Employee Motivation & Controlled Environments

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Employee motivation is best described as the forces at work by the management of a business that seek to increase the productivity and performance of the employees at the particular company. Considerable research on the subject states that employee motivation is contingent on an assortment of factors, not necessarily one item specifically, and as a result the definition of motivation has become complex and hard to assess and examine. The concept of employee motivation becomes even more difficult to analyze and diagnose if the company is driven by managerial leadership that is very controlling or has strict guidelines and rules. As such, employee motivation and accomplishing it in the workplace is further strained as a result. There is reason to believe however on the basis of research studies that employee motivation can positively occur in any environment in spite of the circumstances.

Employee Motivation & Controlled Environments

McGuire et al. (2009) offer up the premise that building employee motivation in any environment requires a strategy or strategies that a company's management must come up. The common dynamic associated with environments and employee motivation is the concept of transformation. Expressed as the capacity and capability of management to see a productive and in essence, motivated workforce as central to their success or failure is key. Therefore, the strategy regarding employee motivation must be mandated regardless of any environment (p.3-6). Essentially, this study offers a glimpse into the necessary mindset that management at companies should have. Moreover, it identifies that leadership is the pivotal force that makes or breaks a business on the basis of how they run their employees.

Both Heskett (2007) & O'Reilly et al. (2010) find that environments where there is a control leadership are characterized as ones that need better assessment and continual examination as to how effective the workforce is in their respective industry. O'Reilly et al. (2010) goes further to relay that often environments that are heavily controlled tend to have scattered leadership or rather leadership that has not come together to craft a strategy that can be executed and/or deployed properly (p.104-105). While the concept of controlled leadership is not new, O'Reilly et al's (2010) findings does pose the notion that no environment should be tightly controlled and that if one is, then it is the result of leadership that needs to be examined and/or removed by the owners of that particular company. Since employee human motivation is centered on internal change, it can only be born if companies and corporations define the parameters of how they will create an effective workforce that is motivated.

Sagie et al. (2002) in their study on the loose-tight model of leadership, which is an exploratory framework on encouraging innovation and idea generation, contend that employee motivation can be achieved if the management of a company actively asserts discussion among co-workers, employee comments and employee-manager dialogue. This approach is seen as practical and efficient in simultaneously employing motivation among employees as well as reducing the notion that there is an overtly controlled environment (p.303-304).

While Sagie et al’s (2002) assertion surrounds that of O’Reilly et al.’s (2010) as to controlled environments being more or less the result of scattered leadership, Bolden (2004) & Rock (2009) diagnose that controlled environments are sometimes necessary depending upon the leadership styles of the management. If the management operates on a specific type of leadership that is not necessarily transformational, then there is a tendency for the workforce to be controlled and have a tremendous number of guidelines. Additionally, Rock (2009) adds that cognition plays a crucial role in controlled environments because of the fact that employees produce or rather are effective in proportion to how they are treated by their leaders. As such, controlled environments do sometimes work depending upon how the employee views the environment as actually being controlled. This concept, known as mindfulness, involves considerable attention by the brain and influences how individuals behave (p.3-4). Essentially, this argument states that controlled environments can indeed be efficient and productive despite perspectives to the contrary.

Jooste & Fourie (2009) assert that while controlled environments may or may not work, it gets back to the implementation of an effective strategy. The thought process is that strategy formulation is extremely important in any workplace environment (p.52). Strategic leadership according to Hitt et al. (2007) and Pearce & Robinson (2007) requires intricate processing of information and involves the cooperation of all parties involved in making key decisions that will have an effect on the environment. This concept in essence leads to a positive or negative morale among the employees and either engenders or does not engender motivation (2007).

Further, Jooste & Fourie (2009) emphasis that strategic leadership should include a balanced agenda when established and that the core fundamentals should not be diverted and/or changed (p.52). Basically, strategic leadership states that employee motivation is based on the management's strategy as aforementioned and that a controlled leadership environment can be effectively managed with employee motivation as long as the core essentials of the initial leadership strategy remain in place.

Llopsis (2012) analyzes that there are certain aspects that produce employee motivation. The author lists a total of nine items that include trustworthy leadership, which means that the employee wholeheartedly believes in the company that they are working for and the manager that they are reporting to regardless of the environmental dynamics; having relevance, which means that the strategy that has been expressed by management to the employees is relevant to the overall performance; proving others wrong, which means being diverse in the ways by which performance can be evaluated and how it will be used in evaluation of employees; career advancement, which is defined as whether the employee feels they can grow with the company; having no regrets, which is a concept about uncertainty being removed where the employee feels that they can achieve what they set their mind to in that company; stable future, which is a security aspect where the employee is mindful of how they are being treated while at the business; self-indulgence, where individuals believe they can operate in any environment as long as they know their strengths and weaknesses; impact, which reflects on the company's legacy and happiness, which is an individualistic concept about being happy (p.1). These concepts are those that each company should incorporate into their environment - whether it is controlled or not.


Ultimately, the assertion can be made regarding employee motivation occurring in a controlled environment because as Llopsis (2012) and others point out, while the company plays an essential role in the motivation, it is the employee that makes themselves motivated by doing something that they love. Employee motivation, then comes from within so to speak, as opposed to being something that is manifested out of the management's leadership decision making. While it is true that management can produce a more effective workplace based on whether that workforce is controlled or not, the finality of employee motivation is centered on the cognitive processes of the employee and their respective responses to how they are perceiving their job. The concept of employee motivation is one that can be explored again and again due to the many components that make it up and the factors that researchers attribute to why employees are motivated as well as how they are inspired.


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