Term Paper: Business Management Motivation and Communication at Work

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Business Management

Motivation and Communication at work; Performance management; Management Change; Influencing Skills; Time Management; Groups and Teams; Leadership styles.

Introduction company should come to realize it is in trouble when, in order to squeeze out a profit, staff turnover has been increased "dramatically" - higher than 40% in some departments - and turnover has been accompanied by a sense of "reduced motivation." That company's management should be acutely aware of its need to immediately address a falling-off in performance by employees, and a "mistrust of senior management" as well.

When employees mistrust their employer's leadership, that mistrust is a certain sign of a cancer within the company; and the problem, in a large number of instances, results from an apparent lack of leadership skills at the top levels of management. This paper will examine the likely reasons for these serious issues within the company, and will offer suggestions - through existing models and theories of management - as to how the company can regain the confidence of - and re-invigorate the production of - its most valued asset, the employees.

Employee Motivation and Communication Issues

Motivation. First of all, if there is a serious free-fall in motivation among workers, an analysis of why that is occurring is paramount to finding a solution. A good place to begin in determining what is wrong (for purposes of this paper we will call the company in question, "company E") is by looking at what employees need, and discovering if those needs are being met by management. According to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory (Thinkers December, 1999, p. 1), the hierarchy consists of five levels: survival (or physiological) needs; safety / security needs; social needs; ego-status needs; and self-actualization needs.

Maslow, according to the Thinkers article, believed that motivation is "generated by the unsatisfied needs in the hierarchy," which does not seem to make logical sense in this case. For example, Maslow's second level of needs hierarchy, "security / safety" needs includes social needs such as job security. Given that "company E" has laid off more than 40% of its workers in some departments, job security should be a top priority for employees who remain on the job; so why would the unmet need of "security" be a motivational factor?

The other unmet need on Maslow's hierarchy in this workplace scenario would appear to be "ego-status" needs - including being held in high esteem by peers and having the ability to obtain power, self-confidence and prestige. Wondering whether or not you'll be the next to be laid off is not exactly a recipe for self-confidence. That said, it should be noted that in the Thinkers article, Maslow's theory "only fully makes sense when applied to life in general rather than the workplace in particular." And so, if managers at "company E" aren't able to understand and gain the trust of their employees inside the workplace, it's unlikely they will try to relate to their worker's lives outside the workplace.

Meanwhile, Herzberg's motivator-hygiene theory, though criticized by some researchers for seeking to explain "job satisfaction, rather than work motivation, without really measuring job satisfaction" (Knoop 1994, p. 683), takes the view that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are "separate dimensions." and, Knoop continues, Herzberg's position is that "Satisfaction depends on motivators that promote growth needs; dissatisfaction depends on hygiene factors that serve lower-order needs." In the case under review in this paper, "company E," the employees were not realizing the Herzberg "satisfiers" (achievement, recognition, work, and responsibility) needed for happiness, and they were not achieving "hygiene factors" (comfortable with supervisors, co-workers, and possible promotions) either.

Communication key part of good leadership, Guirdham (2002, p. 539) writes, is "the ability of an individual to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success" of a company or organization. In order to accomplish those objectives, communication is pivotal, Guirdham continues (pp. 348-49). "Leaders need to be highly competent communicators," and indeed "leadership is essentially a communication activity," and the effective "conversational forms by leaders are positive, coherent," they "facilitate work-related and personal goals," they "increase members' identification with the group and decrease their need for legitimation."

And so, the leadership within "company E" would appear to be lacking in good communication skills, otherwise there would not be a performance drop and a mistrust of senior management. Why would staff that has not been laid off feel "more secure and therefore happier in their jobs" just because they survived the massive layoffs? Clearly, this organization's communication is non-existent, or has broken down severely.

Performance Management

Among the objectives sought through the use of appraisal schemes, according to Handy (1993, pp. 225-27): build a data base for the company's staff; create a mechanism for the assessment of performance by individual employees; give employees feedback on performance, personal strengths / weaknesses; assist employees in planning job and personal objectives. If these criteria are going to be used for "performance-related pay," however, there may be a problem, Handy writes, because "Studies have shown that most individuals in large organizations do not believe that their salary is directly related to performance." Rather, Handy continues, most workers believe that "length of service, seniority and qualifications" are the ingredients that go into salary and promotions.

Part of the problem of appraisal, Handy asserts, is that the superior who is conducting the appraisal is "expected to be, at the same time, judge and counsellor" (227).

Meanwhile, another author (Watson 1994, p. 98) suggests that the performance-related pay scheme may in specific cases be able to incorporate the establishment of a "skills-based grading structure," in order to emphasize people's "personal development" - which would be a "harmonization" of both employment and the system of pay. Basically, through regular appraisals and "individual performance reviews," Handy explains (116), the development of skills will result in a worker receiving "performance-related pay for behaviours which fit with the values of the company's 'winning culture'. These include working with others in 'problem-solving' teams, being flexible in the tasks one is willing to undertake," and looking at new ways of doing things.

Company E" could well apply some knowledge from role models among university academics (Burgoyne, Reynolds 1997, p. 119) when considering the methods through which to learn better management techniques. Management could use the 360-degree feedback method - a tool that provides each employee the opportunity to receive performance feedback from management and four to eight colleagues, reporting staff members, and customers. Also, 360 degree feedback allows each individual to understand how his effectiveness as an employee, co-worker, or staff member is viewed by others. It can prove to be a disaster, however (Heathfield 2004), because "nothing raises hackles as fiercely as a change in performance feedback methods, especially when they affect compensation decisions.

It can also "...create an uproar in [the] organization that rivals in ferocity any change...ever introduced..." Heathfield writes. That "uproar" occurs when the 360-degree feedback ends up being a name-calling, revenge-seeking "***** session" rather than a productive series of communications between employees and management.

The Management of Change

Lewin's Force Field model builds on the idea that forces, "persons, habits, customs, attitudes...both drive and restrain change" (Value-Based Management.net 2004), and the model is built with a major change challenge or issue at the top, "driving forces" listed in one column, and "restraining forces" in an adjacent column. In the case of "company E," utilizing Lewin's Force Field would be a way in which to investigate the "balance of power" in the key issues, to identify the players, the opponents and supporters, and how to influence each target group. If the company has serious problems in gaining the full trust of their employees, a Lewin-style analysis and appraisal would seem appropriate.

How does the Lewin Force Field work? The main steps include: a) describe the current situation; b) evaluate the desired situation; c) identify where the current situation will go if no action is undertaken; d) list all the forces driving change toward the desired situation; e) list forces resisting change; f) discuss and examine all forces - are they real, and can they be changed? These steps should go far towards at least bringing some of the company's positives and negatives out of the darkness for clarity and review.

As to "company E," the current situation might not have even been thrust upon it if something like the Lewin Force Field investigative methodology had been instituted; who was minding the store on both the "bottom line" side and the "workforce" side? Why were things allowed to get to this point - and why did management assume employees would be "happier in their jobs" just because they didn't get pink slips?

Company E. could also submit to some "radical" ideas for management change, as presented by Burgoyne, Reynolds (p. 151). With regards to "Management learning as discourse," the authors ask, do "radical or critical discourses, which might threaten or challenge the status quo...become transformed, modified or appropriated?" And is management willing to learn "a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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