Manager’s Role in Promoting Motivation

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain how companies address basic needs.
  • Explain how managers can individualize motivation strategies.

Addressing Basic Needs

Two men sitting across from each other, looking at their laptops

The best managers learn their employees’ needs and make an effort to meet them

Managers have a critical role to find out what each employee cares about. A mother may need flexible hours. Another person’s motivation may be mostly intrinsic, and he needs space (autonomy) to work his way. Someone else may need rules and structure. The work environment may not allow much flexibility, but just recognizing an individual’s preferences is a strong first step.

Looking again at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, an organization starts by providing a safe workplace and job security. In turn, an employee can be self-motivated to fulfill his or her higher-level needs. However, each of the organizational structures can pose challenges to employees in reaching their full potential. A strict hierarchical structure will minimize a person’s stress from ambiguity about their responsibility and may provide job security. However, that person’s need for more challenge, broader interaction throughout the company, and professional growth may take longer than the employee would like. A team-based structure will address the need for more challenge and broader interaction, but it can lead to job insecurity if a person’s role is not clear when the team project is completed.

All of the needs- and process-based theories of motivation can be addressed within any organizational structure. First, companies can start by paying their people an appropriate, livable wage. Salary should be enough that employees are not distracted by pending mortgage payments or taking a second job to make ends meet. Many firms offer both salary and incentive pay. Second, a sense of belonging can be fulfilled by having jobs aligned to a clear common purpose of the company. Social interactions can be formal and informal, and rewards and recognition need to be clearly and consistently applied to increase motivation and engagement. Managers need to be held accountable for tracking their employees’ personal and career growth within the company.

Practice Question

Managers Are Motivators

Ultimately, managers have the greatest influence on an employee’s motivation. Even though someone’s manager can’t substantially affect the company’s structure, culture and reward systems, the manager can link performance to recognition, bonuses and good work assignments. It is your manager who most directly promotes and implements any of the organization’s policies and procedures. The best managers are able to meet each subordinate’s most important needs. All employees will have varying needs for autonomy and what areas of work they would like to specialize or master. And all employees need to see that their work is tied to the common purpose of the team and the company.

Practice Question