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Three ways to Stifle Motivation

There are many theories of motivation around, yet most of the ones that turn up on training courses hark back to the 1970s, 1960s and even the 1950s.  Is there any new thinking on motivation, for the twenty first century?

It turns out that there is.  And it isn’t just new thinking: this is research-based and supported by experimental evidence.

Self Determination Theory

Self determination theory (SDT) emerged into the limelight in 2000 with one of the now most-cited papers in psychology: ‘Self-Determination Theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.  It was published in the Journal ‘American Psychologist’, and written by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci of the University of Rochester.

University of Rochester psychology professors Richard Ryan, left and Edward Deci outside Meliora Hall May 25, 2010. The two are internationally recognized scholars who developed Self-Determination Theory, which holds that well-being depends in large part on meeting one's basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. //photo: J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester

Richard Ryan (left) and Edward Deci (right) are both at the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology of the University of Rochester.  There, they direct a training program focused on SDT and maintain a substantial website that acts as a valuable (but technical) resource on SDT.

SDT in a Nutshell

We are all motivated to satisfy three fundamental needs, which are described as ‘psychological nutrients’.  If one or more of these needs is unfulfilled, we lose motivation.  Critically, Ryan and Deci also see the fulfilment of these needs as essential to our sense of well-being.

These three psychological nutrients are:

  1. Autonomy
    Being able to make your own choices and live your own life
  2. Competence
    Feeling able and confident in what you are doing
  3. Relatedness
    Having safe, secure social relationships (which do not threaten your feelings of autonomy or competence)

Does this sound familiar?

It did to me.  In my well-thumbed copy of Ilona Boniwell’s excellent ‘Positive Psychology in a Nutshell’, I have written against these the terminology from two older and more familiar models: Clayton Alderfer’s 1969 ERG Theory and David McClelland’s 1961 Theory of Needs.

ComparingNeedsTheories

Lots more Depth

So, the needs Ryan and Deci have identified are familiar – although not identical to those described by previous researchers.  What is more convincing in their work is the greater subtlety they characterise in examining how these three factors act to motivate us.

They don’t try to describe all of the motivational phenomena that they observe in their experiments with one grand theory.  instead, they have articulated five (to date) ‘mini theories’ to account for different aspects of motivation.

These make Self Determination Theory a very compelling model, worthy of greater study.

  1. Cognitive Evaluation Theory (CET)
    How we assess our social context and how that evaluation affects our intrinsic (self) motivation.
  2. Organismic Integration Theory (OIT)
    How we internalise external factors, turning them into motivators or de-motivators.
  3. Causality Orientations Theory (COT)
    how we make behavioural and situational choices based on personality orientations towards autonomy, control and our need for competence.
  4. Basic Psychological Needs Theory (BPNT)
    How autonomy, competence, and relatedness are basic psychological needs, essential to our well-being.
  5. Goal Contents Theory (GCT)
    How intrinsic and extrinsic goals have different affects on our perceptions of satisfaction and well-being.  There is a great animated video, made by a colleague of Ryan and Deci, below.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might Enjoy

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook
(for Vroom’s Expectancy Theory and McClelland’s Theory of Needs)

The Performance Management Pocketbook

The Reward Pocketbook

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Bankers’ Bonuses and Brain Biology

Back in September 2010, we did a post about John Stacy Adams and Equity Theory.  Here are some edited highlights, as a primer:

Equity Theory in a Nutshell

Adams considered the comparisons we make between the outcomes we get (through reward such as pay) and the work we contribute:  the ratio O/W.

You unconsciously compare your own ratio (O/W) with my ratio, as you perceive it (O’/W’).  If you find that they are equal, you will be content.  If, however, my ratio is bigger than your ratio, you will be unhappy –you will perceive an ‘inequity’.

It is also the case that if you think you are over-rewarded, then you will probably feel a sense of guilt.  Our innate need for fairness is what drives Adams’ ‘Equity Theory’.  He argued that where we feel a sense of inequity, we respond in a way that will, in our minds, remove the inequities.

Why so Fair?

Is our sense of fairness a result of social or cultural pressures, or is it the way we are wired?  Four researchers at Caltech and Trinity College Dublin became the first to glean definitive evidence into this particular nature versus nurture debate.

What they found is that our brain’s reward centres respond more strongly when a poor person gets a financial reward than when a rich person receives the same reward.  What surprised them was that this is true for the brain of the rich person as well as for that of the poor person.

Image Credit: Elizabeth Tricomi/Rutgers University
Dr Tricomi was the principal author of the research paper

‘People who started out poor had a stronger brain reaction to things that gave them money, and essentially no reaction to money going to another person,’ Professor Colin Camerer says. ‘By itself, that wasn’t too surprising.’

What did surprise the team was that people who started out rich had a stronger reaction to other people getting money than to themselves getting money. ‘In other words’ said Camerer, ‘their brains liked it when others got money more than they liked it when they themselves got money.’

So what happened to good old self interest?

