You can't buy commitment

Jun 06 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

As far as many employers are concerned, one sure-fire way to boost the commitment and contentment of their staff is simply to pay them more money. But according to new research, this could actually have precisely the opposite effect.

In fact employees who are more concerned with their material success, status and power than they are with helping colleagues or developing their own talents are more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives and are less committed to their organisation.

That's the finding of research carried out at the University of Leuven in Belgium which challenges one of the most commonly-held beliefs about workforce motivation.

Psychologist Maarten Vansteenkiste quizzed 885 workers at all employment levels about their attitudes to work and what benefits were most important to them, such as good pay or better holiday entitlement.

The research, published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology,

found that while some employees viewed their job as an opportunity to exercise their competencies and skills and make meaningful contributions to society, others focused primarily on financial success, having influence over others, and occupying a prestigious position at work.

And critically, those who are motivated more by material rewards, extra money or status, had much more negative feelings about work.

These more materialistic staff reported feeling exhausted and unsatisfied by work and were more likely to consider quitting than workers who are interested in self-development and growth.

Interestingly the negative outcomes were also related to workers mental health with these workers experiencing more work-family conflict and general life dissatisfaction.

"The current ethos in many organisations today is to reward workers with material benefits but this research shows this could be counter productive for both the organisation and the employee," Dr Vansteenkiste said.

"Although these benefits may appear to be great motivators they, rather paradoxically, are not. This is because material rewards divert employees away from recognising/attaining other less tangible goals that are important to maintain good mental health such as good working relationships with colleagues, autonomy and job satisfaction."