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Does kicking people build enthusiasm?

Sep 19 John Webster Motivation

3D person kicking another isolated over a white background.jpegIn any business, creating and maintaining a competitive edge is the surefire way to success. Some things like product uniqueness or economy of scale, are tough to compete against. But almost any advantage can be overcome through building a positive culture.

The gotcha is that there is no one way to build that culture, you need to think of motivation as a series of levers than can be dialed up and down at will. The better understanding you have of what is working will help you balance your team needs and motivate them to greatness.


Enter Herzberg

I leaned about Fredrick Herzberg studying motivational theories at Uni. He coined the phrase "KITA" (or Kick In The Ass" as an example of how a business might motivate employees. The theory goes if I kick someone in the backside every time they slow down I can motivate then to get back to work.

Kicking people of course wasn't the point, it was to demonstrate not all potential motivators are positive, and more to the point sticking with a singly motivator does more damage than good. In fact Herzberg referred to KITA as movement not motivation. 

This was part of a wider theory Herzberg espoused called two-factor motivational theory (a great summary of this is available here). Two-factor theory suggests that you can't throw all your eggs in one basket. So while you may pay above average salaries or have a free drinks machine, if you work environment is generally crappy - you aren't going to win anyone over long term. You need to provide an environment that ticks more than one box.

Things that don't directly create personal growth in a work place (including kicking people) need to be addressed in order to not demotivate people.Herzberg called them hygene factors. In effect, hygene needs to be maintained (demotivators removed) before you can get on to building a healthy, motivating environment. Reward and recognition, responsibillity, abillity to set agendas, are all pure motivators but in an unhygenic environment are wasted, because benefits are not outweighed by the negatives.

Scholars who support Herzberg have tried to define the secret sauce for motivational theory and they keep coming back to the same theme. You can't force an environment and you need to address the big picture when building a supportive space. The International Journal on Business Management noted:

"Employee engagement is a vast construct that touches almost all parts of human resource management facets we know hitherto. If every part of human resources is not addressed in appropriate manner, employees fail to fully engage themselves in their job in the response to such kind of mismanagement."

This makes sense when you think about it. If you constantly work under high pressure, have old equipment that takes forever to get anything done or a poor execution culture that traps people in endless meetings with no success, great pay won't cut it as a motivator long term. How many people do you know who have 'put up' with poor work conditions in order to enjoy a particular perk (be it close to home, hours suit family life, high wage). Employees may stay in a role longer with such perks but they all talk about a time when they can leave that job.

Shiftiez looks to take the administrative load when creating rosters and give staff input around shift preferences through co-planning.  It's a great service for companies who love their staff and want to create a happier, more engaged workforce.

John Webster

Written by John Webster

John is the Founder and CEO of CoRoster. With a background in running IT teams, he founded CoRoster to look for ways to improve people's work/life balance through technology.