Clearly the results appear fly in the face of self interest, so how does the team explain them.  They think that it is about reducing discomfort – seeing a poor person getting a reward goes some way to allaying a little of our own guilt.

So will bankers give away their bonuses?

Maybe some will, but perhaps the guilt of discomfort has a value.  That’s something the experimenters did not measure, and until they do, we will never know what it takes to make a more equal society.

Which brings us back in a roundabout way to the vexed question of nature versus nurture.  We now know that something of our sense of equity is wired into the way our brains work.  What we don’t know is whether that wiring took place because of our genetics or our experiences.  So let’s speculate, based on two observations:

  1. There would seem to be real evolutionary advantage for a social creature living in small groups to develop a sense of fairness that guides its decisions
  2. There are plenty of opportunities in our present society for a sense of equity to be over-written by self-interest in our formative years, yet it seems to persist.

I say: chalk this one up to nature!

Learn More

You can read a far fuller summary of the research at the Caltech website, or, if you have a mind to, you can read the full paper that was published in the journal Nature (25 Feb 2010).

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Motivation Pocketbook

The Reward Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook

The Thinker’s Pocketbook

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Theory X is dead: Long live Theory X

We don’t yet have a whole alphabet of management theories, but we are on our way.  It all started with Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y.  Then, towards the end of his life, McGregor added a Theory Z, which was revived some years later by William Ouchi, describing the adoption of Japanese ideas of management in the United States.

Here are simple caricatures of the three theories.

Theory X assumes …

‘I hate my work, I only do it for the money, i don’t want to think for myself, indeed, I’d rather just do as little as I can.’

So my boss will favour carrot and stick incentives, presuming I need to be compelled to do the job I’m paid for.

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Theory Y assumes …

‘I like to work, it’s part of my life, i want to do well, and I will work hard if given the responsibility and recognition I deserve.’

So my boss will give me the responsibility I earn and reward me with the recognition I deserve.

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Theory Z assumes …

‘I want a long term career, I want to believe in what I do, I need to be led with a clear sense of purpose.’

So my boss will work hard to convince me of the benefits of my endeavours and enrol me as a committed employee.

Ever since McGregor

Having got to the end of the alphabet, new theories have turned backwards.  There is a Theory W – in fact several versions.  There are also a Theory U and  Theory T (there is a rather nice paper on these ideas around Utopian and Tragic overlays to McGregor’s original work here.)

The point is that, ever since McGregor, once strong assumption has prevailed.  In our modern world, Theory X is dead.  Nobody wants to be managed by being told what to do.

This blog is not about Politics

I had the whole story clear in my mind, and then, as I started writing, I came to realise that some might recognise Theory X in present UK Government attitudes to welfare.  Let’s put that debate to one side.

This blog is about Management

Is there a role for Theory X in the modern workplace?  Of the hundreds of people I have discussed this with in seminars and training sessions, I have encountered nobody who professes to prefer Theory X management.  But my sample is biased.  I train leaders and managers, and mostly in white collar industries and services.

So how do people – perhaps literally ‘at the coal-face’ prefer to be managed?  The truthful answer is ’I don’t know.’ But what I do know is that all leadership theory is predicated on the simple assertion that leaders need followers.

The concept of ‘Situational Leadership’ presupposes that different people like to be led in different ways – at different times.  So how plausible is it that nobody prefers to be told what to do sometimes, and that we can never need a little bit of a push or pull to get us to really perform.

Theory X and Time Management

Time management is a favourite topic of mine.  I am fascinated by the different ways we can get things done.  When you have an important but un-pleasant and complex task, how do you ‘make yourself’ do it?  For many of us, the answer draws upon classic time management guidance:

  • set a deadline
  • promise yourself rewards
  • break the task into simple chunks
  • discipline yourself to do one at  time

Theory X, anyone?

So here’s the deal

Theory X is as useful a model of motivation as all of the others.  The secret is to apply it respectfully, and only when it suits the situation.

Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Motivation PocketbookThe Motivation Pocketbook

The Time Management Pocketbook

The Influencing Pocketbook

The Working Relationships Pocketbook

The Workplace Politics Pocketbook

The Leadership Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

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Maslow on Steroids

Maslow

One of the best known, most widely used, and least researched models that managers are introduced to is ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’.

Maslow argued that our motivations and values change as our needs change.  Once a need is fulfilled, we turn our focus onto the next one, in a hierarchy from physiological needs for survival and shelter, up to higher needs that, arguably, drive those of us who have everything we ‘need’.

You can read all about Maslow’s Hierarchy in The Motivation Pocketbook.

Clare W Graves

Clare Graves was a student and near contemporary of Maslow, who wanted to produce a better model.  In doing so, he focused on different views of self actualisation and categorised a whole hierarchy of value systems.

His model, now formalised as ‘Spiral Dynamics’ sets out a series of value sets that mark out increasingly mature world views.  It takes Maslow’s model to a higher level of complexity.

Spiral Dynamics

These world views can be interpreted as personal value sets, or as group cultures.  They represent the different ways different people think about issues.  As we as individuals, organisations and societies progress up the spiral, we are coming to grips with more complex and sophisticated ways of seeing the world.

