Every manager has a theory on how to motivate employees to perform his or her job. One of the oldest motivational methods is the Carrot and Stick method, which is a combination of rewards and punishments to bring about a desired behavior. Although this method of motivation can still be found in one form or the other in many organizations today, managers are learning new methods of motivating employees. This paper will analyze two different job positions the author has held, and how the theory of achievement motivation would and would not be applicable to those job positions. The author will also analyze the need to develop and create new theoretical models of motivation in today’s changing work environment.
Theory of Achievement Motivation
Atkinson’s Achievement Motivation Theory suggests that some individuals have a greater need for achievement and success than other individuals. Those individuals that have a high need to achieve and be successful will take on more difficult tasks than those individuals that are not highly motivated to succeed. The following two workplace scenarios will show how the theory of achievement can affect employees.
Workplace Scenario One
One workplace scenario that works well with the achievement motivation theory is the Wal-Mart organization. Employees of Wal-Mart are paid by the hour; however, individuals are able to increase his or her salary through yearly raises and quarterly bonuses as a direct result of his or her job performance and production level. The basis of this pay system depends on the motivation of its employees. Employees’ raise is based on a scale of one through 4. Employees that have consistently high production levels and provide excellent customer service will receive the maximum yearly raise.
The quarterly bonus Wal-Mart offers its employees is determined by performance markers which include sales, customer satisfaction levels, inventory levels, and employee attendance. This type of work setting demonstrates achievement motivation theory clearly. Without the willingness to succeed average employees will not achieve the same monetary results as the harder working employees. Wal-Mart rewards employees for quality productivity, work ethics, and attendance. The combination of these factors is what motivates the employees in reaching the desired result for the organization.
Workplace Scenario Two
Another workplace scenario which demonstrates where the achievement theory does not work will is in the union; specifically the grocery stores that make us the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). UFCW is a national union made up of “more than 1.3 million people working primarily in grocery and retail stores, and in the food processing and meat packing industries” (UFCW, 2012). Individuals that belong to this union have negotiated wages and benefits. The combination of contracted wages and benefits, and the union’s backing removes a large amount of achievement motivation. The union employees in a grocery store usually work independently; whereas, in Wal-Mart the culture is more of a team.
Through the negotiated contracts between Dierbergs and the union, employees know the amount of pay or the amount he or she will receive for an annual raise, regardless of experience or work productivity levels. Union employees also know the amount of pay or raise will not change, therefore there is little motivation to increase productivity, or work at a higher level than a coworker. In the grocery store setting employees are paid the same amount if they check out an average of 20 customers an hour or 2 customers an hour.
The Need for New Theoretical Models of Motivation
Decades ago working conditions we not as good for most employees in the work force. Unions, such as the UFCW, were formed to insure workers received fair wages and their workplace was safe. Since then laws have been passed and organizations behave toward their employees much better. Many non-union organizations reward their employees for exceptional productivity and work ethics. The union worker’s motivation is greatly reduced, because there is no incentive to increase productivity or practice good work ethics outside of what the contract outlines.
The workforce of today is increasingly diverse with differing needs and demands of the workforce of decades ago. Technology has changed the way organizations do business and where that business is conducted. Global companies and e-commerce organizations with highly knowledgeable employees are now common. Another influence on in the workforce today is organizational tasks and goals are increasingly organized around teams. Managing these diverse, knowledgeable employees can be challenging and have a profound influence on how organizations attempt to motivate employees.
The need to understand the influences of obvious and hidden motives and perceived abilities on motivation is needed. (Steers, 2004) Also, an understanding of “how participation in groups have a powerful influence on motivation above and beyond what can be understood by focusing exclusively on individual-level effects” (The Road Ahead).
Failure to meet the need for new motivational models will result in influencing how organizations attract, retain, and motivate employees. Without motivating this new type of workforce organizations may lose their profitability and will not stay competitive.
Individuals are motivated to work for various reasons; however, most work for financial stability. The challenge for managers is too continual finds ways to motivate employees to achieve organizational goals in a changing workforce. Today’s workforce has new challenges such as technology, globalization, and team efforts, which did not exist before. “What all types of achievement situations have in common is that the person has encountered a standard of excellence and has been energized by it, largely because he or she knows that the forthcoming performance will produce an emotionally meaningful evaluation of personal competence” (Reeve, 2009, p. 176).
Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Steers, R. M. (2004). THE FUTURE OF WORK MOTIVATION THEORY. Retrieved from
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