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Culture as a Determinant of Motivation Essay

Why is the study of Different Theories of Motivation important to managers? The World has changed at a very fast pace and will continue to do so. The view point that many prominent researchers had on motivation has also evolved with changing times. There has been a phenomenal change in the way organizations and individuals function in the twenty first century if we made a comparison with how organizations functioned back in the day. There is a significantly greater focus today on employee satisfaction, work life balance, cross cultural values, virtual teams and formal performance management processes to name a few. Globalization is one the key factors which has brought a prominent change in many organizational practices in the twenty first century.

Hershey and Blanchard (1977) mentioned that “motives can be defined as needs, wants, drives or impulses within the individual which are directed towards goals which may be conscious or sub conscious”. Motivation has been defined by Robbins, Decenzo and Coulter (2011) as “motivation is the process by which a person’s efforts are energized, directed, and sustained towards attaining a goal “ In this paper we will define motivation as the force which helps an individual focus on his immediate and long term goals and helps him run the extra mile. Also in this essay we will be focusing on the impact of culture on organizational behavior and the reasons why managers need to be aware of various motivational theories so that they are well equipped to handle this impact of culture change.

Motivation is a very important tool that is not effectively utilized by managers. Motivation if used effectively can significantly improve the performance of teams and employees. It was thought earlier that motivation could be directed only by external factors, but it is now understood that every employee has his own set of motivators which if addressed correctly can significantly improve a manager and his team’s performance. It is the manager’s responsibility to correctly identify these motivating factors and take all steps possible to address them. But this is easier said than done. As observed in today’s environment there are many issues which create a hindrance for managers to motivate their respective teams. In most organizations because of the growing impetus of globalization and the fact that individuals from different cultures, ethnic backgrounds come on the same platform and work together, it is becoming increasingly difficult for managers to be on top of these growing trends and continue to motivate their respective teams.

It is very important for managers to understand how important the concept of culture plays in the way an employee thinks and behaves. Only when a manager is aware of the subtle changes in an individual’s behavior because of their cultural background, can he actually make a concentrated effort to analyze and evaluate methods to motivate that particular individual. Geert Hofstede’s (1980) theory of cultural dimensions describes how a particular society’s culture influences the behavior and values of individuals using a structure derived from factor analysis. This theory proposed four concepts on the basis of which cultural values could be evaluated; Individualism- collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, power distance and masculinity- feminity. As per Sledge, Miles and Coppage (2008) power distance is “the degree to which control and influence are distributed unequally in society”.

In countries with high power distance it would not be recommended to give employees a lot of freedom with respect to their work. The employees would be more comfortable when they are abiding by a strict protocol and set guidelines and procedures whereas in countries with low power distance decentralization of power would be recommended where employees can be empowered and inspired to come up with creative ideas in their work. Countries like Venezuela and Malaysia are examples of nations which show High Power distance whereas Denmark and Great Britain are nations which show very low power distance. Sledge, Miles and Coppage (2008) defined the concept of individualism versus collectivism as “I and Me versus We and Us’”. Cultures where the beliefs are that one is responsible for his own decisions and the general tendency is to take care of only oneself and his own family are individualistic cultures.

Collective cultures are those where people rely more heavily on groups and the general tendency is to take care of each other. Individualism is common in USA, Canada and mostly in the West whereas collectivism is more common in Pakistan, India and Brazil. In collective cultures promotions and appraisals are generally done on the basis of seniority, age and loyalty whereas in individualistic cultures appraisals are done only on the basis of merit. In countries where the culture is individualistic strong individual recognition and rewards would be very strong motivators. Sledge, Miles and Coppage (2008) expounded that uncertainty avoidance was “the degree of risk aversion”. Individuals from Countries with high uncertainty avoidance are generally very wary of ambiguous situations and they create beliefs and situations to increase their sense of security. They have very strong belief in experts and they generally arrive at decisions only with consensus of their entire group.

Denmark and Great Britain are examples of low uncertainty avoidance cultures whereas Germany, Japan and Spain are examples of High Uncertainty avoidance countries. Sledge, Miles, and Coppage (2008) elucidated on masculinity versus femininity as “the desire for material possessions and recognition versus the desire for relationships and family” In masculine societies monetary rewards would make very good motivators whereas in predominantly feminine societies Flexible working hours or more time away from work for family would be very strong motivators. A feminine society is more concerned with family and personal relationships as against masculine societies where jobs are more or less gender based.

Examples of such masculine cultures are China, Japan, Philippines, India, Bangladesh whereas examples of more feminine cultures are Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. Some researchers like William Ouchi (Theory Z) and Peters & Waterman(Excellence theory) developed theories on the difference between management practices between Japanese and American business corporations . They firmly believed that most American and Japanese corporations functioned similar to the McGregor’s Theory X & Theory Y where the American companies firmly believed that workers are generally unwilling to work and can be motivated only with economic benefits whereas the Japanese corporations were of the belief that the workers can be motivated by a sense of duty and loyalty.

The major difference in the functioning of these organizations was also the fact the managers from the west which are predominantly individualistic cultures could not generally think about the bigger picture and this probably showed in the treatment of their employees. Hence the intrinsic factors of most employees were not catered to. Companies from the East like Japan which is a collective culture showed that managers used to generally behave with their workers like they were a part of a collective unit and this made the employees think about the companies as an extension to their individual self. This made them believe that money and economic benefits were not primary motivators. Such employees were motivated with other factors like by knowledge sharing, improving their self esteem, self respect, achievement, recognition and opportunities for more challenging work. Organizations need to pay utmost attention to the cultural and ethnic sentiments of their employees.