The Levels of Spiral Dynamics

In simple terms, the levels of the spiral are:

  • Beige: Need for personal survival – focus on the present
  • Purple: Need for group and family security
  • Red: Need for personal power and control
  • Blue: Need for stability, order and conformity
  • Orange: Need for autonomy and success – a capitalist paradigm
  • Green: Need for harmony, community and social cohesion
  • Yellow: Need for independence and personal responsibility
  • Turquoise: Need for global community and global survival

Spiral

The usual thing

Whilst Graves originated the thinking behind the model, it was formalised and given the name ‘Spiral Dynamics’ in the 1996 book Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change by Don Beck and Chris Cowan.  As is often the way (for example, with Situational Leadership), the authors have developed the model in slightly different ways.  You can read about their interpretations at:

http://www.spiraldynamics.org/
… the website of Chris Cowan’s NVC Consulting, and

http://www.spiraldynamics.net/
… the website of Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics Integral

So here’s the deal

Models are useful if they explain or predict aspects of the world.  Spiral Dynamics – in either interpretation – offers a way to understand people’s responses to situations and also the cultures of organisations and societies.  Culture clashes emerge when sub-groups are forced together, that have value sets at different levels in the spiral.

Management Pocketbooks you may enjoy

The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook

The Working Relationships Pocketbook

The Workplace Politics Pocketbook

The Cross-cultural Business Pocketbook

The Diversity Pocketbook

The Managing Change Pocketbook

The Management Models Pocketbook

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The Prime Minister’s Salary and a Force for Change

If you are living in the UK and pay attention to the news, you won’t help but be aware of just how many public servants are paid more than the Prime Minister – 170 according to the Guardian and Telegraph.

Why does it matter?

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Photo credit: World Economic Forum

It isn’t what we get paid that matters

It clearly matters that public servants’ pay is set properly.  But why does the comparison with one post matter?  The answer seems to be that most of us are less concerned with how much we get paid, than we are with how our pay compares to that of the people around us.

If you work in an organisation, you and your colleagues are probably curious about what everyone earns.  And whilst you may be happy with your salary now; how would you feel if the colleague at the next work station doing the same job at the same level earns 5% more than you?

Enter John Stacy Adams

It was John Stacy Adams who first articulated a management theory of fairness.  He was an industrial psychologist at the General Electric Company when he published ‘Inequity in Social Exchange’.  This puts our feelings into a mathematical framework:

What matters are the comparisons between the outcomes we get (through reward such as pay) and the work we contribute.  For me, that ratio is: O/W.

The Comparison

What I will unconsciously do is compare my ratio (O/W) with your ratio, as I believe it to be, (O’/W’).  If I find that they are equal, I will be content.  If, however, your ratio is bigger than my ratio, I will be unhappy – I will perceive an ‘inequity’.

So do why we worry that 170 senior Civil Servants are overpaid?  It must be because there is an instinctive belief that they cannot possibly do that much more work than the Prime Minister.  Is this true?  My answer to that is: ‘I don’t know’.

Equity works both ways

It is also the case that if I perceive I am over-rewarded, then I will probably feel a sense of guilt.  Our innate need for fairness is what drives Adams’ ‘Equity Theory’.  He argued that where we feel a sense of inequity, we respond in a way that will, in our minds, remove the inequities.

An example, please, Mike…

Sam is a sales rep; her boss, Chris, is head of sales.  Chris regularly sniffs out the best sales leads from her team and then ‘poaches’ the client, to try to make the sale herself.  She also re-allocates her less promising leads to other sales reps, like Sam.  Sam is angry and wants to do something about this.  She is confident in her ability to close a sale and knows she is every bit as good as Chris – if not better.

So what’s going on with Sam and Chris?

Chris believes she is better than her team members.  She has the experience and the seniority.  Having worked hard to achieve it, she unconsciously (maybe consciously) thinks she deserves to get the best leads and pocket the big commissions.

Sam has worked hard to generate the leads.  She feels Chris is unfairly cherry-picking the best leads from Sam and her colleagues, getting the rewards of their work, for little input.

A Force for Change

When Sam and her colleagues feeel the  inequity is ‘too great’, they will be motivated to do something about it.  Whatever it is – maybe challenging Chris, or under-reporting their progress – Equity Theory predicts change.

Look out quangos!

Management Pocketbooks you might like

Adams’ Equity Theory is one of many theories and models of motivation in the Motivation Pocketbook, by Max Eggert.

9781870471602

You will also find a detailed analysis of two other powerful models of motivation in the Management Models Pocketbook,

… and a wealth of guidance on how to manage your staff, Chris, in the People Manager’s Pocketbook,

… and ideas for how to handle your boss, Sam, in the Managing Upwards Pocketbook,

… and tips on how to have that tough conversation, Chris and Sam, in the Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook.

PS:

Yes, Max and I have spelt Stacy correctly – it’s Wikipedia and another famous business amd management website that have it wrong!

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