Thursday, February 28, 2013

Motivational Theories

All the employers have common goals. They want to keep improving efficiency, increasing productivity, and making the quality of their products or services better. In order to achieve these goals, they have to keep motivating their employees since motivation affects the productivity of individuals. Motivation is best described as "a person's active participation in and commitment to achieving the prescribed results".
Since everyone responses differently to different kinds of motivation, many theories have been developed. I would like to put emphasis on three of those that I found interesting and they show how this field has improved during the years.

Cussin's Approach or Management by Threat

This theory was popular the year after World War II. It lies on the anticipation that the more the employees get yelled at the harder they will work. Today this approach is only used in third world countries, in areas where the economy is left behind but as workers are becoming aware of their rights “management by threat” is disappearing. During the early years of Cold War, the majority of the labor force were soldiers who fought during the war and they had no other choice but to accept any job they could get since due to the extremely low number of jobs available. Note that this approach did only create a work environment where employees just wanted to avoid to get yelled at, and it did not have positive effect on productivity.

Maslow's theory

Abraham H. Maslow developed his theory, also known as hierarchy of needs theory, when Cussin's approach was widely used, in 1954. He believed that the personal needs motivate human the most. His hierarchy consists of, from the bottom of the pyramid to top; psychological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and the highest is the self-actualization needs. Psychological needs are the most important and essential; wage, salary, and proper working conditions. Safety needs include job security. Social needs mean interaction with coworker and developing a healthy relationship with them. Esteem needs are met by giving the workers opportunities for promotion within the company and giving positive feedback. Self-actualization needs are created by challenging tasks that are stimulating.

Herzberg's theory

Maslow's theory is one the most well-known motivational theories and the basis of Herzberg's theory. Fredrick Herzberg developed this theory by observing a few hundreds of engineers and accountants; how their working relationships are, how their attitudes change, and what motivates their performances.
He believes that there is one factor that motivates, the job enrichment factor, and one factor that demotivates, the hygiene factor.
Job enrichment factors include achievement, recognition, responsibility, freedom, and advancement. When an employee is given a difficult task and she can complete the task on her own way it creates in confidence therefore she is going to perform at her best and complete the task. As a result, she receives recognition which will motivate her in the future.
Hygiene factors include work conditions, policies, administrative efficiency, style of supervision, and relationship between employees. If we are in the same situation but our employee is not rewarded it will demotivate her for the next task. Additionally, if she is forced to work with someone she would not like to, or supervised they way that creates uncomfortable working environment, she will also be demotivated.


Ranjan, B. K., & Charles, J. H. (2002). Motivational theories and successful total quality initiatives. International Journal of Management, 19(4), 605-613. Retrieved from

Hassan, A. H. (2005). Motivational theories and their application in construction. Cost Engineering, 47(3), 14-18. Retrieved from

Colquitt, J. A., Lepine, J. A., & Wesson, M. J. (2009). Organizational behavior . (Second ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

 Matyas Keresztes

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stress Resilience and Management

Written by:  Sonia Zafar

When observing stress in a workplace, it can be seen that some employees seem to be more resistant to stress than others. According to Dr. Redford Williams, this is caused by different personalities that people have. Some people do not experience negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, etc. that can lead to stress. The people who are less resistant to stress are more sensitive when experiencing such emotions. Life experiences also tend to cause some people to be less or more resilient to stressful situations. People who have had a rough childhood tend to get stressed out faster than those who did not. The book discusses the “transactional theory of stress” which explains how stressors are perceived and appraised. When a person first encounters stressors, they evaluate the importance of the stressors. Those who are less resilient are also at a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as PTSD and depression.

Guillén Fernández of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior stated that “Exposure to stress causes fundamental changes in the state of the brain, and the brain’s response to stress differs widely among individuals” (Costandi, 2010). Stress causes hormones such as cortisol to be released which leads to high alertness and those who are more vulnerable to stress tend to stay alert long after the stressful situation is over. Fernández and his colleagues published a recent study in which they provide evidence that there is a link between sensitivity to stress and the variations in the gene encoding ADRA2B (Costandi, 2010). The research stated that the participants who carry a common variation in the gene receptor had higher response to stress than those who did not have the variation.  

According to Rebecca Maxon, “Three out of every four American workers describe their work as stressful…workplace stress costs U.S. employers an estimated $200 billion per year in absenteeism, lower productivity, staff turnover, workers’ compensation, medical insurance and other stress-related expenses…60% of lost workdays each year can be attributed to stress and 75-90% of visits to health care providers are due to stress-related conditions” (Maxon, 1999). As a result of this, providing stress management assistance would decrease employers’ expenses that are caused by stress. One would think that stress is something people would experience most outside of work especially during a major life event. But according to the Holmes-Rahe Life Events Scale, workplace related stress is one of the most common type of stress. Because stress management techniques are not very commonly taught in most workplaces, aggression and violence in the workplace has also been in the rise. The U.S. Justice Department estimated that each year roughly a million people are victims of violence at work which accounts for 15% of the violent crime in the country.

