In their classic text, Organizational Behavior, Robbins & Judge (2009) posed and answered an interesting question about employee motivation. The professors asked in a blurb titled, “Myth or Science: ‘Everyone Wants a Challenging Job?’”
In response to this question, Robbins & Judge (2009) say the answer is FALSE! While many employees do seek and desire challenging, engaging work, some employees do not. It might surprise some to read this because it certainly sounds contrary to what we often hear from the media and even some academics. Instead, Robbins & Judge (2009) contend that “some people prosper in simple, routinized work” (p. 219).
But what exactly is it that explains those who prefer challenging work and those who prefer simple, routinized work? Robbins & Judge (2009) maintain that the “strength of an individual’s higher-order needs” is the key. They assert that “[i]ndividuals with high growth needs are more responsive to challenging work” (p. 219).
No current data exist but an older study from the 1970s estimate roughly 15% of employees seek higher-order need satisfaction (i.e. challenging, engaging work). “Even after adjusting for technological and economic changes in the nature of work, it seems unlikely that the number today exceeds 40 percent” (p. 219).
“Many employees relish challenging work. But this desire has been overgeneralized to all workers. Organizations increasingly have pushed extra responsibilities onto workers, often without knowing whether this is desired or how an employee will handle the increased responsibilities” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 219).
In “The Enthusiastic Employee” authors Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005), working under Sirota Consulting, surveyed 2.5 million employees in 237 organizations in 89 countries about what they want from their jobs.
Contrary to wide and unsubstantiated claims made about worker attitudes, the authors found through their research that the overall satisfaction of workers with their work is strong and consistent across a wide variety of industries, occupations, and cultures. Furthermore, these researchers maintain that there is no evidence that younger workers are any more or less disenchanted than older workers.
The majority of the responses fall into three factors. The authors call this the Three Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace. They are: equity, achievement and camaraderie.
Equity: To be treated justly in relation to the basic conditions of employment. These basic conditions include physiological (e.g., safe work environment), economic (e.g., job security, fair pay), and psychological (e.g., treated respectfully & fairly).
Achievement: Employees are enthusiastic working for organizations that provide them with a clear, credible and inspiring organizational purpose – “reason for being here.” There are four sources of employee pride. In essence they reflect the idea of excellence:
Excellence in the organization’s financial performance.
Excellence in the efficiency with which the work of the organization gets done.
Excellence in the characteristics of the organization’s products such as their usefulness, distinctness and quality.
Excellence in the organization’s moral character.
Camaraderie: Employees want to work collaboratively. They get the greatest satisfaction from being a member of and working on a team to achieve a common goal. In fact, the authors assert that cooperation, and not job descriptions or organizational charts, is the unifying force holding the various parts of an organization together.
Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005) say that one key to overcome conflict and encourage cooperation is to build partnerships. The parties involved do this by collaborating to work toward common goals.
However, they caution that in order to build partnerships within and throughout the organization,
“[A]ction must begin with, and be sustained by, senior management” (p. 283).
It is only when senior leadership has the foresight to see what can be, not just what is, along with the perseverance and hard work to translate philosophy into concrete daily policies will partnership organizations emerge. Above all, it requires “seeing and treating employees as genuine allies in achieving change” (Sirota, Mischkind, & Meltzer, 2005, p. 301).
Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I. (2005). The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.
Earlier in 2010, the Conference Board surveyed 5,000 U.S. households and found that only 45 percent of those surveyed say they’re satisfied with their jobs. It notes that this number is down from 61.1 percent in 1987.
According to Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, “[w]hile one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy.”
John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board, believes that challenging and meaningful work is important to engaging workers and that “[w]idespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success.”
These findings offer valid concerns and serve as a wake-up call to organizations of employee discontent and why they ultimately leave.
Ok, so we know why employees leave. But, why do they stay?
