Dealing with mediocrity 4

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Job performance is the product of three varying factors, i.e. individual attributes, work effort and organizational support. If any of these factors amounts to zero, the equation will be zero and hence no performance to speak of may be expected. If the worker does not have what it takes (individual attributes), (s)he cannot be expected to do the job. If (s)he is not motivated and does not make any effort, there will be no results either. The past few weeks we looked at these two factors and came to the following conclusions:

  • Individual attributes must match task requirements to facilitate job performance.
  • Contrary to what many people believe, there are very few differences between men and women that affect job performance.
  • Older people are no more likely to be unproductive than younger people.
  • Understanding personalities helps the manager predict what somebody can do and what that person will do.
  • Management not being aware of personal attributes of workers will lead to using blanket management instruments, not necessarily the most effective.
  • Even if the employee fits the task requirements as closely as possible, it does not necessarily mean that performance will be high. The willingness to put in the best ultimately rests with the individual worker.

Today we will look at the last factor which influences job performance: organizational support. In other words: what can the organization or company do to get the best out of its employees? Even a person, who matches the job requirements and is highly motivated to work hard, may not be a good performer because of insufficient support in the workplace. Such inadequacies are referred to as situational constraints and include:

  • Lack of time and short deadlines, resulting in rushing a job.
  • Inadequate budgets.
  • Inadequate tools, equipment or supplies.
  • Unclear instructions and job related information.
  • Unfair levels of expected performance.
  • Lack of job related authority.
  • Lack of required services and help from others.
  • Inflexibility of procedures.

All these problems share a common theme and force the manager to find an answer to the following question: “How well is the motivated and capable worker supported in trying to perform assigned tasks?” Managers must ensure that organizational support for performance exists in their areas of supervisory responsibility. The manager’s job therefore is to create a work environment that responds positively to individuals needs. Poor performance, undesirable behaviour and decreased job satisfaction can be partially explained in terms of needs that are not met on the job. In other words, managers must understand how individuals differ in what they need from their work and know what can be offered to individuals in response to their needs, or in other words to motivate them.
Whether or not a work setting provides motivation depends on the availability of rewards. When the worker experiences rewards for work performance, motivation will be directly and positively affected.  Rewards may be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are given to the worker by somebody else in the organization, for example pay. Intrinsic rewards are received by the worker directly as a result of task performance. They do not require the participation of another person. A feeling of achievement after accomplishing a particularly challenging task is an example of an intrinsic reward. The distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards is important because each type of reward demands separate attention from a manager seeking to use rewards to increase motivation.
How can this knowledge then help us practically while managing a company or an organization in Ethiopia? Types of rewards that motivate workers in Ethiopia may not be the same as for workers in other countries and cultures. In fact they are likely to be quite different. It requires insights and knowledge of the local culture and the worker’s individual needs that will help the manager find the kind of rewards that will positively affect the motivation to work. Examples include pay, benefits, education, training, transport, leave, etc. In the Netherlands for example, it doesn’t really matter what means of transport one uses to get to work. In fact, you are likely to meet your boss on the same bus or train or on the bicycle for that matter. In contrast, being allowed to use a company car for home-work transport is highly valued here. Paternity leave is provided to young fathers in some countries to enable them to provide support at home. Here, this kind of leave may not be that effective as a result of the different support mechanisms and gender roles that exist in Ethiopia.
The situation becomes even more complicated in international companies and organizations, which employ both Ethiopian and expatriate staff. A reward from the perspective of the expatriate worker may be a punishment for the Ethiopian. The manager’s challenge is finding out what the common and individual needs are and which kind of rewards will motivate and which do not. Including staff is therefore helpful in developing the right policies.