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What motivation, satisfaction, and performance have to do with each other
by Joan Marques

Various publications focusing on organizational behavior have spent a considerable amount of pages on these three topics: motivation, satisfaction and performance. And rightfully so: it does not require too much brainwork to realize that this threesome must have an important level of interdependence with each other.

One way to explain the connection between motivation, satisfaction and performance is the following: Motivation is what people need to perform better. However, not everyone gets motivated by the same things: Where one gets motivated, obtains satisfaction, and consequently performs better from getting additional responsibility assigned, another may feel much better valued and encouraged to higher productivity if he or she is merely being listened to, or given some flexibility in his or her work schedule.

Yet, while the above paragraph may have summarily demonstrated the connection between the three here-discussed themes, it may be appropriate to take a closer look at the subject matter.

Starting with motivation: This act only works when people are receptive to it, and when it is done in the most applicable way. That is, when it feeds the needs of the person to be motivated. Yet, motivation will sort little or no effect if a person is not willing or able to execute a task. It is therefore of great importance that anyone in a leadership position realizes that motivation can only work if the foundation of the process is solid: if the right person with the right skills has been placed in charge of the task at hand. In any other case motivation will be a waste of time, and will probably even lead to the opposite: depression on the side of the incapable or unwilling task-performer.

Satisfaction is another interesting work-related phenomenon. We often use this word without really thinking about its meaning. However, the satisfaction issue in work environments is far from simple, for, according to the great management theorist Frederick Herzberg, job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are caused by total different sets of factors.

The readers who have been frequently exposed to management matters may have already heard about Herzberg’s age-old motivation-hygiene theory, which basically explains that, even when job-dissatisfaction is eliminated, job satisfaction may still not be achieved. How so? Well, Herzberg theorizes that there are different powers at work in the elimination of job dissatisfaction versus the achievement of job satisfaction. He found that job dissatisfaction is caused by factors such as poor supervision, bad working conditions, unpleasant colleagues, low salaries, objectionable work policies or procedures, and low job security.

So, says Herzberg, as a leader you have to make sure that these matters, which he calls the hygiene factors by the way, are appropriately taken care of. However, it makes no sense to overdo them, because even if you enhance one of the above-mentioned hygiene factors to a dazzling height, it will not lead to a higher level of job satisfaction.

What, then, brings about job satisfaction? In that regard Herzberg presents the following factors: achievement, recognition, responsibility, growth, and the nature of the work. He classifies these factors as motivators, and claims that these are the factors that will enhance job satisfaction.

Now that this distinction has been clarified, Herzberg’s suggestion to managers and leaders in workplaces is, to just sufficiently satisfy the hygiene factors -- but not overdo them – and then to seriously emphasize on the motivating factors. If this is applied in the right way, which is not always as straightforward and easy as the theory seems to indicate, then performance should go up.

I recently read somewhere that if every American worker would produce 3% more in his or her 8-hour workday, the country would be well on its way out of any economical depression. What better reason is there to take a serious look at the interaction between motivation, satisfaction, and performance?

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Joan Marques, holds an MBA, is a doctoral candidate in Organizational Leadership, and a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. You may visit her web site at Joan's manual "Feel Good About Yourself," a six part series to get you over the bumps in life and onto success, can be purchased and downloaded at:

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