Monday, July 6, 2009

Why Aren't People Working While at Work?




My son recently began his first job. He is doing mostly manual labor in a retail environment, but he is excited about the opportunity. He knows that I am in business as a consultant and I work with helping companies be better performers. So, he naturally has had many questions for me:



  1. Who is FICA and Medicare and why are they getting my money? What if I dont want Medicare when I am old? I directed him to ask that to our current President and his Grandmother who is currently collecting on both.

  2. Why do people get to read magazines at work and others don't? Interesting question, which I respond with insights into motivation, work ethic and accountability.

  3. Why are people lazy at work especially when we are in a recession? Another good question which I refer back to number 2 with some added thoughts on leadership.

  4. Why do we turn customers away because the lazy people reading magazines can't get to their jobs out in less than 2 weeks? I told him to give his manager my phone number.


In all seriousness, I began to think about why these individuals are not engaged in their work. And then it dawned on me. People like to be held accountable. So, yesterday I dusted off my old MBA textbooks on Motivational and Work Behavior to see what it had to say. (plus I needed some facts about this blog, that I was mulling over).

Without going into a lot of theory, basically the authors (Richard Steers and Lyman Porter) discuss determinants of commitment:


  1. Goal Setting-Individuals like to have goals and it doesn't really matter who sets them. They can or management can. In a research study when employees set their own goals they were similar to those set by management

  2. Group Influence-Peer pressure matters in the workplace

  3. Values, incentives and rewards-need to encourage production and have value to the worker

  4. Interactiveness-active participation in the workplace.

  5. Internal factors-Expectancy of success and self reward. These definitely have to do with the psyche of the employee. Simply put, does the employee expect he/she can reach the goals and do they give themselves credit for reaching the goal?


So, what can the company mentioned above do: (for very few dollars)


1. Make sure all employees have measurable goals that are attainable, they like that. (see 1 above)

2. Put in some kind of incentive for good performance perhaps a contest on customer feedback that is tracked visually. (incentives plus peer pressure)

I am sure there are many other areas that need attention, but these screamed at me as being some low hanging fruit they may want to try. What are some other areas you feel drive employee commitment? I have a few ideas what are yours?


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