In 1971, I was in the 5th grade, so I probably had only recently learned how to spell management and leadership. That was also the year that J. Richard Hackman and Edward E. Lawler III published a paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology entitled “Employee Reactions to Job Characteristics.” Here is something they said about work motivation 39 years ago:
To establish conditions for internal work motivation, then, it appears that a job must: (a) allow workers to feel personally responsible for an identifiable and meaningful portion of the work, (b) provide outcomes which are intrinsically meaningful or otherwise experienced as worthwhile, and (c) provide feedback about performance effectiveness. The harder and better an individual works on such a job, the more opportunities he will have to experience higher order need satisfactions and the more incentive there can be for continued effective performance. Higher order need satisfactions, therefore, are seen both as (a) a result of (rather than a determinant of) effective performance, and (b) an incentive for continued efforts to perform effectively. (pp. 262-263).
Did you catch that last part? Read it again.
Hackman and Lawler’s proposition was based on the expectancy theory of motivation, which was introduced into the workplace by Victor Vroom in 1964.
I just finished reviewing another new book (that I will not name here) in which the author claims to have “discovered” through his several decades of personal experience and “extensive research” that the “secret” of employee performance is for leaders need to provide workers with responsibility, feedback, and encouragement.
I’m sure the book will be a best seller. I just about barfed.
The book was well written for sure, and everything the author claimed can be supported by research. The problem with this and so many other management “guru” books is that most of the evidence about what drives employee performance was around long before they published the results of their groundbreaking new study.
For too many management gurus and consultants, our ignorance is their bliss.