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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Solve problem, go on to other
task, September 29, 2006, 2E.
If you have ever been in the middle of a
home-repair job and gotten stuck because you needed help holding something, measuring or
eyeballing a position, or assistance locating, retrieving, or operating a specific tool,
you can probably remember feeling frustrated about not having help and feeling perplexed
about how to accomplish the task alone. Lacking
tools, assistance, or the understanding required to accomplish a task seems to focus a
persons thoughts and energies into overcoming the obstacles hindering task
accomplishment. Once the needed help is
received and the hold up is overcome, the issue that caused the obstacle no longer directs
ones thinking and is quickly forgottenthe persons thoughts and behaviors
move on to the next task.
The processes at play on individuals
completing personal tasks are also very relevant to organizations. Organizations exist to complete work that is
inefficient, prohibitive, or impossible for individuals to complete alone. They require that individuals work together in
pursuit of a common goal. Understanding
organizations means understanding people and how and why they work.
Motivation theory helps explain why
people do the things that they do. Motivation
is that which provides arousal, direction, and persistence to behavior. Needs theorists argue that motivation
comes about from a desire to fulfill unmet needs. When
something is needed, it means that it is required, but not present or available. The absence of the thing that is required creates
tension in people and drives their behavior to fulfill the need. Once a need is met, it no longer creates tension
on individuals or motivates them to satisfy the need.
Feelings of hunger or thirst, for example, will drive people to satisfy
those needs by drinking or eating. Once the
feelings of thirst and hunger disappear, they will no longer consume peoples
thoughts or direct their behaviors.
Abraham Maslows Hierarchy of
Needs is a well-known needs theory. Maslow
described five needs that guide and direct human behavior and which operate in a
hierarchical fashionthat is, higher-level needs kick in after lower-level needs are
met. From lowest to highest, Maslow named
those needs: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. As described, these needs range from: issues of
basic survival and safety; to feelings of inclusion, love, status, and self-respect; to
heightened levels of awareness, growth, potential, and striving. As Maslow suggested, high-order needs only become
motivators after lower-level needs are raised and satisfied.
For organizations that want workers to
think big and desire big things, Maslows ideas suggest that organizations must first
fulfill their workers lower-level needs. Some
specific ways that organizations might do that are to provide: sufficient pay to cover
survival needs, safe working conditions, insurance and retirement benefits, opportunities
to form meaningful relationships with others, status symbols, and environments that make
workers feel good about themselves. Maslows
theory suggests that only after lower-level needs are satisfied can self-actualization
needs kick in and operate on workers. To
achieve that, organizational leaders must create organizational systems that meet
lower-level needs and encourage needs for self-actualization.
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