As commonly recognized, motivation is one of the most critical issues in managing employees' behaviors which has a direct impact on the employee work performance and engagement and in turn affecting the efficiency and effectiveness in achieving the overall organization objectives. Generally, management would assess employees by their engagement, satisfaction, commitment and turnover, which treated as the indicators in workplace. Undoubtedly, the study of motivation is deemed as one of the most fascinating area to explore in management.
"Motivation theory is not synonymous with behavior theory. The motivations are only one class of determinants of behaviors. While behavior, is almost always motivated, it is also almost always biologically, culturally, and situational determined as well" (Matterson & Ivancevich, 1996, 342).
By interpreting this, every individuals got different characters, needs, goals and desires, it is rather easy to just motivate one single person, but what motivates one do not represent they are also effective to another, not to mention there is a team or even a holistic department. This leads to a very complicated reaction in the organization and become a dilemma for managers - how to motivate a group of people whose beliefs, values and perception are different?
The complexity will be further enhanced if we are taking the relationship between the human’s behavior and the national cultures into consideration. Employees as a human 1
being, they have been persistently interacting with the external environment, what their actions or behaviors taken were based on their response and evaluation towards what were the messages that the environment and cultures have been delivering to them. Inner work life theory (Amabile and Kramer, 2007)
That is to say, the employees' behaviors itself is affected by the cultures and managers should pay extra attention to this when they are applying the motivation theories. The theories may be based upon Western cultural situations that do not necessarily apply to the rest of the world (Hofstede, 1999). "Many aspects of organization theories produced in one culture may be inadequate in other cultures" (Adler, 1991, 147).
The flow illustrates the impact process
Taking the company that I am currently working for as an example, this is a Chinese culture based company with people coming from different countries, including China, Singapore, India, Indonesia and Australia. For sure, people in the company are sharing 2
distinct values and individual preferences given that the presence of difference in cultural background from countries.
How do managers decide what motivation theories to be applied in such a mixed cultures organization? What to motivate? And how to motivate? This is not feasible to change the culture of a country or nation since this was the foundation that forms the norm, ethics and preference of the countries. Hence, what we can do is just to motivate employees according to the respective cultures, without changing their core values towards the cultures. We are going to investigate this by looking at the tradition motivation theories.
What to motivate individuals (Content Theories)
“Theories of motivation based on drives and needs are known as content theories” (Buchanan & Huczynski, 1985, 2010, 267).
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Theory (1943) The theory argued that there are five basic innate needs, which people have been trying to fulfill, ranking from lower to higher order in a hierarchy. The need at each stage provides the incentive to people so that they are motivated to behave in different ways to achieve it. The need at higher level would only be emerged when the need at the previous stage was satisfied.
However, the adaptability of the theory has been criticized not to be universally broad enough. It assumed that all the needs as well as the orders are identical...