I’m sure there are lots of good reasons, but I like what the editors of Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange (a forum to ask questions, get answers, and engage with other business professionals) say about why employees stay.
5 REASONS WHY EMPLOYEES STAY:
Pride in the organization. People want to work for well-managed companies.
Compatible supervisor. People may stay just to work for a particular individual who is supportive of them.
Compensation. People want to work for companies that offer fair compensation, including competitive wages and benefits as well as opportunities to learn and achieve.
Affiliation. People want to continue working with colleagues they respect and like.
Meaningful work. People want to work for companies that let them do work that appeals to their deepest, most passionate interests.
Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Harvard Business Essentials: Guide to Hiring and Keeping the Best People, Harvard Business Press
I Can’t Get No…Job Satisfaction, That Is: America’s Unhappy Workers. Research Report #1459-09-RR. The Conference Board.
Nothing tugs at my heart more than the topics of poverty and hunger. The month of April marks the 30th year my family and I have been here in the U.S. It’s a good reminder for me of how lucky I am to be living in a country that grants me the freedom and opportunities that I’ve been given.
Growing up in Vietnam (I was born during the Vietnam War) and having a physician for a father meant that I didn’t really have to endure as much hardship as others. I don’t recall ever being truly “hungry.” However, it would be naïve for me to say that we didn’t suffer politically, socially, and financially.
The person who taught me most about helping others is my mom. Whenever I think of someone with a kind and pure heart I think of her. As a child, I would watch her slip money into the pockets of people who really needed it. She did it because she didn’t want to draw attention to what she was doing and also because she didn’t want anyone to know that it was her.
Back then I thought she was crazy. I mean, who goes around giving away money?
Funny how life reminds you that this world is just not about you. Unlike Bill Gates who has billions and can afford to give away billions, I struggle financially. There I said it. And yet, I can’t explain this longing to “give” back to help others.
Please understand that I am not sharing these things because I want people to like me better. I already have a long list of people who care about me and am fairly emotionally secure that I don’t need that kind of extra validation. What I want, no what I feel compelled to do, is to share the importance of philanthropy (donating money to help make the lives of others better).
Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.’ (Mark 12:41-44, Common English Bible)
Visitors to WorkplacePsychology.Net might notice me posting a World Food Programme (yes, it’s spelled with an “e”) graphic on the sidebar. Started in 1962, the WFP is part of the United Nations system. It envisions a world in which every man, woman and child has access at all times to the food needed for an active and healthy life.
I have made a small contribution to the World Food Programme because that was something I felt I needed to do. I didn’t give very much because I don’t have much to give. But that’s not the point. If everyone who reads this post donated just $1.00 to the World Food Programme (WFP), it would fill 4 cups of food. It might not seem like much, but when you’re starving every cup of food matters.
I’ve decided that I’m going to forgo the membership dues I normally pay to some of the professional associations I’m a member of. Instead, I’m donating those fees to the World Food Programme. Please join me in helping to feed the hungry by donating a small financial gift.
Won’t You Spare Just $1.00 to Feed the Hungry?
(Seriously, just one dollar. Click on the photo of the smiling child above to donate.)
In their upcoming book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements (Available May 4, 2010), Rath and Harter (2010) offer this interesting piece of information about career and its impact on our well-being.
It’s quite astonishing that people recover faster from the death of a spouse than from prolonged unemployment.
Although career well-being is discussed, it is just one of five elements covered.
The Five Essential Elements
This is one book I’m really looking forward to reading.
My niece is so adorable and creative. She can turn something as simple as a blank sheet of paper and transform it into a game of checking into a plush hotel with concierge service. Kids are amazing because they see the world not as it is but what it can be. Unlike adults, children have a natural gift of creativity and imagination.
The 1988 movie “Big” (starring Tom Hanks) is a story of a 12-year old boy named Josh who got his wish to be “big.” He wakes up the next day to find that while his physical body had grown and aged to that of a man, he was still the same 12-year old kid on the inside.
