In difficult times we need leaders who can reconceptualise leadership and refocus their subordinates. The time has come for leaders to motivate their staff to increase productivity in spite of the many discontinuities and changing realities. This is a season in which excuses are more than innovations. Indebtedness of National Health Insurance Authority to health facilities has adversely affected financing of our daily operations. Clients are battling with staff attitudes and low morale among staff is generating apathy at the workplace.
As the world becomes more complex and interrelated, we need to remind ourselves that we can never do for others what they must do for themselves. People need to be encouraged to gain confidence in their own competencies, especially their innate ability to create and to adapt. The skill of mobilising others to move to new ground, where they will experience the initial discomfort of their new endeavours, is called exercising leadership. The concept of decentralisation makes this demand on leadership more vivid.
Assuming that people lack motivation at any time is a mistake. People go to work for different reasons and may not share in your reason for them to be there. They have appraised the situation, come to their own conclusions, and gone in their own motivational direction. They may be checking their text messages or tweeting instead of paying attention to a client. People are motivated to check their text, they are not demotivated! They are just motivated differently than one might expect. If managers get to know why the person is motivated to check the text rather than pay attention to the client, leaders can redirect the motivation of this individual. To understand the staff’s choice at any point in time is to appreciate the true nature of human motivation.
People work according to how they appraise their jobs. The leader’s job is to understand the employee’s work passion which is an innate result of the individual’s appraisal. We can help facilitate people’s appraisal process so they are more likely to experience day- to- day optimal motivation. Optimal motivation means having the positive energy, vitality and sense of well-being required to sustain the pursuit and achievement of meaningful goals while thriving and flourishing. A worker with optimal motivation performs above standard expectations and uses discretionary effort on behalf of the organization. Motivation is a skill and leaders must help their workers to learn to choose and create optimal motivational experiences anytime and anywhere. The nature of health delivery require workers to use more of their discretionary effort to help clients. Leaders must help them navigate their appraisal process to feel good about their work and motivate themselves to arrive at a high employee work passion.
Workers have both cognitive and emotional response to any particular work. The internal questions are; is the work safe or threatening? Am I feeling supported or threatened? Is it a good use of mine time? Am I excited or fearful? Am I going to work because I want to or because I feel I have to? Ultimately, favourable answers to these questions have the greatest influence on their sense of well- being at work, which ultimately leads to good behaviour. Every day, our employees’ appraisal of their workplace leaves them with or without a positive sense of well-being. Their well-being leads to positive intentions and behaviours at work. This reflection process is what people are doing all the time, either consciously or unconsciously. They appraise their work experience and come to conclusions that result in their intentions to act either positively or negatively.
We have to create organizations that support employee work passion. We can modify job designs, workload balance, distributive and procedural justice issues as well as other processes proven to encourage people’s positive intentions.
Spectrum of motivation
Leaders must understand why people are motivated to go to work and classify their workers into the different motivational outlooks to enable them appropriately assist them to navigate their individual paths to optimal motivation. People can be at any motivational outlook at any time and also when a new subject or job is introduced. We must look out for any of the following motivational outlooks in our workers to determine the state of the worker and how much work is needed to enhance their motivation.
- Disinterested motivational outlook- These individuals cannot find any value in the assigned work .To them, it feels like a waste of time in addition to feeling overwhelmed
- External motivational outlook- In this group, the assigned job offers an opportunity to exert their position and power. It enables them to take advantage of a promise for more money or enhanced status or image in the eyes of others. If the particular assignment is not generating money for them, or enhancing their power over others, they lose interest in the job
- Imposed motivational outlook- They feel pressured to work because everyone else is working and they are expected to do the same. They work to avoid feelings of guilt, shame or fear.
- Aligned motivational outlook- They link their work to a significant value, such as saving a life, learning or improving one’s skill.
- Integrated motivational outlook- These workers link the work to their life purpose, like a belief that he or she is working to advocate for women’s advancement or prevention of domestic violence. Some work well because they believe their call is to help prevent maternal mortality or build a robust health system. The work is integrated into their personal beliefs.
