Motivating employees is a key leadership function in a business organization. Without a motivated workforce, productivity, efficiency and overall morale of the organization will fall. The challenge for managers lays in identifying motivation strategies that suit a particular group of workers as there are no hard-cast and universal rules governing motivation strategies. In other words, much as management thinkers such as Frederick Herzberg, Abraham Maslow, etc, have attempted to theorize the psychological, financial and sociological aspects of motivation, there is an elusive factor that evades theorizing. This intangible factor accounts for such facets of employee motivation as charismatic leadership, collective cultural sensibilities, conditions of the broader economy, etc. Just as motivating employees has its share of challenges, it can be equally as rewarding. This is so, because a motivated workforce transforms the internal dynamics of an organization and produces a synergistic effect on its performance. The sum of a group of motivated employees is greater than its constituent parts. While motivation theory discourse tends to focus on outcomes for the organization, an employee-centric evaluation is also relevant, for employees are what comprise the labor market. Without the constant supply of human resources from the labor market, no industry could survive. (Murphy, 2009)
Coming to the question of motivating employees who survive a layoff, the challenges are compounded due to the atmosphere of employee insecurity. Top management’s leadership skills will be thoroughly tested while handling this particular scenario. The threat of job loss would have shaken the workforce’s commitment to the company and its cause. Seeing their colleagues being laid-off would have disillusioned survivors about principles of team ethic and team spirit. One cannot blame lay-off survivors to grow distrustful of the management, for it is always those in lower ranks who lose their jobs first, while most of the top management remains unscathed. Given this environment of distrust and insecurity, it is not uncommon for the relations between management and workers to turn antagonistic. In the case of General Electric, the relations between top management and entry level workers turned fractious during the 2008 Wall Street collapse and its aftermath. In contrast, East Asian automotive companies such as Nissan and Toyota espouse a strong support system for employees during times of economic distress. Situations like this test the skills of managers and separate the great ones from mortals. Those managers who see opportunity in adversity will be the ones who see the ship sail through turbulent waters to calmer shores. (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975)
Terpstra, David E, Theories of Motivation – Borrowing the Best, Personnel Journal (pre-1986); Jun 1979; ProQuest Central, p.376.
Herzberg, Frederick, One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?, Harvard Business Review, Jan/Feb 1968.
The Effective Manager, Chapter 6: Motivation Theories, p.185 – p.189.
Kreitner, R & Kinicki, A 2013, Organisational Behaviour , 10th edn, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York.
Kreitner and Kinicki, OB in Action Case study (HOW Should Managers handle Tough Employment Decisions?): 10th ed. Page 234.
Fishbein, M.; Ajzen, I. (1975), Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior: An introduction to theory and research, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
Murphy, Jim (2009), Inner Excellence, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-163504-2