With UK employees 10% less happy at work in 2020 than in 2018, management should take a serious look at how they can help boost employee satisfaction. Job satisfaction and motivation play an important role in our performance at work and management’s leadership style has a big impact.

Is your leadership style sending the right message?  Do you need to adjust your leadership approach? Having trouble increasing employee motivation? Look no further as throughout this article, we will look at what factors define and contribute to motivation and job satisfaction and how the three main leadership styles can influence motivation in the workplace.

What Is Motivation?

There are many theories on what factors motivate people in the workplace, including financial incentives, autonomy, and social interactions – in fact, 60% of people consider colleagues to be the biggest contributor to job motivation. However, to understand what motivates people at work, we must first understand what motivation is. Motivation is made up of 3 components:

  1. Direction – the task an individual is trying to do.
  2. Effort – how hard the individual is trying.
  3. Persistence – how long the individual tries for.

Before choosing to act on a task, we ask ourselves: do I have what it takes to perform this task? Would performing this task lead to positive outcomes? What value do I give to these outcomes? When you consider the task to be doable, positive, and worth it, you are motivated to tackle the job at hand.

Determining Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction arises from various intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivate you. Being motivated by extrinsic factors is when you work for the sake of an award that is outside of your control, such as working to earn a wage. Intrinsic factors on the other hand, are those factors that motivate you to perform the task for the satisfaction of the job itself. Such intrinsic factors are:

  • Skill variety – different skills are needed to perform the task.
  • Task identity – completing a whole task rather than a part.
  • Task significance – the work is seen as beneficial to others.
  • Autonomy – freedom to take decisions.
  • Feedback – updates on work performance.

A manager is responsible for motivating employees in the workplace. This can be achieved through helping the employee understand why their work matters, what is expected of them, and by supporting them along the way. When a manager neglects these duties, they risk causing job dissatisfaction within their team. Job dissatisfaction arises when someone feels their work makes no difference to the overall running of the company, feels misunderstood and unappreciated, and when job progress is not measurable.

It’s Not All About the Money

Money is given great importance in our society, with many people looking towards securing higher paid jobs. Numerous studies have shown that money affects the nervous system the same way that drugs do, producing the same feelings of addiction. You might think it to be one of the most important things in your career, however 64% argue that passion when working is more important than pay. It is up to management to create an environment that allows this passion to thrive.

More than that, the relationship between pay and job satisfaction is very weak, and the incentive to work for the sole purpose of getting a higher pay actually demotivates people after a while. When conditioning people to work harder for money, it is often the case that motivation drops when the monetary incentives stop.

So why do managers continue to rely on pay to motivate their employees? Well, many managers use monetary incentives as a substitute for giving workers what they really need, like feedback and social support, because it requires less effort. But we know from looking at volunteer workers that money is not essential to motivation or job satisfaction. In order to tap into intrinsic factors, management must carefully choose what approach will create a positive, productive environment. The way you choose to lead motivates your employees in different ways, so let’s take a look at the three main leadership styles you can adopt.

The Three Main Leadership Styles

A leader should always be looking towards how the team can improve and the steps they need to take to get there. They are there to help the team direct, facilitate and achieve goals. With half the working population stating that they would leave their job due to bad management, effective leadership is key when motivating employees. White and Lippett highlighted three main leadership styles in 1939, which motivate teams in different ways. While research into leadership skills has advanced since this time, the principles remain relevant till this day. The three leadership styles they highlight are:

  1. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leaders are those who have full control over their team and dictate actions that need to be done. They also dictate the direction they want the team to go in and outline the steps needed to get there. This type of leadership tends to rely on praising and criticizing their team in order to motivate them to work harder. After having instructed the team on what they need to do, they often distance themselves from the actual work of the group, while still retaining control through orders.

  1. Democratic Leadership

A democratic leadership is one where the leader gives choices to the team whenever possible. The choices include how the team wishes to work in order to best complete the aims and objectives of the group. This leader motivates through emotional support and is more likely to be present in the group and offer advice and alternative ways of accomplishing tasks.

  1. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-Faire leaders are very laid back in their approach, giving complete freedom to the team. They motivate their team through granting them autonomy, giving advice and making suggestions but only when asked to do so. They are often a figure-head with expert knowledge that can be called upon if needed by the group.

The style that works best depends on the situation. Say you’re on a tight deadline – then the group will benefit from an autocratic leader who dictates what needs to be done, whereas a project that requires a high level of autonomy and creativity might benefit from a laissez-faire style. So, it is often the case that a leader will make use of a hybrid of the three styles at different stages during his leadership role. It is also affected by the personality of the leader. For example, Type A personalities are more likely to make use of autocratic leadership approaches.

Leadership Orientations

Each leadership style makes use of a task-oriented and/or an emotion-oriented approach when working towards goals.

A task-oriented approach is one where the leader gives and seeks information from the team whilst asking the opinions of all members. In this approach, the leader focuses on keeping the group energized, evaluating performance, and giving direction to the team. This orientation is usually seen in autocratic leaders.

A people-oriented approach includes encouraging engagement from all group members and resolving conflict in order to bring about group cohesiveness. Its focus lays in building rapport, trust and respect within the team. This orientation is usually seen in laissez-faire leaders.

This being said, groups often require a mix of both task and people orientations, adapting when needed. This is because the team needs to accomplish tasks, but the members of the group need to feel valued and motivated in order to be satisfied with the work they are producing. Just like with leadership styles, a mix of orientations can be used depending on the current work situation; a project can start off as being person oriented when gathering ideas and establishing working methods but may change to be task oriented when the deadline is fast approaching.

Different leaders feel confident with different approaches, but it does not always mean that that approach is the most beneficial to the company. Work situations are changeable, and different approaches may be required. It is the leader’s duty to note these changes and react accordingly. So next time employee motivation drops, you might want to ask yourself whether your style is appropriate and how you can adjust to suit the needs of the team.