Motivation and Job Satisfaction: Changing Trends

Thu, Dec 31, 2015


Enjoy the satisfaction that comes from doing little things well.

- H Jackson Brown, Jr.

Let me start with a story.

“It was a hot sunny day, and a girl was sitting by the side of a dusty road, eating her sandwiches and watching the world go by. Presently, a man walked past, looking tired and bedraggled, and carrying a heavy stone on his back. The girl asked the man: “Why are you carrying that stone?” The man replied: “I am a slave. I have to carry this stone because I have been ordered to.” The man slowly disappeared into the distance, and a few minutes elapsed before another man passed by where the girl was sitting. He was sweating profusely but he too, was determinedly carrying a heavy stone on his back. The girl asked the man: “Why are you carrying that stone?” The man replied: “This is my job – I am paid to carry these stones. It is hard work, but there are many worse jobs than this.” The man soon disappeared into the distance, and the girl was preparing to go home when another man passed by. He too had a heavy stone on his back, but was walking briskly and looked tired but content. The girl asked the man: “Why are you carrying that stone?” The man replied: ‘I am building a church.’”

When we look at the modern office space and its “passionate” citizen the first question comes to mind – what is the driving force behind? What is it that inspires and motivates thousands of people working in corporate and factory environment, of private or public nature, working for 5 hours a day to 15 hours a day, with a lazy or busy schedule? Is the answer pretty obvious or there are somethings other than that? Money is clearly a basic point of consideration but when you look closely the question remains unanswered- what is it that distinguishes a satisfied employee from an unsatisfied one when both are receiving the same pay-cheque at the month end? Many scholars attribute it to the ratio of Actual achievement to expected level of achievement and smaller the value, higher is the tendency to get demotivated. It is true that people with ambitious outlook search for a more challenging workspace and often feel the current job description too simple or boring to carry on. But at the same time we find people demotivated and unsatisfied in a certain organization/under a certain supervisor/in a certain project team certainly starts enjoying his/her work when put in a different situation (changed organization/supervisor/team). Even employees with a high disregard for his/her work gets “institutionalized” and serve overtime without any tangible benefits/rewards.

Performance appraisal takes a snapshot of the efforts put in by the employees on a yearly basis- a high rating here means moving forward for getting a promotion or a salary increment immediately. Now, another question comes here- if you really hate your job profile does the promotion sounds so exciting at all? Is it some Pandora’s Box to reveal in front of you a path completely different from the previous one? Unfortunately, in most cases a promotion brings in more responsibility and involvement into the very work you were hating till yesterday. Now with all these arguments and counter arguments it all sounds confusing –isn’t it? Yes. It is. Because whatever points and cross points we are arranging here are all about human resources who are rightly called “rationally irrational”. It is impossible to state one or two most essential motivating factors because there are none. Nothing motivates people if he does not find one for himself. Speaking this I literally sound like a person who lost faith in theoretical framework and want to believe in some mysterious organizational chemistry. Even if I believe so, that’s not the end of it. There is, thank God, some rationality in the way employees think and react –especially in an organizational structure.

I have observed a somewhat fuzzy pattern in the organizations I worked with- there is a striking similarity within the people from same background and age group working in the same project. If one is dissatisfied and leaving the organization, it’s a high chance that others are in line. Can it be called influenced rationality? As the people of same age group tend to form a team within the team-a cluster inside the divisional structure, they start sharing their ambition, inspiration and most importantly frustration about workspace. This observation also captures how an odd man out inside a project team quickly tend to become highly demotivated and leave the job or escalate the grievances to a higher level- lacking a proper vent . So the motivation factors as diverse as the characteristics of human have some common components. Our opening story gives the message how people think of his/her assignment and find motivation/satisfaction depending on his/her mindset.  While some see the work as a necessary burden, others in the same team may find some inspirational factor to take pride in his/her work. As one of the employee staying at office for three consecutive days revealed: “You know the work I have done for last couple of days is the crucial one- employees across the country would have been impacted if I finished this late”. Now whether his work was really of such crucial nature is matter of debate, but what is certain that this guy has got his own theory to get motivated at his workspace. Every industry be it service or production, depends heavily on these pool of employees who find his/her inspiration in something other than money and appraisal.

Coercive forces only make the situation worst if we are talking about employee motivation- whosoever working in whatsoever workplace with any job description hates one thing most- getting exploited. Exploitation itself is a matter of discussion as I believe it’s not only about forcing someone to work under worst environment or using some unethical means to get work done, the very word should be considered and discussed in a wide context- taking into account the daily harassment at psychological level, playing unfair politics against someone within a corporate project team and improper load balancing. All these attributes to lack of motivation and dissatisfaction. It is not always that satisfaction and motivation go hand in hand. Motivation is often the cause of satisfaction but many get satisfied in their job even without any motivational factors especially if he has no clue about what motivates him. Many of the elderly people take work as their daily routine activity like eat and sleep and if you argue hunger and tiredness motivates people to include these in their daily routine, then the same applies to workspace motivation for them. Now even in that we sometimes look for better food, comfortable bedding and blankets and look for a better one. This continuous striving for the betterment of our basic needs motivates us through the progress of humankind, and work is also an integral part of it.

As we have advanced through the ages we have come up with different and delicious dishes and more and more comfortable shelters- clearly, nature of workspace motivation is also bound to change and it has changed indeed –beyond monetary benefits. This is the trend and it will continue, the sooner management takes care of the individual motivation factors, even before that stop classifying the human resources inside an organization as  mechanical instruments with common feature and programmed outlook, the better it is for improving the employee satisfaction index of the organization. With the widespread globalization, diversity in workspace is both a challenge and a chance –challenge to motivate and chance for improvement. If we are really looking forward to build up better organizational capability to get some competitive advantage, this is the time we look closely at the people in organizations- look at their ambitions, inspirations and motivating factors. Human resources is of more importance now than ever it was- only a highly motivated and satisfied talent pool will write the future of the organization- and will decide whether it is fit to survive or not.


By- Saikat Chatterjee

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