One of the primary concerns in motivation study is that of discovering the motivational triggers that drive people to commit to and expend effort toward completing tasks and achieving goals and objectives. In other words, what are the effective incentives that motivate people? Secondly, what are those things that prevent people from committing, acting, and achieving - the disincentives?
504.4.1 Theory X/Theory Y
One of the most popular and well understood constructs in this arena is that of David McClelland's Theory X/Theory Y dyad. As we saw, these are two opposing views of human nature regarding effort and work. Most people, including almost all managers, hold one or the other to be true and manage and incent accordingly. We can pretty clearly identify a given manager's beliefs and methods as falling into one or the other of these camps. A manager that attempts to motivate employees through the threat or offer of rewards or punishment such as:
- Loss of employment (usually implied)
- Money (bonuses, fines, raises)
- Work conditions (better or worse)
- Authority (more or less)
- Larger staff, office, budget, etc.
- Recognition, reprimands
clearly falls in the Theory X category. On the other side of the coin, a manager that believes that his main responsibility in regard to motivation is to remove obstacles from the path of his workers just as clearly belongs in the Theory Y category. This manager feels that employees naturally enjoy working and welcome challenges. For him the main concern is providing the reinforcement necessary to attain employees' commitment to organizational goals. Reinforcement methods commonly address the employees' upper level needs for self-esteem and self-fulfillment - private and public recognition of an employee's goal-oriented accomplishments is a common reinforcer.
Implicit in the Theory X-Theory Y dyad is the concept of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Theory X managers obviously believe in extrinsic motivators. That is, they believe that, being work averse, employees require external stimulus and reinforcement in the forms mentioned above to get them to commit to and work toward enterprise goals. Theory Y managers, on the other hand, believe that employees are naturally ambitious, creative, and seek responsibility and accomplishment. Managers need only generate commitment to the organization's ends.
Many theorists point out several problems with the extrinsic - Theory X approach to motivation.
- As time goes by employees require escalating levels of external incentives to maintain their level of motivation.
- The use of incentives tends to erode any existing intrinsic motivation that might exist.
- If external incentives are removed, employees lose commitment and cease efforts.