People Management

How to Inspire - Motivation

Gary Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Edith J. Baerwald Professor and Division Chief, Behavioral Science and Social Work
Department of Community and Preventive Medicine

Edited by Sandra K. Masur, PhD, Dean for Faculty Development, President of the Women Faculty Group

What is motivation?
A state of feeling or thinking in which one is energized to perform a task or engage in a particular behavior.
It is an emotional or cognitive state that is independent of action

A primary task of leadership is to motivate people to perform at high levels toward meeting organizational objectives and by improving motivation and performance one has a positive influence on an organization.

The benefits in motivating your staff are obvious if you improve productivity and efficiency, reduce absenteeism and lateness AND improve problem solving ability, promote creativity and innovativeness, and cooperatively as team members!

Especially nowadays for management in a medical school – it is critical to develop consumer oriented attitudes and behaviors, and to reenergize those who no longer feel challenged. It is especially important to re-motivate after workforce reduction to get people to take on added responsibility and to recruit hard-to-find faculty and employees.

Motivation Myths

  1. Motivated workers are more productive. People can be highly motivated and still perform poorly since performance depends on motivation, ability and situational factors.
  2. Some people are motivated, others are not. Motivation actually ebbs and flows with changes in situations and individual factors – it is not a stable trait.
  3. Motivation can be mass produced. Posters and charismatic speeches rarely work and do not last. In fact what matters to an individual is:
    • Job position or occupation
    • Career stage
    • Personal factors
  4. Money is the best way to motivate people. No. Money is seldom the most important motivator

People differ on basis of age, gender, culture etc in their motivators. Furthermore, needs change over time. Employees needs differ as individuals and based on their positions in the organization.

What energizes behavior? Individual-specific combinations of the following:

  • Retention Variables
  • Freedom in decision making
  • Personal growth
  • Caliber of management team
  • Advancement
  • Organization’s reputation/mission/values
  • Geographic location
  • Salary
  • Corporate culture
  • Organization’s financial condition
  • Serve mankind
  • High job profile/visibility
  • Physical work environment
  • Resource constraints, or their lack, impact the relative importance of various needs

How behavior is energized
Employees and faculty seek fairness or equity in their relationships with employers
. Fairness is achieved when people perceive their contributions are appropriately recognized. People comparing themselves to others and assess how their inputs and outcomes compare with others. If they perceive this ratio as unequal, individuals experience tension.

Leaders need to address perceptions of inequities so that people will not be motivated to reduce their contributions or leave their jobs.


  1. Incentives/outcomes should be chosen so that they are attractive to employees
  2. The rules for attaining them must be clear
  3. People must perceive their efforts will lead to the desired level of performance

Goals must be known and attainable and people must be committed to the goals
Goals can fail to motivate people if they are seen as too difficult or easy. Individuals do not know what tasks are required for goal attainment. Feedback is a must.

Goals should be set at time of hiring and discussed during evaluations of progress and must be specific and difficult; they must be revised and updated.

Provide timely and specific feedback on their progress. Expectations about goal attainment and consequences should also be set and discussed.

Make sure that the people have the ability to achieve goals.

Therefore you need to check staff’s perceptions of fairness of work and rewards. And address perceived inequities (Perceptions of inequities increase as you take individuals’ needs into account.)

Help people set goals that are difficult and specific. Build commitment to the goals; help people believe they can accomplish them. Goals should be consistent with values.

Provide timely feedback.

Problems as indicated by low quality work and complaints (Apathy)
Three likely causes of apathy:

  1. Inadequate performance definition. Perceived lack of goals, inadequate job descriptions, inadequate performance standards and inadequate performance assessments.
  2. Impediments to performance -Inadequate support or resources or mismatch between job requirements and skills of staff.
  3. Inadequate performance/reward linkages Rewards are not valued by staff, delayed and perceived inequities in distribution of rewards.

If you have problems with the employee, perhaps it is a problem of “Fit”.
Ask yourself:

  • Are the persons needs met by the organizational arrangements?
  • Does the person hold clear or distorted perceptions of the organizational structures?
  • What is the convergence of individual and organizational goals?
  • Does the person have the skills and abilities to meet task demands?
  • Are individual needs met by the informal organization?

Practices that could help improve the working situation

  • Mentors or sponsors and personal networks of colleagues.
  • Improve communication – up and down
  • Translate environmental reality and the desired future in terms that speak to people. Stories and narratives are helpful.
  • Reflect the employees concerns and empathize.

As the manager, you have the ability to:

  • Provide an attractive/understandable overall mission
  • Get people to “buy in” and find their personal role in mission
  • Provide people with freedom to act, free from stifling rules and bureaucracy
  • Provide tools to do the job
  • Provide financial and psychic rewards for success. Reward success conspicuously
  • Punish recurrent failures
  • Recruit leaders at all key points of the organization. (Mahoney and McCue, 1999)

A major goal is to retain your best people. In order to do this use:

  • Internal career development services. Place inside the organization.
  • Benefits package and tuition reimbursement programs
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Pay more for jobs that require weekends holidays, unpopular hours
  • Stress management and home/life and work/life issue programs
  • Realize that you are the chief retention officer for work unit

When a person announces they are leaving do an exit interview – it will be very informative

suggested by Prof. Rosenberg

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  2. Alderfer, C.P. (1972). Existence, relatedness, and Growth. New York: Free Press.
  3. Fottler, M.D. (1996). The role and impact of multiskilled health practitioners in the health services industry. Hospital and Health Services Administration, 41(1), 55-75.
  4. Fottler, M.D., Blair, J.D., Phillips, R.L., and Duran, C.A. (1990). Achieving competitive advantages through Strategic Human Resources management. Hospital and Health Services Administration, 35(3), 341-363.
  5. Herzberg, F. (1987). One more time: How do you Motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 65, 109-120.
  6. Herberg, F., Mausner, B., and Snyderman, B. (1995). The motivation to work. New York: John Wiley.
  7. Locke, E.A. (1982). Relation of goal level to performance with a short work period and multiple goals levels. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 512-514.
  8. Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
  9. McClelland, D.C. (1975). Power: The inner experience. New York: Irvington.
  10. McClelland, D.C., and Burnham, D.H. (1976). Power is the great motivator. Harvard Business Review, 54(2), 100-110.
  11. O’Connor, S.J. (1998). Motivating effective Performances. In P. Ginter, L. Swayne, and D.J. Duncan (eds.), Handbook of health care management (pp.431-470). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Business publishing.
  12. Shortell, S.M. and Kaluzny, A.D. (2000). Health care management: Organization design and behavior. Fourth Edition. New York:Delmar Thomson Learning.
  13. Vroom, V. (1964). Work and motivation. New York:Wiley.
  14. Zimberg, S.E., and Clement, D.G. (1997). Physician motivation, satisfaction and survival. Medical Group Management Journal, 44(4), 19-20,22,24,26,63.