The heart-warming story follows Josh as he finds work at a toy company. Unlike the other executives and managers who conduct market research into what kids like about toys, Josh actually plays with them. In a meeting on bringing a toy robot to market, a manager stated that research with children of a certain demographic indicated that the toy robot would be successful. As the manager is showing how the robot works (it’s a robot that transforms into a house), Josh raised his hand to ask,
“What’s so fun about that?”
Imagine if we could bring the candid outlook of kids into the workplace as Tom Hanks’ character did in the movie! Instead, we conduct research and analyze things so much (e.g., SWOT analysis) that we sometimes miss the golden opportunity to act.
Arnold Lazarus, a psychologist who founded multimodal therapy, shared a story of a friend who (by profession, a dentist) was “an absolute natural when it came to understanding people and showing genuine warmth, wisdom, and empathy” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352). The dentist friend was so good that many people confided in him with their troubles.
Due to his natural talents, this dentist friend decided to pursue training in psychology and eventually obtained a Ph.D. in social and clinical psychology. Ironically, Lazarus observed that “as my friend learned more and more psychology, as he took more and more readings and courses in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, it seemed to me that his natural skills eroded” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).
Shortly after Lazarus’ mother died, Lazarus opened his heart to this friend, someone who Lazarus had previously considered a “naturally great therapist” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352). But, instead of the natural warmth, support, and understanding that the—former dentist now psychologist—friend once exhibited, this now trained psychologist responded to Lazarus’ sorrows with psychological clichés and labels (Lazarus, 1990).
“The formal psychology and psychotherapy courses he had received were tantamount to taking a can of spray-paint to an artistic masterpiece” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).
What happened to the dentist-turned-psychologist friend made Lazarus question, “whether formal training causes most of us to undergo a similar truncation of our helpful inborn capacities” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).
Now don’t get me wrong, education, training, and experience are great, but…
Has “growing up” and being indoctrinated with formal knowledge and training hindered our natural-born skills of creativity, curiosity, and common sense to be a better worker or leader?
Lazarus, A. (1990). Can psychotherapists transcend the shackles of their training and superstitions? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46(3), 351-358. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199005)46:3<351::AID-JCLP2270460316>3.0.CO;2-V
Within the past several decades, an alarming trend has developed, one that goes far beyond just “keeping up with the Joneses.” You see, no longer is it enough to simply “keep up.” It seems that in today’s microwave mentality, we have to have things, and we have to have them right now. Everything becomes a necessity. We no longer eat to live. We live to eat. We no longer shop to survive. We survive to shop. Or as I heard it on the radio – shop til you drop, then crawl!
We have, in fact, become a society of conspicuous consumption [spending lavishly on goods and services for the sole purpose of showing off] and consumerism [equating happiness with buying and consuming goods].
There is a name/description/label to this madness. It’s called AFFLUENZA, formed from the words affluence (wealth) and influenza (also known as the flu).
Affluenza is defined as (1) The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses; (2) An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream (Affluenza, n.d.). Affluenza is the term used to explain the problems that occur “when individuals are in pursuit of money, wealth, and material possession at the expense of other sources of self-esteem and contentment” (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006, p. 1).
Although I originally wrote about this topic of affluenza (several years ago while working in the school system) to address the madness that parents go through to feed into their children’s demands to have the latest and greatest material things, I am presenting it here now to shed light on this epidemic and its impact on adults.
Affluenza affects people across all age groups and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. “Contemporary affluenza researchers contend that if we do not begin to reject our culture’s incessant demands to work harder, spend more, and buy more, our society will begin to pay later with significant effects thrust upon our offspring” (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006, p. 1).
The incessant pressure to acquire material goods can result in the following (Koplewicz & Williams, 2006): As you go through the list below, notice that it easily applies to both children and adults.
