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Employees’ Motivation: A Manager’s Challenge


The issue of motivating employees could be regarded as a strategy that calls for planning on a long-term basis. In addition, its impact ought to be felt by the entire work environment, with its implementation being accomplished continuously. For a long time now, management researchers and managers alike have held the belief that it is quite possible to attain organizational goals in the absence of an endured employees’ commitment. As a human psychological characteristic, motivation impacts on individuals’ level of commitment, seeing that it entails those factors that handle, cause, and uphold the human behavior in a certain committed direction (Carlberg, 2004).

There are quite a several motivation theories that are in existence, and their role is to try and describe what humans are, and are capable of becoming. As such, motivation theories have customarily been viewed as all about content, in the form of a certain perception of people. It is this content of a motivation theory that assists are in comprehending the dynamic world of engagement, and in which various organizations function by portraying how managers can deal with the issue of people developing. Furthermore, motivation theory content also assists managers and their employees alike to come to terms with the life of an organization.

Factors involved in the challenge of motivating employees

As can be seen, the issue of motivating staff for a manager can be as complex as there are various personalities. What a manager may deem to be a source of motivation for one group of individuals may not apply to all the employees in the organization in equal measure (Ferrell & Hirt, 2002). In the end, there tends to be a group of dissatisfied employees, despite the efforts by the management to motivate them. For this reason, the issue of employees’ motivation is quite an uphill; task for a manager, not least because the decision that they take on the best approach to motivate their employee could either lead to the underperformance of an organization, or its successor.

There are different forms of motivation, and a manager may not always be sure which form shall have the greatest positive impact on their employees (Bruce, 2003). For instance, motivation is not just about monetary gains or promotions. Sometimes, such small gestures as saying thank you to a junior staff member are enough to make them feel appreciated at an organization. If one were to critically analyze the success behind a business entity, it would not be quite hard to realize that a motivated workforce plays a significant role in all this, ranging from productivity, profitability, the whole process of hiring staff- all these requires a certain level of motivation from the managers.

Motivation and the reinforcement theory

In as much as there are scientific theories that talk about the motivation of individuals, they all seem to target the behavior and personalities of individuals, as well as an explanation of why people behave the way they do. Yet, when it comes to the actual practice of motivating a workforce, the solution presented may not be available in documented scientific evidence. Oftentimes, managers have had to try and decipher just exactly what it is that ‘ticks’ their workforce so that they can fashion their motivation package accordingly.

In the case of an organization, employees who have previously met certain set standards and in effect earned themselves say, a pay rise or any other form of reward (financial or otherwise) would in the future be more motivated if their managers were to repeat a similar gesture. This is in keeping with the reinforcement theory, which argues that past behavior consequences tend to impact the future actions of an individual. In other words, the ‘voluntary’ behavior of an individual (or what psychologists refer to as a response) towards a given event or situation (stimulus) is often viewed as leading to definite outcomes (Bower, 2004). Should such outcomes happen to be positive, then in the future, an individual shall be inclined to replicate related responses when a similar situation presents itself.

On the other hand, unpleasant outcomes result in an individual altering their behavior as a way of avoiding those kinds of consequences. For instance, in the organizational environment, employees learn to follow the instructions of their managers because this is what they were taught to do in school; obey their teachers. It could be seen as another version of the law of effect.

The reinforcement theory holds that when a person is motivated, they tend to respond to events (stimulus) in patterns of behavior that are quite consistent, for a given period (Bower, 2004). The reinforcement theory, therefore, is more of a linkage between, on the one hand, the behavior of an individual and their motivation, on the other hand. It would thus be quite an in order if a manager would at least first attempt to evaluate the past behaviors of their employees before they come up with a motivation technique.


For a manager to overcome the challenge that is motivating his/her employees, it is important that they first try to understand the reasons behind a lack of a motivated workforce. Are your employees’ needs and wants not heard? Are you not there enough for them as a manager, to lend an ear to there work-related grievances? Do you overlook their performances and achievement, no matter how trivial it may look, and fail to thank them? Do you take time to intermingle with the employees as they go about their daily work? These are some of the questions that a manager who hopes to overcome employees’ motivation challenges ought to be asking themselves.

In addition to this, managers should ensure that the reward system of their employees is reliant on the desired organizational behavior. All the same, the position of the employees must be known by the management before decisions could be implemented. In this case, a regular type of payment in the form of a salary could be less motivating as opposed to a payment system based on performance levels. Even then, it is important first for a manager to discuss this approach, before forcing it onto the employees, as chances of it backfiring then could be very high. In any case, some employees could think that a payment based on performance could be accompanied by too much pressure. Others may attach too much value to security, thus preferring a regular salary.

Furthermore, a manager should also show that indeed they do value the contribution made by their employees, as appreciation alone can be a great motivator. It is not enough for managers to pat employees on their backs following a job well done; sometimes asking for their input as regards the organization’s plans could make employees feel very much a part of the organization and as such, appreciated, hence motivation. Besides, when managers assign employees challenges that are both new and interesting, this is not only a chance for them to learn, they also get stimulated, a perfect recipe for motivation


Bower, G. H. (2004). The psychology of learning and motivation. London: Academic Press.

Bruce, A. (2003). How to motivate every employee. United States: McGraw-Hill.

Carlberg, J. (2004). “Motivating and leading employees”. Web.

Ferrell, O. C., & Hirt, G. (2002). “Motivating the workforce”. Web.


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