Is your organization struggling to be more productive? The advancement of modern technology should be leading us to higher and higher levels of productivity; however, this is not the case. According to The Wall Street Journal, US productivity growth is slowing from 2.6% per annum in 2010 to 1.3% in 2015. The reasons why the United States is suffering from a decline in productivity growth are not clear.

As leadership specialists, we’d like to suggest a potential explanation: Organizations do not fully understand how to motivate and grow managers. This is one human problem that technology has not yet eased.

Optimizing managers’ motivation is not as simple as implementing a one-size-fits-all incentive system. To truly optimize motivation, organizations must understand and address the wide range of motives that managers have for tackling their jobs.

When many organizations think about motivating and growing their managers they think about compensation. Salary, bonuses, stock options, and promotions are often thought to be tools for driving productivity. Such extrinsic rewards are clearly motivators for many managers. They are an expected part of organizational life.

Intrinsic rewards such as psychological well-being, joy, learning, and fulfillment matter as well. Many organizations recognize this and try to connect their managers with jobs they care about and enjoy through systemic interventions that target employee engagement.

In reality, the links between managerial motives and organizationally desirable outcomes are quite complex. When it comes to motivation, managers have a variety of tastes.

A prominent theory of motivation states that there are actually 4 types of motivations to consider. Given that each manager has a mix of motivations, we suggest the different combinations of motives matter in understanding attraction, retention, and engagement.

Perhaps productivity would increase at a quicker rate if organizations rewarded managers according to what is motivating to them instead of what organizations think managers want. One way to foster productivity is to go back to the basics and look at how 4 basic human motivations combine to influence the hearts and minds of top talent.

This report shares findings from one of the very few studies to look at how the different motives of managers work in concert to influence their job attitudes, and shares 3 levers to unlock internal motivation:

  • Bosses who provide support and encourage self-direction;
  • Rewards systems that affirm, not manipulate; and
  • Limiting organizational politics.

If organizations want to develop and energize their management talent, they must recognize individual differences in managers’ motives and create the conditions that lead to favorable motivational profiles.

Additional Contributing Authors:

Laura M. Graves, PhD, is professor of Management at the Graduate School of Management at Clark University. Laura’s research focuses on creating organizations that facilitate the performance, development, and well-being of employees. She studies issues related to leadership, motivation, work/family integration, and managing diversity. Her work has appeared in leading academic journals, including Academy of Management ReviewJournal of Applied PsychologyJournal of Management, and Personnel Psychology. She is author of a book on gender issues in management, Women and Men in Management (3rd ed., 2003, Sage, coauthored with Gary N. Powell). Laura is a former chair of the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management, and served on the editorial board of Academy of Management Journal. She received the 1999 Sage Scholarship Award for Contributions to the Management Literature from the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management. Laura holds a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of William and Mary.

Houston F. Lester is a graduate student pursuing his doctoral degree in the Quantitative, Qualitative, and Psychometric Methods program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Houston has extensive experience conducting statistical analyses in a wide range of fields including management, education, and medicine. His research focuses on evaluating advanced quantitative methods in practical settings. Houston earned his MS degree in industrial/organizational psychology from Auburn University and a BA in psychology from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL.

Download White Paper

Start typing and press Enter to search