The issue of stress in the workplace can be solved if employees are given knowledge on how to manage stress. The first step is to assess the levels of stress. The book mentions a “stress audit” which is a way managers can question themselves about the jobs their employees have and whether high stress levels may be a problem for them. The second step is to try and reduce or eliminate the stressors. For example, if one person in a company is given too much of a workload, their job performance can drastically decrease. In order to reduce the stress, the company can consider job sharing which would split the work and decrease stress for all parties involved. The book also mentions another way of how companies can reduce stressors, which is an employee sabbatical. This is a paid leave opportunity in order to take part in another activity such as volunteer work or to go back to school.

Learning about how some people are more resilient to stress than others can help create a workplace environment that is comfortable for all employees. Just because one person may be able to tolerate stress does not mean that his or her coworkers/employees are the same. By keeping that in mind, employees will not experience stress from a large workload which ultimately can reduce costs incurred by stress related issues. If stress is already an issue in the workplace, it is important to assess the situation and make sure that employees are able to manage the stress.

Costandi , M. (2010, October 04). Stress and the brain: What makes some of us more vulnerable than others? . Retrieved from
Maxon, R. (1999). Stress in the workplace: A costly epidemic. Retrieved from
Williams, R. (2008, November 21). Do we know why some people feel 'less stressed' than others or just cope better with stress?. Retrieved from

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coping With Stress

Written By: Bryan Baines         

  People always talk about how stressed out they are. Everyone wants to be stress free, but whether people want to admit it or not, stress is an integral part of our lives. It can frustrate us, motivate us, shut us down, or build us up. Many times stress is the driving force behind our productivity, but we don’t realize it. The truth is stress will always be present in our lives, and it’s how we cope with this stress that shapes who we are.
            Often times, the most stressful part of someone’s life is their job. Job deadlines and multiple projects create a sense of urgency and time pressure. Along with social stressors and responsibility pressures, job stress can mount up dramatically. Built up stress can have serious effect on people. Stress can decrease the usefulness of the body’s immune system; weaken the cardiovascular system, cause problems in the musculoskeletal system, and gastrointestinal system troubles. Along with these physiological areas, stress can affect the psychological areas of the body and cause depression, anger, memory loss and many other sociological issues. When stress becomes too much, the body suffers from burnout. Companies have taken notice, and many have begun to take steps to help their employees deal with stress. This benefits both the employees and the companies themselves. According to Dr. Paul Rosch from the American Institute of Stress, he estimates that annual stress-related costs to employers are as high as $150 billion.
            Stress management programs have been the most common way that employers help their employees to deal with job related stress. These programs can teach employees methods as simple as take a deep breath and counting to ten, or how to engage in peaceful meditation. Since every employee is different, companies know that they need to offer a wide range of possible programs. Newer programs teach employees cognitive-behavioral skills. These programs teach employees to view failures as learning opportunities. While company-sponsored stress management programs are effective, the company can’t rely on them alone. The company needs to also look at how they can reduce organizational stress. They can do this by offering extra training to employees to reduce the feeling of incompetence in their jobs, or experimenting with performance-based bonuses. Other companies allow employees to work from home some days, or allow them to take every other Friday off provided their work is completed.
            From a personal perspective, one can cope with stress using coping strategies. These strategies include behavioral methods and cognitive methods. Behavioral coping includes the physical activities used to deal with a stressful situation. Cognitive coping includes thoughts used to deal with stressful situations. In order for these methods to be utilized effectively, they need to have a focus. The textbook divides the focus into either problem-focused or emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping involves the behaviors and perceptions that people take on to control the stressful situation as a whole. This often consists of adaptive behavior – people will change the way they act in order to address a certain stressor. This type of stress response will often give a person a better sense of control over the situation. For example, if someone has a tight deadline and they are stressed about getting it done, they can make a list of the things they need to do before the deadline. This will help them feel as though they have a grip on things and will be able to accomplish their goal before the deadline. The other focus of coping is emotional-focused coping. Emotion-focused coping involves the different ways that people control their emotional responses to stressful situations. This can include seeking support, venting anger, taking your mind off of things by doing something else, avoiding the situation, or looking for the ‘silver lining’ in a bad situation.
            By understanding how people cope with stress, we will become better at helping people when they experience stress. To learn how people cope with stress, we look at the method, or in many cases methods, they choose to handle stress. Do they seek support or do they shutdown? People will most often choose the method that best caters to the situation they face. For example, when people face tight deadlines at work they may make a list of the tasks they have to complete before the deadline. They probably will not reach out and seek support. However, if someone experienced a death in the family, they would probably seek support over making a list of tasks to get done.
            Stress in the workplace often arises when people are faced with a task or situation that they are not familiar with or not comfortable with. At Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, workers cited boss interactions as a prominent stressor in the workplace. In response, the company taught employees about “mindful communication” to be able to effectively communicate with upper management. Companies are realizing that their employees’ physiological and psychological well being directly affects the companies’ productivity, so it is in their best interest to help them.


Eisenbarth, C. (2012). Coping profiles and psychological distress: a cluster analysis. North American Journal of Psychology14(3), 485. Retrieved from
Freudenheim, Milt. "Business and Health; Coping With Stress at Work - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. <>.
SHELLENBARGER, SUE. "The Best Ways to Manage Office Stress -" The Wall Street Journal - Breaking News, Business, Financial and Economic News, World News & Video - Wall Street Journal - N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2013. <
Vernarec, E. (2001). How to cope with job stress. Rn64(3), 44-46.