervisor or manager to know what actually motivate each of his workers for effective actualization of the objectives and goals of motivation.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

A theory is an abstraction from the real world to give explanation concerning existing relationship between two or more variables. In other words, a theory is a tested hypotheses used in giving explanation to relationship among variables. There exist several theories on motivation.

The scientific school of thought led by Frederick Taylor, sees motivating factor for workers as economic incentives. On the other hand, the human relations school led by Elton Mayo, in the Hawthorne experiment , discover that workers are not necessarily motivated by  economic incentives, but by the existence of a network of interrelationship among workers, where there is an informal structure in place, outside the organization’s formal  structure (Wertheim, 2005). Through the foundation led by the human relations theory, several theories on motivation abound. These include: Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of need theory’, McGregor ‘X and Y theories’, Fredrick Herzberg ‘Two factors theories’, David McClelland ‘achievement theory, Victor Vroom’s ‘Expectancy theory, Adam’s ‘Equity theory’, etc. These theories have a meeting point, whereby they advocate that there are different levels and types of motivational factors. Thus, what will constitute a motivating factor to one worker may not be an effective tool for motivating another. According to Maslow hierarchy of need, there are five hierarchy of need, i.e. the physiological needs (clothing, food, shelter, sex etc.), the safety and security needs, social and love needs, self-esteem needs and self-actualization needs. Thus, when a worker has achieved one level of this need, it ceases from being a motivating factor to him. It is expected that managers or supervisors should use the next higher need in the hierarchy chart to motivate the worker (Maslow, 1954).

To Herzberg, he gave two set of motivational factors; he term one ‘the Hygiene or dissatisfiers’ and the other ‘Motivators or Satisfiers’. The hygiene factors are those that tend to maintain workers in his place of work. They are not the real motivating factors. These include:  salary, status, company policy and administration, nature of supervision, relationship with the supervisors, work conditions, relationship with peers, relationship with subordinates, personal life, and security. On the other hand the ‘motivators’ factors include achievement, recognition, a sense of performing an important and interesting job the work itself), responsibility, and advancement (Ola & Oyinbo, 2000:133). There is a continuum between the satisfiers and the dissatisfier. The ‘dissatisfiers’ is not necessarily the same thing as dissatisfaction. According to Herzberg, removing dissatisfying characteristics from a job do not necessarily make the job satisfying, nor vice versa. He interpreted his findings to propose the existence of dual continuum the opposite of satisfaction being ‘no satisfaction’, and the opposite of dissatisfaction being ‘no dissatisfaction’ (ibid).

McGregor classified two sets of behaviors that are exhibited by a democratic or an autocratic leader. An autocratic manager or supervisor in relating with his subordinates exhibits the ‘X’ theory. These exhibited behaviors include:

Work is inherently distasteful to  most people
Most people are not ambitious, have little desire for responsibility, and prefer to be directed
Most people have little capacity for creativity in solving organizational problems
Motivation occurs only at the physiological and security levels
Most people must be closely controlled and often coerced to achieve organizational objectives.
The ‘Y’ theory exhibited by a democratic manager or supervisor includes:

Work is as natural as play if the conditions are favorable
Self-control is often indispensable in achieving organizational goals
The capacity for creativity is spread throughout organizations
Motivation occurs at affiliation, esteem, and self-actualization levels, not just security, physiological levels
People can be self-directed and creative at work if properly motivated (Wertheim, 2005).
McClelland came up with another version of theory on motivation, similar to what Maslow and Herzberg did. His theory identified three achievement needs that:  Need for achievement (N Arch), Need for Power ( N Pow), and Need for Actualization. Here it is expected that managers should allocate functions and motivate their subordinates according to the desired need. For instance, a worker that seeks power and recognition will only be motivated when he is assigned with a leadership position, where he can really display his power. This person cannot be motivated through the achievement drive.

Victor Vroom ‘Expectancy’ theory views productivity as means to a goal. In other words, productivity is not  an end, but a means to a goal; so if worker perceive high productivity as a means of attaining one of more goals, they will tend to be high producers; reversely, if they view low productivity as a path to the achievement of their goals, they will tend to be low producers. According to Ola & Oyinbo ( 2000: 137), “The strength of a person’s motivation to perform (effort) depends on how strongly he believes that he can achieve what he attempts. If he believes his performance, will be adequately rewarded, and if he is rewarded by the organization, the reward will satisfy his individual goal then he will put in higher effort”.

Adams’ theory states that employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs (Adams, 1965).

From the foregoing, the theories give the picture that the supervisor or manager should study each worker thoroughly and find out what actually motivates them. This will make the process of motivating workers more effective.

WHY SUPERVISORS NEED TO ADOPT A STRATEGIC PATTERN IN MOTIVATING THEIR SUBORDINATES

The task of motivating is a challenging one especially where there is a tough atmosphere at the place of work where workers are made to undergo a lot of stress. In a scenario where a worker is made to work long hours with little pay, coupled with the stress of trying to satisfy customers wants and demands, and on the other hand trying to meet the organizational goals, it will be  difficult to motivate such worker with the given situation he is made to pass through. Thus, there is a need to adopt a strategic approach in motivating workers, to ensure that the process is effective.