Inability to delay gratification or tolerate frustration
Difficulty maintaining interest in anything requiring effort
False sense of entitlement
Expectation of material goods without responsibility
Loss of future motivation
Life activities don’t seem very real and nothing matters much
Low self esteem, self worth, and loss of self confidence
Approval dependent on possessions and status rather than on personal values
Preoccupation with externals and habituation for more material goods
Difficulty believing people like them for themselves rather than for possessions and status
Inability to trust prevents true friendships
Emotional energy becomes invested in material gains and sensitivity toward others declines
Here are some interesting tidbits (Affluenza…Diagnosis, n.d.):
Americans carry $1 trillion in personal debt, approximately $4,000 for every man, woman and child, not including real estate and mortgages. On average, Americans save only 4 percent of their income, in contrast to the Japanese, who save an average of 16 percent.
Since 1950, Americans alone have used more resources than everyone who ever lived before them. Each American individual uses up 20 tons of basic raw materials annually. Americans throw away 7 million cars a year, 2 million plastic bottles an hour and enough aluminum cans annually to make six thousand DC-10 airplanes.
Even though Americans comprise only five percent of the world’s population, in 1996 we used nearly a third of its resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste. The average North American consumes five times as much as an average Mexican, 10 times as much as an average Chinese and 30 times as much as the average person in India.
Americans on average spend only 40 minutes a week playing with their children, and members of working couples talk with one another on average only 12 minutes a day.
Back in December 2009, I wrote about the hyperactive workplace. I believe what lies at the root of the hyperactive workplace is affluenza – the “epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream” (Affluenza, n.d.). We work long hours and remain in a state of frenzy to pursue that elusive dollar to buy the things we and our families desire. And we do this day in and day out like the hamster running in circles in a cage.
In “Success Intelligence,” (2005) Robert Holden wrote, “The rise of consumerism has certainly influenced our thinking about happiness and success…We are making every effort to ‘buy, buy, buy!’ our way to happiness and success” (pp. 110, 111). While buying things can temporarily bring short-term pleasure, our prior levels of happiness soon return. In other words, we can’t buy our way to happiness.
“[W]e place all our faith in external things to make us happy. The danger here is that we lose sight of inner happiness…We forget how to be happy” (Holden, 2005, p. 112).
Imagine what your own work and workplaces would be like if you changed your views about overconsumption and what it means to be happy.
One of my all-time favorite quote is from Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. It was a speech given to the graduating class at Stanford University in June 2005. Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004, the year before. Luckily, it was eradicated through surgery and he has since recovered. Below is part of his commencement speech:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
In an article titled, “What Really Motivates Workers” in the January-February 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Amabile & Kramer (2010) invited over 600 managers from dozens of companies to rank the impact on employee motivation and emotions of five workplace factors:
support for making progress, and
The #1 ranking of the managers was “recognition for good work.”
However, and this surprised me, from their multiyear study in which they tracked the day-to-day activities, emotions, and motivation levels of hundreds of knowledge workers in various settings, Amabile & Kramer (2010) discovered that the #1 motivator for employees is progress.
You read that right folks, the top motivation for workers is making progress.
On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. (Amabile & Kramer, 2010, p. 44.)
Ironically, progress was the factor ranked dead last by managers as something that motivates employees.
The researchers analyzes nearly 12,000 diary entries, along with the writer’ daily ratings of their motivation and emotions. The analysis indicated that “making progress in one’s work – even incremental progress – is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event” (Amabile & Kramer, 2010, p. 44).
The HBR article offered this advice to managers:
Avoid impeding progress by changing goals unilaterally, being indecisive, or holding up resources (Amabile & Kramer, 2010).
How managers can help facilitate progress (Amabile & Kramer, 2010):
Clarify overall goals
Ensure employees’ efforts are properly supported
Refrain from exerting time pressure so extreme such that minor glitches are seen as crises
Cultivate a culture of helpfulness
Roll up your own sleeves and help out
Celebrate progress, even small ones
Amabile, T.M. & Kramer, S.J. (2010). What really motivates workers. Harvard Business Review, 88(1), 44-45.