Let’s say for instance Multinational Companies who have their setup in India also have to take many factors into consideration like the fact that every state in India has some festivals which have a very strong regional and cultural flavor. Organizations have to keep in mind that even within Cultures there are many sub cultures and the sentiments of the employees within these sub cultures also need to be taken care of. Like for instance in India in the state of Maharashtra the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is of very high cultural and emotional significance whereas in the state of Punjab Baisakhi as a festival is of very high importance. Organizations need to take these aspects also into consideration and keep a correct balance when they are deciding holidays for the employees in a particular culture or sub culture.

If the management does not pay attention to the sentiments of their employees, this will send the wrong signals to their employees and they will be unable to identify themselves with the ideals of the company. In such situations motivating employees would become very difficult. Having seen the impact of culture on the behavior of employees and individuals it would be very advantageous for managers to understand the underlying and basic crux of motivation theories. These theories when used in the right context with employees will help motivate them and improve their performance. Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Motivation (1968) emphasizes on core job factors and distinguishes them into two categories Hygiene Factors and Motivational Factors. Herzberg further added that the Hygiene Factors like Pay, Company Policies, Fringe Benefits, Physical working conditions, Status, Interpersonal Relations, and Job Security were only factors that were extrinsic to the work environment and only prevented dissatisfaction.

These factors never motivated individuals but only prevented the individuals from getting dissatisfied which might further lead to de-motivation. He further added that the motivational factors were intrinsic to an individual and were inherent in work. The motivational factors like recognition, Growth Opportunities, Responsibility, Leadership Quotient, and Meaningfulness of work were what were instrumental in creating satisfaction in an employee and motivating him. What is interesting to know is that in different cultures the motivators and hygiene factors are slightly different. In collective cultures sense of fulfillment and working towards company goal is considered far more important that individual pay and remuneration like in western cultures. Managers need to strike the right balance with employees to properly inspire them to perform better.

In order to be able to do this they need to have sufficient background knowledge of the culture quotient of an employee along with certain theories of motivation which might be applicable to those employees. In recent times of financial crisis it has become even more important for managers to understand the key factors which can motivate their employees. Organizations in recent times have become hard pressed to offer economic benefits and rewards to their employees. In such situations it would a great advantage to managers if they have sufficient knowledge of motivation theories like the Equity theory of Motivation which states that every individual has an ingrained instinct to continuously evaluate what is it that he is gaining from the company with respect to what he investing in the company.

Individuals also continuously compare themselves with their peers and colleagues. Such theories will help manages keep a right balance and ensure that certain factors which can give impetus to an employee’s dissatisfaction are sufficiently curtailed. They will then start focusing on improving an employee’s soft skills like interpersonal communication, instilling a sense of duty and loyalty towards the organization, making the employees strive for self improvement. Recognition and praise for good work will also be used more effectively used to motivate employees. The uses of motivation theories have become even more important as in most organizations virtual teams have become the order of the day.

Employees work with their associates and colleagues whom they have never even met. It has become even more instrumental for managers to instill a sense of collectivism in their teams so that individuals working in a group can transform into a team in an actual sense. As per the survey done by Mckinsey(2010) it was found that most employees in organizations feel de motivated when they are unable to idolize themselves with the leadership of the company.

It was also found that the many employees in the organization would feel even more motivated if they were offered a few words of praise from their boss. Like for instance if a manager appreciates the efforts of an employee who is a part of his virtual team whose first language is not English, this will really do wonders for that specific employee. All the small bits when put together make a collage. The study of motivation theories has now become of paramount importance to managers as they really need to understand that small bit which will motivate their team and their associates to do better than they actually can. This is what will separate a manager from a leader and will elevate the performance of a group of people to a team.

* Hofstede, G. (1980). Motivation, Leadership, and Organization: Do American Theories Apply Abroad? Organizational Dynamics, 9(1), 42-63\ * Hersey P, Kenneth Blanchard (1977). Management of Organisational Behaviour. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall * Sledge, S., Miles, A. K., & Coppage, S. (2008). What role does culture play? A look at motivation and job satisfaction among hotel workers in Brazil. International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 19(9), 1667-1682. doi:10.1080/09585190802295157 * Blackwell RJ, Miniard PW, Enrgel JF (2007). Consumer Behaviour, 9thed., Thomson Press, London. * Decenzo DA (2001). Fundamentals of Management: Essentials Concepts and Application. Prentice Hall, New Jersey. * Deresky H (2007). International Management: Managing Across Borders and Cultures (6th Edition). New Jersey; Prentice Hall * Koenigs, R. (1982). An Interview with Dr. William Ouchi. Training & Development Journal, 36(3), 38 * Herzberg F (1968). ‘One more time: how do you motivate employee?’ Havard Business Review, Jan-Feb, 53-64 * Hofstede G (1991) Cultures and Organizations: Software of the mind.McGraw Hill. * Hofstede G (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Relate Values. Newbury Park CA: Sage. * Dewhurst, M., Guthridge, M., & Mohr, E. (2010). Motivating people: Getting beyond money. Mckinsey Quarterly, (1), 12-15

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