De-motivation is one of the core issues facing practitioners in organisations today. The elimination of this factor would result in all organisations achieving all their goals and becoming high-performance work systems. However, if de-motivation continues to plague organisations, their staff will become increasingly inefficient, and this could lead to the downfall of the entire organisation. Organisations are created with the main intention of performing a function and achieving certain goals.
The actions and activities required to perform these goals are undertaken by the individuals who work for that organisation. Since it is these individuals that are therefore at the core of the organisation, it is essential that practitioners learn to understand, predict and even control the behaviour of the individuals in order to obtain desired results from them. In order to do so, practitioners must learn about what it is that inhibits the commitment and productivity of their employees, or in other words, what it is that de-motivates their employees.
All individuals are influenced by drives; inherent needs that determine our behaviour. Also affecting all individuals are motives, needs which are not instinctive, but instead acquired socially and which gives us a sense of purpose. Motivation is that which stimulates a person’s interest in an activity. By learning what it is that motivates and de-motivates his/her employees, a practitioner can devise ways to encourage them to work harder and better.
This is not an easy task, however, because as Mitchell said, motivation is an individual phenomenon, and what motivates one person could de-motivate another. It is therefore important for practitioners to adapt their methods of reducing de-motivation according to the different needs and motives of their staff. So why is de-motivation such a problem? The answer to his is exemplified in Taylor’s scientific management approach, in which he designed jobs which only provided financial rewards and which treated employees as machines with no sense of motivation.
His methods have been proven to increase de-motivation in the workplace instead of increasing it, and by doing so he caused the increase the feelings of dissatisfaction and indifference in workers, causing the frequency of absenteeism and disruption in the workplace to amplify. This example illustrates why de-motivation is such a critical issue in organisational behaviour; its presence will continually hinder the performance of workers. Another example of the negative responses to methods which increase de-motivation (albeit not intentionally) are given by Kohn.
Kohn argued that individuals do not perform better when paid more, and may even perform worse as they become increasing de-motivated by the lack of internal satisfaction. This argument was based on observations which included: that financial rewards are not the people’s principal concern, that performance-related pay makes employees feel that they are being manipulated and controlled, and that competition for financial rewards can lead to rivalry in the workplace, disrupting relationships between co-workers.
Perhaps his most pertinent observation was that performance-dependent rewards can cause individuals to lose interest in the job at hand and become de-motivated by it, whereas intrinsic satisfaction is what is usually the cause of better performance. The result of de-motivation, or the ‘blockage’ of motivation, is said to have two possible outcomes: frustration or constructive behaviour.
Frustration, a well-known negative consequence of the failure to achieve a required aim, can lead to further de-motivation in the workplace, as it can leave employees feeling that their sense of worth is low and that they are not able to what is required of them. Practitioners can reduce this de-motivating agent through methods such as participative management styles, increased rewards and acknowledgment of an employee’s efforts, and increased feedback and better communications.
The other, more positive outcome, is constructive behaviour. This often takes one of two forms; problem-solving, where the obstruction blocking potential achievement of a goal is removed or avoided, and restructuring, when the individual compromises or substitutes the alternative goal for the original. Practitioners need to focus on methods which will reduce frustration and encourage constructive behaviour amongst their employees in order to reduce de-motivation and push employees to feel more optimistic when they encounter barriers.