Motivation is a part of the concept of work and life balance. To state it plainly, there can never be work-life balance without a motivation on the part of the worker. Motivation drives people to accomplish their tasks and work for organizational objectives. Motivation is based on man’s desire to minimize physical pain and maximize the love for pleasure.
There are many reasons for motivation at work and money is only one of them. Motivation is born out of the many needs and desires of humans. People work to earn a living. But other motivations of work include the desire for achievement, prestige, or recognition.
This essay is about the motivational factors that drive people at work. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and other theories of motivation will be the highlights of this work.
Our concept of work has a negative historical background. The Bible tells us that work was considered a burden or a form of punishment from God. “You shall toil in order to eat,” said God as he sent Adam out from Paradise.
Human beings then continued to build, innovate, and reinvent new things and technologies, only to be disappointed because they never satisfy themselves. The purpose in continuous building is to provide comfort, to ease the pain or to avoid the “punishment”.
More complexities in globalization forced people to form organizations and multinationals. But the concept of work remains. Do humans really work for the money? Money can buy food, shelter and clothing for themselves and the family. If people are motivated of money, how can they have satisfaction and contentment in life? Money is important but it is not the ultimate aim.
Theories of Work and Life
We can examine some theories of work and how people are motivated to work. Theories on the concept of work and on why people work include McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X assumes that workers regard work as distasteful. Companies build a top-heavy organization with managers planning, deciding and formulating policies for workers. Work then became an obligation and a punishment. (Firth, 2002, p. 16)
This theory states that workers work for the monetary reward. But Theory Y works on the contrary. Here people are motivated to work. They become creative and work not just for the money. Managers motivate employees to work for the team and the organization. As a whole therefore, Theory X and Theory Y are theories for workers. Managers regard workers because of their talents and their roles in the team. (Fournies, 1999, p. 34)
Original Concepts of Work
Related to the concept of work and why people work is the original concept developed by Karl Marx in the so-called conflict theory. Karl Marx’s ideas have remained important to the social sciences even up to today.
Marx’s ideas during the industrial revolution were unique and a source of great change in a rapidly changing social order. Change occurs within changes. Under this conflict theory are the concepts of frustration, aggression, and displacement which result into stress leading to dislike and distaste for work.
Marx’s theory which led to the concept of communism states that the worker had become an object, a tool by the owner of production. This was the true concept of how worker and work were used. The worker was reduced to the lowest serf and he worked so that he and his family could eat. If he did not work, he would die.
As time went by, some dignity was added to the concept of work. Theorists began to introduce the various needs and purposes on why people work. The purpose is still there: people work to earn a living but other needs are also met, like the physiological and self-actualization needs.
Theories on Workers’ Goals for Work
The Hierarchy of Needs
People work to satisfy themselves and fulfil the hierarchy of needs which, according to Maslow, must be satisfied to make life complete. Maslow’s needs hierarchy is arranged like a pyramid. At the very lowest of the pyramid, which means the most basic, are physiological needs, like food, water, oxygen, sex and other similar needs.
As one set is met, the need moves up the ladder. So, next in the ladder are the safety needs, such as security, stability, dependency, freedom from fear and anxiety, etc. Next in the ladder are the needs for love; then we have the esteem needs, and the self-actualization needs. (Maslow, 1943)
Self –actualization includes the desire to know and understand. People also focus on problems of others and to have a clear sense of what is true. Self-actualizing people are creative and are not bound by societal rules. Self-actualizing needs include career goals. Workers have to satisfy these needs in order to become productive. Likewise, the organization has to help in fulfilling these needs.
The Hawthorne Studies
The Hawthorne Studies of Elton Mayo state that “workers respond well to recognition, approval and attention and also to being part of a cohesive group” (Firth, 2002, p. 86). Businesses have to focus on human nature and social motive to avoid workers distrust and dislike for work. If organizations can do this, strikes and other forms of social unrest can be provided.
Related to Maslow’s theory is McClelland’s (1987) theory which is also called the acquired-needs theory, which emphasizes on the acquired needs that people learn in the process of acquiring new life experiences. This stresses on the three needs which are: the need for achievement or the desire to accomplish a goal; the need for affiliation or the desire for human companionship and acceptance; and the need for power or the desire to be influential in a group. (Firth, 2002, p. 86)
The need for power is the moving force of the career development and professional progress that a worker and employee are motivated to aspire for.
Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
Victor Vroom’s (1964 cited in Montana and Charnov, 2008, p. 110) theory states that workers improve in their jobs if they clearly see the benefits those improvements might give them. Also, workers enhance their effectiveness because of organizational rewards, salary increases, career development perspectives, etc. The importance of personal peculiarities is stressed in this theory. What we expect from people differ in some contexts, even if working conditions and rewards might be similar. (Stanfield and Routledge, 1993, p. 14)
Locke’s Goal Setting Theory
Edwin Locke’s theory states that employee performance is determined by the goals he/she sets for professional development. The higher and the more difficult the goals, the better progress the employee can display in achieving those goals. If an employee sets simple goals, the performance suffers as there is no motivational stimulus in achieving the goals. Higher and difficult goals enhance work-life development in the organization. Lower productivity is the result of lower goals. (Locke, 1978, p. 121)
The Scientific Management Theory of Frederick Taylor
Frederick Taylor’s scientific management emphasizes on measurement and efficiency so that the worker strives harder and become efficient, the workplace becomes safer, the product is made better, and there will be more profits for the owner and the stakeholders of the organization.