Supervisors need to motivate in a strategic pattern in order to make the process of motivating subordinates more effective. Moreover, considering the facts that as the workers are different physically, so is their mode for motivation differs. According to University of Chicago Newsletter for Supervisor and Managers’ (2004), supervisor need to adopt a strategic way of motivating their subordinates “Because your department’s workers (even those with similar duties) are not a homogenous group, they come to the workplace with different talents, skills, interests, and different motivational needs. For example, motivating mature workers requires a different approach to motivating younger employees.”

Another factor that makes the issue of motivating workers a significant one in an organization’s operation is to ensure that the organization survives. It is through the motivated staffers that this survival is ensured. Furthermore, it becomes a complicated issue to motivate workers, as what motivates a work today may not be a motivating factor tomorrow. In a case where a worker is enriched and become wealthy, monetary factor would be a less motivating factor to him. Thus, it requires that a strategic motivating approach is adopted constantly for an effective motivation by the supervisor. In this same view, Lindner (1998), argues, “Motivated employees are needed in our rapidly changing workplaces. Motivated employees help organizations survive. Motivated employees are more productive. To be effective, managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform. Of all the functions a manager performs, motivating employees is arguably the most complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates employee changes constantly”

HOW SUPERVISORS CAN ADOPT A STRATEGIC MOTIVATING OF THEIR SUBORDINATES

There is no one single way by which a supervisor can motivate subordinates working under his supervision. As already stated before for an effective motivation process by ensured the supervisor need to study individual workers under their supervision and see what actually motivates them. It requires that each worker is classified into categories that they bear similar factor as their motivators. The categorization of workers should be done in regards to their wealth of experience, age, position occupied in the organization, tenure of work in the organization, productivity level etc. According to University of Chicago Newsletter for Supervisor and Managers’ (2004), each of these categories of workers should be motivated differently; it then requires strategies and tactics in conducting this. For instance to motivate workers who are in the category of high performance, the process of motivating them should be:

Ask highly performing employees what they enjoyed about working on a particular task or project. Their answers will help them to identify skills they enjoy using, which can help you to position them for future opportunities to use those skills.
Select a past project to discuss in which employees performed well. Ask what they have learned from the assignment and how they might improve their performance and/or results the next time. Doing so will help employees to apply key learning to upcoming projects.
Ask how you can help high-performing employees to make more use of their skills and talents. Employees will appreciate your interest in helping them to use their strengths to contribute in other areas.
Also in the case of a supervisor wanting to motivate workers who are matured and have put in many years of services, the approach of motivating this category is different from those who are high performing workers. The following strategic process can be adopted:

Ask mature workers whether their full range of talents is being utilized. Ask them about their interests and skills to identify opportunities in which they might contribute in other ways.
Workers who have been in the same job for a long time may be able to contribute in other ways. Their knowledge and expertise may allow them to train other workers. Mature workers may make excellent mentors for their new colleagues.
Ask for advice and show respect for mature workers’ knowledge. Your genuine interest in drawing on the experience of long-time employees indicates your respect and appreciation for their accumulated knowledge.
The younger workers under a supervisor could be motivated by the supervisor through an adopted strategy, which involves the process of:

Asking young workers about the skills, they want to develop. Provide appropriate training opportunities, as well as skill-appropriate tasks and projects to help develop particular skill sets. Development is a key tool in retaining young workers.
Identify networking opportunities for young employees so that they can learn about the organization and opportunities for lateral moves and advancement.
Provide opportunities for young workers to broaden their perspectives by working on cross-functional teams. Exposing young workers to various parts of the organization may help them to find other types of satisfying work within the organization, and perhaps, a long-term career.
Motivating short-term worker, this should be done differently from those workers who are overworked or who put in lengthy work performance in the organization. In motivating a short-term worker the supervisor, need to adopt the following strategic approach:

Reinforce the significance of short-term employees’ work by explaining its importance and how it contributes to your department. Introduce short-term employees to the people who use their work to demonstrate the effect the quality of their work has on others.
Counter assumptions that someone else will do the work if short-term employees do not come through. Discuss the role short-terms workers play in your department and make sure they understand that their work is as important as that of other employees.
Demonstrate interest in their long-term plans. While working in your department may not be a long-term plan, skilled short-term workers may have value elsewhere in the organization. He should help them to identify other opportunities before their assignment in your department is over.
On the other hand, to motivate those workers who have works lengthy period and over work for the organization, the supervisor can motivate this group by adopting a strategy that follows the sequence of:

Let overworked employees know how long you anticipate the crunch will last. Let them know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Ask workers what they need from you to get through the situation. Be willing to pitch in to show that you are a team player.
Provide positive feedback. Make sure your employees know that you recognize and appreciate their efforts to complete the job (ibid).
According to Moore (1991), a supervisor can adopt in effectively motivating those who he supervises in seven effective ways. These include Formation of teamwork, to encourage workers who are not skillful to be spurred by team worker into putting their best. “This is reported to be an effective means of motivation because individuals appear to be more concerned with living up to the expectations of fellow workers rather than the expectations of their bosses” (ibid). The negative impact of this motivating pattern is that complexities arise when a group conforms to a level of achievement rather than a high performance level, or when a particular work setting makes it difficult to structure group activities.

