Before the industrial revolution, the major form of “motivation” took the form of fear of punishment-physical, financial, or social. However, as manufacturing processes became more complex, the traditional patterns of behavior between workers and their “patron” were replaced by the more sterile and tenuous relationship between employees and their company. Thus, the industrial revolution was a revolution not only in a production sense but also in a social sense.
The genesis of this social revolution can be traced to several factors. First, the increased capital investment necessary for factory operation required a high degree of efficiency in order to maintain an adequate return on investment. This meant that an organization had to have an efficient work force. Second, the sheer size of these new operations increased the degree of impersonalization in superior-subordinate relationships, necessitating new forms of supervising people. Third, the concept of social Darwinism came into vogue.
In brief, this philosophy argued that no person held responsibility for other people and that naturally superior people were destined to rise in society, while naturally inferior ones would eventually be selected out of it. These new social forces brought about a well defined philosophy of management. The end result of this new approach in management was what has been termed the traditional model of motivation. This model is best characterized by the writings of Frederick W. Taylor and other proponents of the scientific management school.
Taylor saw the problem of inefficient production as a problem primarily with management, not workers. It was management’s responsibility to find suitable people for a job and then to train them in the most efficient methods for their work. The workers having been thus well trained, management’s next responsibility was to install a wage incentive system whereby workers could maximize their income by doing exactly what management told them to do and doing it as rapidly as possible. Thus, in theory, scientific management represented a joint venture of management and workers to the mutual benefit of both.
If production problems arose, they could be solved either by altering the technology of the job or by modifying the wage incentive program. This approach to motivation rested on several very basic contemporary assumptions about the nature of human beings. Specifically, workers were viewed as being typically lazy, often dishonest, aimless, dull, and, most of all, mercenary. To get them into the factories and to keep them there, an organization had to pay a “decent” wage, thus outbidding alternative forms of livelihood (e.
g. , farming). To get workers to produce, tasks were to be simple and repetitive, output controls were to be externally set, and workers were to be paid bonuses for beating their quotas. The manager’s major task was thus seen as closely supervising workers to ensure that they met their production quotas and adhered to company rules. As this model became increasingly applied in organizations, several problems began to arise. To begin with, managers, in their quest for profits, began modifying the basic system.
While jobs were made more and more routine and specialized (and “efficient” from a mass-production standpoint), management began putting severe constraints on the incentive system, thereby limiting worker income. As factories became more “efficient,” fewer workers were needed to do the job and layoffs and terminations became commonplace. Workers responded to the situation through elaborate and covert methods of restriction of output in an attempt to optimize their incomes, while at the same time protecting their jobs.
Unionism began to rise, and the unparalleled growth and efficiency that had occurred under scientific management began to subside. In an effort to overcome such problems, some organizations began to reexamine the simplicity of their motivational assumptions about employees and to look for new methods to increase production and maintain a steady work force. One such revisionist approach to motivation at work is the “human relations” model. Human Relations Model Around 1939, Mayo, Roethlisberger and Dickson, argued that it was necessary to consider the “whole person” on the job.
These researchers said that the increased routinization of tasks brought about by the industrial revolution had served to drastically reduce the possibilities of finding satisfaction in the task itself. It was believed that, because of this change, workers began seeking satisfaction elsewhere (such as from their coworkers). On the basis of this early research, some managers began replacing many of the traditional assumptions with a new set of propositions concerning the nature of human beings. The new assumptions concerning the “best” method of motivating workers were characterized by a strong social emphasis.
It was argued here that management had a responsibility to make employees feel useful and important on the to provide recognition, and generally to facilitate the satisfaction of workers’ needs. Attention was shifted away from the study of worker-machine relations & toward a more thorough understanding of interpersonal and group relations at work. Behavioral research into factors affecting motivation began. The motivational strategies which emerged from such assumptions were several. First, as noted above, management felt it had a new responsibility to make workers feel important.
Second, many organizations attempted to open up vertical communication channels so employees would know more about the organization and would have greater opportunity to have their opinions heard by Company newsletters emerged as one source of downward communication. The employee “gripe sections” were begun as one source of upward Third, workers were increasingly allowed to make routine decisions concerning their own jobs. Finally, as managers began to realize the existence of informal groups with their own norms and role prescriptions, greater attention was paid to employing group incentive systems.
Underlying all four of these developments was the presumed necessity of viewing motivation as largely a social process. Supervisory training programs began emphasizing the idea that a supervisor’s role was no longer simply that of a taskmaster. In addition, super- visors had to be understanding and sympathetic to the needs and desires of their subordinates. However, as pointed out by Miles, the basic goal of management under this strategy remained much the same as it had been under the traditional model; that is, both strategies aimed at securing employee compliance with managerial authority. Human Resources Models
More recently, the assumptions of the human relations model have been challenged, not only for being an oversimplified and incomplete statement of human behavior at work, but also for being as manipulative as the traditional model. These later models have been proposed under various titles, including McGregor’s (1960) “Theory Y,” Likert’s (1967) “System 4,” Schein’s (1972) “Complex Man,” and Miles’ (1965) “Human Resources” model. Human resources models generally view humans as being motivated by a complex set of interrelated factors (such as money, need for affiliation, need for achievement, desire for meaningful work).
It is assumed that different employees often seek quite different goals in a job and have a diversity of talent to offer. Under this conceptualization, employees are looked upon as reservoirs of potential talent and management’s responsibility is to learn how best to tap such re- sources. Inherent in such a philosophy are several fairly basic assumptions about the nature of people. First, it is assumed that people want to contribute on the job. In this sense, employees are viewed as being somewhat “premotivated” to perform.
In fact, the more people become involved in their work, the more meaningful the job can often become. Second, it is assumed that work does not necessarily have to be distasteful. Many of the current efforts at job enrichment and job redesign are aimed at increasing the potential meaningfulness of work by adding greater amounts of task variety, autonomy, responsibility, and so on. Third, it is argued that employees are quite capable of making significant and rational decisions affecting their work and that allowing greater latitude in employee decision making is actually in the best interests of the organization.
Finally, it is assumed that this increased self-control and direction allowed on the job, plus the completion of more meaningful tasks, can in large measure determine the level of satisfaction on the job. In other words, it is generally assumed that good and meaningful performance leads to job satisfaction and not the reverse, as is assumed in the human relations model. In conclusion, human resources approach to motivation has only lately garnered attention. Many organizations have attempted to implement one or several aspects of it, but full-fledged adoptions are very rare.