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Motivating employees

To increase self-esteem, employees can attend workshops or sensitivity groups in which they are given insights into their strengths. It is thought that these insights raise self-esteem by showing the employee that he has several strengths and is a good person. For example, in a self-esteem training program called The Enchanted Self (Holstein, 1997), employees try to increase their self-esteem by learning how to think positively, discovering their positive qualities that may have gone unnoticed, and sharing their positive qualities with others.

Outdoor experiential training is another approach to increasing self-esteem and may also be considered as a form of reinforcement or recognition (Clements, Wagner, & Roland, 1995). In training such as Outward Bound or the “ropes course”, participants learn that they are emotionally and physically strong enough to be successful and meet challenges. Another way of giving recognition to employees is by according them with experiences of success. With this approach, an employee is given a task so easy that he will almost certainly succeed.

It is thought that this success increases self-esteem, which should increase performance, then further increase self-esteem, then further increase performance, and so on. This method is based loosely on the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy, which states

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that an individual will perform as well or as poorly as he expects to perform. In other words, if he believes he is intelligent, he should do well on tests. If he believes he is dumb, he should do poorly. So if an employee believes he will always fail, the only way to break the vicious cycle is to ensure that he performs well on a task (Henderson, 1997).

Employees who have a strong need for achievement desire and are motivated by jobs that are challenging and over which they have some control, whereas employees who have minimal achievement needs are more satisfied when their work involves little challenge. Providing employees with challenging tasks is one way of recognizing their capabilities. Employees who have a high need for achievement ate not risk takers and tend to set goals that are challenging enough to be interesting but low enough to be attainable. Employees with a high need for achievement need recognition and want their achievements to be noticed (Henderson, 1997).

Individual differences theories postulate that some employees are more predisposed to being motivated than others. Such things as genetics and affectivity are involved in the extent to which some people tend to always be satisfied with their jobs and others always dissatisfied. However, rather than genetics and affectivity, self-esteem, need for achievement, and intrinsic motivation tendency are the individual differences most related to work motivation. It is a scientifically proven fact that men and women are different from each other (Ridley, 1999). They also differ in their motivational styles.

While men find it easier to motivate using the basic needs and tangible rewards, women may be better at using higher levels of needs and intangible factors (Gerstner, 2002). All good managers, regardless of gender, should combine their abilities to motivate using all the tools available, and among the most effective is the provision of timely, constructive feedback (Sachs, 1995). Motivating workers well in these times of change demands a balanced combination of emotional and intellectual levers, and among these are the use of frequent feedback and recognition.

Any manager should learn to use and combine as many needs, factors, modes of reinforcement, and outputs into their message as may be necessary to motivate their employees and ensure that they know how effective they are at doing their jobs (Ridley, 1999). A manager can become a good motivator by knowing two things well: first, which tool or level of motivation will work for each and every employee, and second, how to motivate and communicate effectively with the use of positive reinforcement – that is, through positive feedback and recognition (Ridley, 1999).


Bruce, A. , & Pepitone, J. (1999). Motivating employees. New York: McGraw Hill. Clements, C. , Wagner, R. J. , & Roland, C. C. (1995). The ins and outs of experiential training. Training: Development, 48(2), 52-56. Feuer, D. (1987a). Domino’s Pizza: Training for fast times. Training, 24, 25-30. Filipszak, B. (1993). Why no one likes your incentive program. Training, 30(5), 19-25. Gerstner, L. V. Jr. (2002). Who says elephants can’t dance? New York: HarperCollins.

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