Human needs are similar. Conditions or elements in the environment allow people to survive and grow. Basic needs for oxygen, water, and food are clear; the idea of universal psychic needs is more controversial. A genetic, or “nature,” perspective posits that certain psychological needs are essential to being human (Lawrence and Nohria, 2001; Maslow, 1954; McClelland, 1985; Pink, 2009; White, 1960). A “nurture” view, in contrast, suggests that people are so shaped by environment, socialization, and culture that it is fruitless to talk about common psychic needs.
In extreme forms, both nature and nurture arguments are misleading. You don’t need an advanced degree in psychology to recognize that people are capable of enormous amounts of learning and adaptation. Just about any parent with more than one child knows that many psychological characteristics, such as temperament, are present at birth.
Most scholars see human behavior as resulting from the interplay between heredity and environment. Genes initially determine potential and predispositions. Research has identi- “ed connections between genetic patterns and behavioral tendencies such as antisocial behavior. But learning profoundly modi”es innate directives, and research in behavioral genetics regularly concludes that genes and environment interact in complex ways to determine how people act (Baker, 2004).
The nature-nurture seesaw suggests a more useful way to think about human needs. A need can be de”ned as a genetic predisposition to prefer some experiences over others. Needs energize and guide behavior and vary in potency at different times. We enjoy the company of others, for example, yet we sometimes want to be alone. Because genetic instructions cannot anticipate all situations, both the form and the expression of each person’s inborn needs are signi”cantly tailored by experiences after birth.
WORK AND MOTIVATION: A BRIEF TOUR Why do people do one thing rather than another? Why, for example, do they work hard, or not hard, or not at all? Despite decades of research, answers remain contested and elusive, but we can brie!y summarize some of the major ideas in an ongoing dialogue.
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An old formula (Maier, 1967) tells us that Performance = Ability ! Motivation. If you have both talent and desire, you’ll do well. Theories of motivation seek to explain the desire part of that formula. One of the oldest views, still popular among many managers and economists, is that the primary thing people care about is money: they do what they believe will get them more of it. Playing a hit man in the 2012 “lm Killing Them Softly, Brad Pitt summarizes this view with the observation, “America isn’t a country. It’s a business. Now give me my money.” Money is a powerful incentive, and focusing on “nancial rewards simpli”es the motivation problem—just offer people money for doing what you want. But the classic highwayman’s demand—“Your money or your life!”—reminds us that money isn’t the only thing people care about and is not always the most important thing. Managers and organizations that focus only on money will miss other opportunities to motivate. But what else is important beyond money?
A number of theorists have developed models of workplace motivation, and some of the better-known examples are summarized in Exhibit 6.1. Each model develops its own list of the things that people want, and no item appears on every list. But there is broad agreement that people want things that go beyond money, such as doing good work, getting better at what they do, bonding with other people, and “nding meaning and purpose. There is also alignment with a distinction that was central to Herzberg’s (1966) “two-factor” theory. Herzberg argued that extrinsic factors, like working conditions and company policies, can make people unhappy but don’t really motivate them to be more productive. He insisted that the things that motivate are intrinsic to the work itself—things like achievement, responsibility, and recognition for work well done. All these theories converge on the view that motivating people requires understanding and responding to the range of needs they bring to the workplace.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs One of the oldest and most in!uential of the models in Exhibit 6.1 was developed by the existential psychologist AbrahamMaslow (1954). He started with the notion that people are motivated by a variety of wants, some more fundamental than others. The desire for food dominates the lives of the chronically hungry, but people move on to other things when they have enough to eat. Maslow grouped human needs into “ve basic categories, arrayed in a hierarchy from lowest to highest (Exhibit 6.2).
In Maslow’s view, basic needs for physical well-being and safety are “prepotent”; they have to be satis”ed “rst. Once lower needs are ful”lled, individuals move up to social needs (for belongingness, love, and inclusion) and ego needs (for esteem, respect, and recognition). At the top of the hierarchy is self-actualization—developing to one’s fullest
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Exhibit 6.1. Models of Motivation at Work.
Author(s) Needs/Motives at Work
Maslow (1943, 1954) Hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety, love/ belonging, esteem, self-actualization)
Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman (1959); Herzberg (1966)
Motivators/satis!ers: achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, pay
Hygiene factors/dissatis!ers: company policies, supervision, interpersonal relationships, working conditions, pay Three needs: achievement, power, af!liation
Hackman and Oldham (1980) Three critical psychological states: meaningfulness of work, responsibility for outcomes, knowledge of results
Lawrence and Nohria (2002) Four drives: D1 (acquire objects and experiences that improve our status relative to others); D2 (bond with others in mutually bene!cial, long-term relationships); D3 (learn about and make sense of ourselves and the world around us); D4 (defend ourselves, our loved ones, our beliefs, and our resources)
Pink (2009) Three drives: autonomy (people want to have control over their work); mastery (people want to get better at what they do); purpose (people want to be part of something bigger than themselves)
and actualizing one’s ultimate potential. The order is not ironclad. Parents may sacri”ce themselves for their children, and martyrs sometimes give their lives for a cause. Maslow believed that such reversals occur when lower needs are so well satis”ed early in life that they recede into the background later on.
Attempts to validate Maslow’s theory have produced mixed results, partly because the theory is hard to test (Alderfer, 1972; Latham and Pinder, 2005; Lawler and Shuttle, 1973; Schneider and Alderfer, 1973; Wahba and Bridwell, 1976). Some research suggests that the theory is valid across cultures (Ajila, 1997; Rao and Kulkarni, 1998), but the many
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Exhibit 6.2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Source: Conley, 2007. Copyright ! 1979. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York.
theories of motivation developed since Maslow attest that the jury is still out on whether people have the needs Maslow posited or that the satisfaction of one need leads to activation of another.
Despite the modest evidence, Maslow’s view has been widely accepted and enormously in!uential in managerial practice. Take, for example, the advice that theManager’s Guide at Federal Express offers employees: “Modern behavioral scientists such as Abraham Maslow . . . have shown that virtually every person has a hierarchy of emotional needs, from basic safety, shelter, and sustenance to the desire for respect, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. Slowly these values have appeared as the centerpiece of progressive company policies, always with remarkable results” (Waterman, 1994, p. 92). Chip Conley, founder of a California hotel chain, put it simply: “I came to realize my climb to the top wasn’t going to be on a traditional corporate ladder; instead it was going to be on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid” (Conley, 2007). Academic skepticism didn’t prevent him, FedEx, Joie de Vivre hotels, or Airbnb from building a highly successful management philosophy based on Maslow’s theory, because the ideas carry a powerful message. If you
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manage solely by carrot and stick, you’ll get only a part of the energy and talent that people have to offer.