How I Use Motivation Theories to Plan the Roadmap Forward

By Francisco Mateo

An important part of being a security practitioner today is obtaining the proper education specific to the subject matter. Recognizing this as member of ASIS International I became a board Certified Protection Professional (CPP).  It was during the Organization Behavior part of my certification studies I first came across Frederick Herzberg’s theory of motivation and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Since then these behavioral theories have serve me well while managing the security force.  Now that unemployment is a subject dear and near to me I realize that these theories also provide insight. Since every crisis offers an opportunity and lost jobs may not be coming back, it draws me to conjecture that if these employed people were to have their basic human needs taken care of and sustained; there may be tremendous opportunity to release a creative force not seen in our lifetime.

First, I’d attempt to briefly explain Maslow and Herzberg’s theory of motivation within the previously explained context. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is based on the idea that individuals work to satisfy human needs, such as food and complex psychological needs such as self-esteem. Accordingly a fulfilled need does little to motivate an employee. In contrast, a person with an unfulfilled need can be persuaded to work to satisfy that need. Under the “Deficit Principle”: it’s a person’s unsatisfied needs that influence his/her behavior; and the unsatisfied need becomes a focal motivator. Under the “Progression Principle” higher order needs are not active motivators until lower order needs are fulfilled; and unfulfilled lower order needs take precedence over higher level needs. In a nutshell these principles explain that if a person is concerned about putting food on the table and paying pass due bills they would not be motivated to think of creative solutions to their problems. Along that line Herzberg’s “Two-Factor Theory” attempts to explain the factors that motivate individuals by identifying and satisfying their individual needs, desires and the aims pursued to satisfy those desires. It is referred to as a two factor theory because of the belief that motivators can be categorized as either hygiene factors or motivating factors. Hygiene factors include: perceived differences with others; job security; working conditions; and interpersonal relations. In terms of motivators it includes: the sense of achievement and the intrinsic value obtained from the job itself; the level of recognition by both colleagues and management; and the level of responsibility and opportunities for advancement.  In simple terms, to motivate an individual, a job itself must be challenging, have scope for enrichment and be of interest to the jobholder. For the last 60 years these and other motivation theories have shaped traditional organizational development. The question is what they have to offer giving our new work paradigm.

It is tough enough keeping employed people motivated during times like these we’re living through. And it is even tougher for people who have been out of work for a while; underemployed or young people looking to enter the workforce during the worst job recession in 30 years. Besides the pressure of generating income to keep up with everyday life, lack of motivation is one of those silent threats. The two lead each other in turn, as pressure to make ends meet would often drive your motivation for seeking solutions. At the same time too much pressure disrupts the cycle, setting off other de-motivating processes.  High levels of motivation are essential to higher productivity; to produce better quality of work with less waste; to develop a greater sense of urgency; and to take more ownership of work product; which is essential for high performance within an organization. These same traits are crucial for folks at home trying to fend for themselves. As the number of unemployed, underemployed and those whose employment future seem uncertain, continue to grow to unprecedented levels; we all have an opportunity to apply Maslow and Herzberg’s theory in new ways. Instead of it being leveraged to improve organizational management, it can be applied to manage yourself and the growing clusters of independent workers. In other words it not only calls for extracting self-management insights, but also self-motivation from these applied theoretical concepts.

The way I envision it, we should be looking at all possible ways we can channel people’s energy towards creative endeavors which in a direct way would keep them from resorting to desperate measures and quick fixes, like violent protest and crime.  High amount of perceived pressure is one of the elements that motivate a person to commit theft and fraud. The same way that frustration and powerlessness motivate violent and destructive civil expressions and protests. Practitioners of security management have been concerned for a while that, given the economic recession crime would spike due to peoples increase pressure to make ends meet. My personal view is that private business and governments are equally dumb founded and don’t seem to have a clear solution to the employment crisis; therefore, new routes to prosperity need to be charted before people look to crime and system disruption, which is possible outcome in a cycle of poverty. I still think we as a society are walking a tight rope.

Applying Maslow’s “Progression Principle” we understand that unless lower order needs (like where they’ll get money for food and shelter) are fulfilled;  higher order needs that lead to creative thinking and complex problem solving would not be active motivators. That said, we know that it has been precisely creativity and innovation which gave rise to the great prosperity we’ve experience during the last 50 years. It could be even better the second time around. However, it can’t be done if people lacked meaningful jobs (that can provide for basic needs). It can’t be done if we don’t educate and train people to think creatively and find ways to be productive.



One Response to “How I Use Motivation Theories to Plan the Roadmap Forward”

  1. Charisse Trejo Says:

    Empowerment is something that you should really consider as a source of motivation. Today, many organizations are using empowerment to create organizational change and also as a source of motivation. I think showing Maslow’s pyramid of needs would have been a nice touch (I am such a nerd), but I think that you, a manager and business owner, should also consider Deming’s Theory of Profound Knowledge. I thought it was absolutely profound and knowing it and knowing how to set forth change by knowing the process and procedures, understanding variation, knowledge (information is not knowledge) and psychology is vital to managament and motivation.

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