One of my groups recently had a long discussion (after 4 weeks it is still going on.)  The topic was the source of motivation.  The options were that the employees brought it, the employer created it, or some combination of the two.  The initial premise was a statement that to hire the already motivated was the best way to build a strong work force.  I believe the group was trying to identify before hiring was a “strong work ethic.”  A work ethic is a general tendency we have to put a real effort into any assignment.

My opinion, based on extensive reading in psychology, is that everyone has some blend of six basic self actualization motives.  These are the needs we seek to satisfy after we have enough to eat, a warm dry place to sleep, sex, and a sense of security.   These motives are not aligned with the employer’s motives until we know what the employer’s vision, objectives and motivations are.   An employer that understands these motivations can select employees that are likely to find self actualization in that organization.

The comments got pretty snarly from time to time.  That happens when people are heavily invested in their opinions.   What struck me was how many of the commentators disliked employees and regarded them as lesser beings. Those with this view definitely did not want the responsibility of supplying the motivation.  If they had to supply the motivation, their preferred system was the whip.

Those that are shirking their leadership and management responsibilities will find things going their way in a weak economy.  The employees without specific motivation, but with the strong work ethic, will be enough to support the 40% who admit to working just hard enough not to get fired. 

However, when the economy recovers you don’t want to be standing in the exit door.  You will get trampled by the unmotivated with a strong work ethic.  They will lead the charge to a better place to work.  They will find an organization that aligns with their motivations.

For students reading this the lesson is to plan to be an entrepreneur.  Bring an entrepreneur is hard.  It is the best chance you have to work for a good leader or manager.

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