Week seven was an interesting week, and a difficult one. I’ve never had cause to consider myself an amazing communicator (although I do think I’m one of the better ones in the industry), and Understanding people at work was a title that made me feel as though I was about to come unstuck!
Some of the concepts in the chapter were difficult to get my head round. The chapter seemed very vague, but having read it through a few times – including an active read – I now understand that this is necessarily so. People are vague and difficult to understand unless they wear their heart on their sleeve, and in business most people don’t.
I now understand how workplace behaviour is an interaction between the individual and the organisation, between individual needs and social convention, and between self-interest and what is allowed. I realise that no two people will have the same beliefs, values, and expectations, and that each may behave differently under the same circumstances.
The eight career anchors suggested by Schien (1978) was a particularly useful one for understanding which beliefs, values, and loyalties shape individuals’ behaviour:
- Technical/functional competence
- General managerial competence
- Entrepreneurial creativity
- Sense of service/dedication
- Pure challenge
This framework helped me to understand how an individual’s behaviour can be quite consistent with their beliefs and values no matter how puzzling it seems on the surface.
The psychological contract was another good theory – and understanding how to avoid potential breaches in the contract can lead to increased trust, fairness, more work satisfaction, a better work-life balance, higher motivation, and less stress.
The Expectancy theory proposed by Vroom (1964) was also an interesting one – showing how effort is linked to performance and rewards/costs, and how people are motivated differently according to how achievable they believe a particular goal is. There’s a great Wikipedia entry about Expectancy theory, and also an interesting video about motivation and performance in this collection of ten vidoes that every entrepreneur should watch.
The chapter wrapped up by looking at some older theories of motivation that the OU now suggests are going out of fashion due to criticisms about their validity: Maslow’s Growth Motivation Theory (based on the hierarchy of needs), and Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory.
I already know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but Motivation-Hygiene theory is a good one. It’s basic premise is that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not part of the same continuum – that is, removing dissatisfaction does not automatically result in an increase in satisfaction, and vice-versa. The idea of separate satisfaction (Motivation) factors and dissatisfaction (Hygiene) factors seemed very powerful for me, and I can see how addressing the two sets of factors could lead to an increase in motivation and satisfaction.
An interesting week. Difficult to fully understand what to do to understand people at work (because psychology is a difficult subject!), but it did shed a little light on why some people seem to behave unexpectedly.