Another way of motivating is through assigning of individual function so as to create perosnal involvement. There are some  workers who seek to be involve in the task, whereby they tend to contrubute their personal perfromance assesment level by creating responsibility traget for the work done. Such inndividuals should be encouraged by making them partake in the setting of task functions and performance levels for themselves. “Individuals and groups are most likely to attain goals when they make a public commitment to do so. This may be due to the fact that such commitments are promises and most people view themselves as persons who keep their word” (ibid).

Work enhancement is another way strategic way of motivating workers by a supervisor. In this pattern, the supervisor or manager  structure work in a way that will bring about job fulfilment to the workers. For instance, a case of  “Saab-Volvo automobile plant in Sweden illustrates rather nicely how job enrichment works. They use a team-assembly concept in which workers rotate the tasks required for building an automobile. Basically, the entire group is responsible for assembling the complete automobile. This is in contrast to the monotonous production system which now characterizes auto manufacturing in the United States”. (ibid). This appraoch may result in workers demanding for more compensation, and hence whern this is deprived of them they may put up attitude which make this motivational approach non effective.

Giving rewards to workers is another way that a supervisor can carry out the motivation of his subordinates. Rewards is widely used in the business of motivating workers. Rewards may  be given to derserving performance to encourage other workers to emmulate industrious and high productivity attitude in those who are being  rewarded. But there is also the negative side of adopting this motivational strategy in that what constitute a deserving reward to one wroker maynot be an adequate reward system to another. For instance, a worker may desire the awarding of reward to come in form of promotion,  while another may seek the refrunishing of his officve with new furniture. Thus, this may not really motivate those who see the rewards  coming f rom the organization as inadequate.

Mutual exchange is another strategy a supervisor can adopt in motivating his workers. Here, where a worker has accomplish an assigned task he or she should be given something in return based on  earlier promise made by the supervisor; this may come in form of  a day off, or early closure for the  day’s work etc. According the Moore (1991), the negative effect of this appraoch is that it is not the most effective approach for motivating  workers; as the workers and supervisor may not reach a balance on what should be exchanged for the accomplishment of an assigned task.

By creating an atmosphere for competition among subordinates, a supervisor can motivate workers under him to put in their best in attaining the task set before them. Here, prizes and gifts like free lunch could be given to those  workers who put up with the most effective performance. The negative implication of this method is that it may lead to hostility and sabotage against workers who compete among themselves. Also, where the set prize is inadeqte it may lead to lukewarmness in workers attitude to performing their as signed task.

Lastly, a supervisor may adopt a punishment and creating fear on workers as a way of making them put up with effective perfromance. The implication of this appraoch is that some workers may be scolded and decide to determinate their appointment with the organization. According to Moore (1991), ‘problem with the fear strategy is that it creates a punitive climate in which individuals are afraid of being different from or of offending others. This particular situation has a tendency to diminish creativity and lead to intellectual stagnation”.

CONCLUSION

Motivating workers is a significant way of bringing out the best in worker, to make them  contribute positive in the effective and efficent accomplishment of the organization set objectives and long term goals. There exist several ways in which a supervisor can  motivate those working under him. Therefore, it is a challenging task on the supervisor  to study each work, acess them and see those factors that actually motivate them. The failure of carrying this out means that the motivating of workers may be a wasted effort, since it maybe wrongly applied thereby leading to litlle or no effect. Thus, utilizing the proper strategy and approach for motivating worker, the supervisor would aid the organization in actualizing its set objectives  and obtain high productivity level.

REFERENCES

Adams, J. S. (1965). “Inequity in social exchange” In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology.  New York: Academic Press.

Garner, Rochelle (2003), “Executives’ Guide to Call Center Excellence: Motivational Strategies—Just Desserts” February. http://www.destinationcrm.com/articles/magazine_index.asp?IssueID=140  ( 1/11/06).

Lindner, James R. (1998), “Understanding Employee Motivation” in Journal of Extension. June 1998 Volume 36 Number 3
Mallow, Abraham (1954), Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Moore, Dianne-Jo (1991), “7 Motivational Strategies – Manager’s Motivation Of Workers” Modern Machine Shop http://findarticles.com/p/search?tb=art&qt=%22Dianne-Jo+Moore%22 (2/11/06)

Ola, R.F. & Oyinbo, E.E. (2000), Administrative Theories and Their Application. Lagos: Amfitop Prints and Computers.

University of Chicago Newsletter for Supervisor and Managers’ (2004), “Strategies and Tactics Methods to Manage Your Work, Your Staff, and Your Results” Volume VI Issue 9 September

http://hr.uchicago.edu/newsletter/itk-20040901/toc.html (1/11/06).

Wertheim, Edward G. (2005), “Historical Background of Organizational Behavior” http://web.cba.neu.edu/~ewertheim/introd/history.htm (11/09/06)

 

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