- Inherent motivational outlook-These people simply enjoy their work and work as if it is fun.
The first three motivational outlooks (disinterested, external and imposed) are suboptimal, reflecting low quality motivation. The aligned, integrated and inherent motivational outlooks are optimal and have positive effects on the well-being of staffs. This will eventually translate into good behaviour and increased productivity.
Leaders must understand that rewards may help people initiate new and healthy behaviours, but may fail miserably in helping people maintain their progress and sustain results. People do not understand the nature of their own motivation, so when they are unhappy at work, may ask for more money. People with high- quality motivational outlook will accept external rewards when offered, but this is not the reason for their efforts. The reasons for what they do are more profound and provide more satisfaction than external rewards can deliver. People with a suboptimal motivational outlook are less likely to have the energy it takes to achieve their goals or target. But even if they do, they are not likely to experience the positive energy, vitality, or sense of wellbeing required to sustain their performance overtime.
Managers should aim at moving a good percentage of their staff into the optimal motivational outlook. Though it may require more thought and preparation, it generates high quality energy, vitality and positive wellbeing that lead to sustainable results.
People work to satisfy their psychological needs. The need for autonomy, relatedness and competence has been at the heart of the science of motivation regardless of gender, race, culture or generation. Leaders should help workers to meet these needs to improve their motivational outlook.
Autonomy is our human need to perceive we have choices. It is our need to feel that what we are doing is of our own volition. It is our perception that we are the source of our actions. It has been observed that babies been feed with spoons grab it to feel part of the feeding process even though they do not have the skill. Workers want to be part of work processes and decisions. Leaders must craft their style to enhance the feeling of autonomy among their staff. People look to authority figures to provide remedies for their problems, thereby relying on those in authority to alleviate their distress. This tendency frequently results in an inappropriate dependency on authority figures to provide answers to problems where in fact they may have none. Expecting easy answers has landed us in the technical quick-fix world that is causing us so much difficulty at present. In the complex world in which we live no one person can claim absolutely to have the right answer. The answers to today’s problems have to be collectively co-created by all stakeholders. Recognizing and helping to resolve the numerous trade-offs involved in a complex solution is part of exercising leadership. Autonomy does not mean that managers are permissive or hands-off, but rather that employees feel they have influence in the workplace. If people do not have a sense of empowerment, their sense of autonomy suffers and so do their productivity and performance. The truth is that whether they are formally empowered or not, people will choose their own level of autonomy.
Relatedness is our need to care about and be cared about by others. It is our need to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives. It is our need to feel that we are contributing greater than ourselves. Relatedness covers personal, interpersonal and social interactions. We thrive on connection. Leaders should help workers to find meaning, contribute to a social purpose, and experience healthy interpersonal relationships at work. Employees desire to be in constant contact with friends outside of work is due to their lack of relatedness at work through mentoring, supervision and other forms of healthy official communication. People will feel the opposite of relatedness if they think they are being used by the organisation or its leaders. We must encourage relatedness by challenging beliefs and practices that undermine people’s relatedness at work. Some managers walk by subordinates without saying hello, believing that saying hello to subordinates increases insubordination and adversely affects respect codes. We must pay attention to how our people feel and gain the skill to deal with their emotions.
Competence is our need to feel effective at meeting everyday challenges and opportunities. We want to feel a sense of growth and flourish. Leaders must promote a learning environment that does not undermine people’s sense of competence. We should therefore understand the capabilities of workers enough to assign jobs that they feel competent in. They meet challenges better and experience less stress. We should improve our effort at facilitatory supervision, appropriate training, coaching and mentoring in our health institutions to increase the sense of competence among our staff.
In conclusion, managers should know that people go to work in order to satisfy their psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence. Work environments that create and nurture high motivational outlooks will have increased and sustained improvement in productivity. We must also understand that attitudes at work emanate from our motivational outlook. This outlook must be assessed and the worker counselled to move up the motivational outlook ladder. We should enhance their sense of wellbeing at work, thereby increasing their contribution to better client satisfaction and improved health outcomes.
Dr. Andrews Ayim
Keta Municipal Health Directorate