Binnewies, Sonnentag, and Mojza (2009) conducted a study involving 358 employees who worked with people with special needs (those who were mentally or physically disabled). I can say, based on experience, it’s a stressful area.
Two questionnaires were given six months apart. The researchers found that when people feel recovered (mentally and physically refreshed) during their leisure time their performance on the job increased.
“[H]ighly recovered individuals showed increased task performance after 6 months because they felt more capable of successfully accomplishing work-related tasks” (p. 252).
They clarified that feeling recovered during leisure time is about how much a person feels refreshed mentally and physically. This feeling of recovery (feeling recovered during leisure time) is positive compared to a need for recovery and mental fatigue. The need for recovery represents a negative recovery because a person is forced to rest due to work-related demands and/or work-induced fatigue.
Put simply, deciding to rest before you’re stressed and exhausted is a good thing. I think this quote from Ralph Marston perfectly summarizes today’s post:
Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.
Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., & Mojza, E.J. (2009). Feeling recovered and thinking about the good sides of one’s work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14(3), 243-256.
Earlier this week, I talked about the Manic Society and the Hyperactive Workplace. For today’s post, we’ll shift gears and cover workplace incivility. This topic is a favorite of mine, so I’ll leave you with something to think about for the weekend. NOTE: The information for this post came from an assignment I completed for a class.
Workplace incivility is defined as “the exchange of seemingly inconsequential inconsiderate words and deeds that violate conventional norms of workplace conduct” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 12).
“Workplace incivility is low-intensity deviant behavior with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviors are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others” (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001, p. 1397). These are rude, insensitive or disrespectful behaviors in the workplace.
Examples include: ignoring or making derogatory remarks about someone, taking credit for the work of others, passing blame for your own mistakes, belittling the efforts of others, failing to return phone calls or respond to emails, setting others up to fail, leaving snippy voice mail messages, withholding information, leaving a mess for others to clean up, shutting someone out of a network or team, avoiding someone, throwing temper tantrums (Pearson & Porath, 2009).
Workplace incivility is so common that we often don’t even notice it. Pearson & Porath (2009) found in their studies that 1 in 5 people in their sample claimed to be targets of incivility from a coworker at least once a week. About 2/3 said they witnessed incivility happening among other employees at least once a month. 10% said they saw incivility among their coworkers every day.
A survey of public sector employees in the United States found that 71% of respondents reported at least some experience of workplace incivility during the previous 5 years, and 6% reported experiencing such behavior many times (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001).
What’s more, it’s not unique to the U.S. The researchers (Pearson & Porath, 2009) discovered that 50% of Canadians in their study also reported suffering from incivility directly from their coworkers at least once a week. 99% said they witnessed incivility at work and 25% reported seeing incivility occurring between coworkers daily.
When civility is disregarded in the workplace, the results are negative effects – not only on the target(s) of the incivility, but also the on effectiveness and efficiency of the teams and the overall organization (Andersson & Pearson, 1999; Pearson & Porath, 2009).
Researchers found that workplace incivility has an insidious effect, first negatively impacting the targets, and later with repercussions rippling like waves to other areas of the organization. The end result is an adverse effect on the health of the employee (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001) and the efficiency and productivity of the organization (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001). What’s even more troubling for psychology and business is that workplace incivility harms not just the targets and the organizations but also those who are witnesses to these incivilities (e.g., customers).
Andersson, L., & Pearson, C. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452-471.
Cortina, L. M., Magley, V. J., Williams, J. H., & Langhout, R. D. (2001). Incivility in the workplace: Incidence and impact. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 6, 64–80.
Pearson, C., Andersson, L., & Wegner, J. (2001). When workers flout convention: A study of workplace incivility. Human Relations, 54(11), 1387-1419.
Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.