Max Weber’s Enlightenment Theory
Max Weber espoused the Enlightenment Theory which states that decisions at work and by management is not based on tradition but on efficient means to reach organizational goals. (Willis, 1996, p. 6)
Workers should work for the organization and themselves. They should be active in pursuing goals, in looking for improvement and in pursuit of excellence. This involves action or activities to answer customer demands and improve business. Companies have to be flexible to respond to constant changes, must benchmark continuously to achieve best practice, but must also look at employees’ welfare because good employees create good customers.
The Concept of Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is a concept that disproves the theory that people work only for the money, although money is used as a tool or instrument to have a work-life balance. Thus, we can say that money is also a part of the main objective of work. But it is not the ultimate goal.
There are organizations that help their employees adjust to family and work life. They use motivational factors like benefits and higher salaries which can increase productivity, lower rates of absenteeism and a motivated and satisfied workforce.
The definition of work-life balance emphasizes on the workers’ measure of control over work – when, where and how they work. There has to be a close partnership with the employer and the employee because employees or workers cannot just do what they want to do.
There has to be a demarcation, although the aim is to give flexibility on the part of the workers with respect to time and the manner of work. Workers have the flexibility; they are provided freedom and a certain leeway, and they are not pressured into working conditions they are not happy with.
Work-life balance is achieved when the worker feels a sense of fulfilment both inside the workplace that reflects his/her life, and this is accepted as part of the system in society. There are three beneficiaries for a work and life balance – the individual, the organization and society. (McIntosh, 2003, p. 181)
With work and life balanced, the quality of life of workers is improved. In this context, we can say that the situation in the workplace is linked to the life of the workers.
The workers have to derive satisfaction in their work in order to link work and family.
People who devote their time for work have less time for other personal pursuits, like spending time with their families. Others realize that more time is needed at home with their children, but they also have to work and spend more time in order to earn more money, like earning more from overtime.
This type of workers love their family and their home and they want to have more precious hours with their families, but they also want to work – and they have to – because they find satisfaction in work. Satisfaction in life is important inside and outside of work.
Motivating employees is one of the challenges managers face. Our experience of work is influenced by how we think about it. When we think of work as the source of money, we can hardly be motivated, except that money is the motivating factor. But if we look at work as a source of strength and we concentrate our life on work, we become motivated and be creative in the process.
Employees have to be encouraged and provided the resources – including improving their skills and talents, knowledge, training and development – so that they can do their job and manage themselves. They should be allowed to improve and become future managers. Let them oversee their strategies and processes themselves.
Templar (2003 cited in Firth 2002) reminds us that workers should not be managed, instead let them be a part of the team, let them be free so they become creative. If they are dictated of what they have to do, chances are they become like robots, and they would not care if the company becomes successful or not. They have to be allowed to reason out and to think that their purpose of work is not for money alone but to meet the needs and wants of customers. If they do so, the organization progresses and everyone meets their goals.
In modern organizations, workers are motivated to work in clusters. Team building and group dynamics are innovations in global organizations. Workers are formed in teams or clusters and function through teamwork and motivation.
Each team is given independence, the members are allowed to function at their own utmost capacity, they are trained in the process, becoming multi-skilled, while each member is responsible to the team. A cluster competes with other clusters when it comes to skill, but they are all working for one organisation.
As individuals mature in their job, and become accustomed to it, they significantly improve their skill and organizational knowledge, becoming more professional and expert in their own respective fields. This is one of the strategies of Toyota who perfected the concept of what is now known the Toyota Production System.
The philosophy behind team building is that when individual workers are allowed to work at their own pace and given the responsibility as part of the team, they become well motivated. The motivation is that each individual works for improvement and advancement of the organization. A member becomes like a part owner of the business. Each cluster works like an independent body but each member is multi-skilled that allows the cluster members to become flexible.
Many people connect work with life’s fulfilment, and connect satisfaction at work with feelings and satisfaction of life, and happiness with the family. Satisfaction in the workplace means happiness at home and fulfilment in life. Work and life balance means there is a balance for life and what we do. There has to be a blending between work, family, pleasure, fulfilment, and satisfaction.
Part of good and productive management is to motivate employees to become productive and to work for the fulfilment of the organization’s objectives. Motivation is an important factor in determining performance of people in an organization. It is the main objective of performance management.
People work for many reasons and not for money alone. But money is part of the entire objective. Otherwise, if you work for other people without salary or any remuneration, you become a volunteer – to work for charity. The motivational factors for work discussed in this essay make us think that work and life have heavy connections. You cannot successfully live the life you wanted without working for others. Work too has always a reason.
Firth, D., 2003. Life and work express. United Kingdom: Capstone Publishing.
Fournies, F., 1999. Coaching for improved work performance. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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Maslow, A. H., 1943. A theory of human motivation. In: G. Goble, ed. 2004. The third force: the psychology of Abraham Maslow. USA: Zorba Press.
McIntosh, S., 2003. Work-life balance: how life coaching can help. Business Information Review. Sage Publications. Vol. 20(4): 181-189.
Montana, P. and Charnov, B., 2008. Management, 4th edition. United States of America: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.
Stanfield, J. and Rolutledge, M., 1993. Race and ethnicity in research methods. London: Sage Publications.
Willis, E., 1996. The sociological quest: an introduction to the study of social life. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.