5 Motivation, Employee Counseling, Resignations and Retirement

5.1 Motivation

This involves providing leadership for subordinates, and also requires the ability to inspire them to put in their best efforts in achieving the organization’s objectives, by creating good morale or working spirit among all employees. The objectives of an organization can be achieved only through the efforts of people. And people need to be motivated in an understanding way to put in their best. However, what motivates one person might not motivate another, and therefore for the best results any manager should be understanding and, as far as feasible, get to know something about each of his/her subordinates. Any manager must endeavour to get the best from each individual member of his/her team or work group, and that might require motivating different members in different ways, while still motivating the team or group as a whole. It requires the building of a good “work environment” based on the spirit of trust and cooperation between management and other personnel. The HR manager – along with other managers – has an important role to play in developing and maintaining a good work environment.

5.2 Style of management

In order to motivate employees it is necessary to develop and maintain a ‘style of management’ which is appropriate to a good work environment.

5.2.1 Task needs and relationship needs

Certain managerial and leadership styles are more appropriate and motivational than other styles. For example, a particular style might be needed to manage a large workplace of manual operators. But a very different style might be needed for a small team of multi-skilled office staff, such as in the HR department.

The needs of management fall within two main groups – task needs and relationship needs. Task needs are related to the exercise of individual technical skills. Relationship needs are concerned with “getting things done through the efforts of other people.” These relationships need to be given priority in order to generate a “motivational environment.”

5.3 Changes in management attitudes

5.3.1 Scientific management

In the early to mid-20th century, there was a theory of scientific management advocated by F.W. Taylor. It was based on the following principles:

  • All activities should be prescribed and controlled.
  • Employees should be told only what they need to know.
  • Work measured job times should be set.
  • Work should be simplified for semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
  • Labour should be reduced through automation.
  • There should be short-term rewards based on direct work output.
  • There should be no encouragement for feedback from subordinates.

5.3.2 Contemporary attitudes

Contemporary attitudes were developed in the mid-1970s and are continuing till date. Most important of these attitudes is the “Human Relations Movement” attributed to Elton Mayo. These attributes are based on the following principles:

  • Employees should be encouraged to organize their own work.
  • There should be increased communication.
  • Employees should be accountable for their own targets.
  • There should be flexibility.
  • Emphasis should be on team work.
  • Rewards should be long-term and based on whole job performance.
  • There should be participative management.
  • Feedback from employees should be encouraged.

5.4 Contributors and theorists

Some theorists have significantly contributed to the development of modern-day management attitudes.

5.4.1 Mayo: The Human Relations Movement

By following the principles of scientific management, managers realized that this system did not achieve optimum efficiency. They found that people did not conform to predicted patterns of behaviour. That led to an increase in interest in the ‘people’ aspect of organizations. Several theorists tried to understand the workplace psychology. Among them, Professor Elton Mayo conducted experiments to ascertain and record human behaviour within organizations. The study conducted by him and his colleagues at Western Electric Hawthorne plant in the USA –also known as Hawthorne Experiment – revealed that the most significant factors in optimizing productivity were related to:

  • Workers being organized in small social groups;
  • Workers feeling important through participation;
  • Workers having some freedom from strict supervision.

Though this study was production-based research, the findings and conclusions of this study can be related to other departments. For example, the HR manager can:

  • Organize the layout of the workplace to allow social interaction among staff;
  • Allow staff some sort of participation in departmental decision making;
  • Allow staff to organize their own priorities and activities within the framework of overall direction.

5.4.2 Maslow: The Hierarchy of Human Needs

Abraham Maslow proposed that there is a ‘hierarchy’ or scales of human needs which must be satisfied. Some of these needs are more powerful than others. Maslow argues that until these most powerful needs are satisfied, other needs have little effect on an individual’s behaviour. In other words, we satisfy the most powerful needs first and then progress to the less powerful ones. As one need is satisfied, and is therefore less important to us, other needs come up and become motivators of our behaviour.

Maslow represents hierarchy of needs in the shape of a pyramid. The most powerful needs are shown at the bottom, with powerful ones decreasing as people progress upwards.


  • Physiological needs: These include all the basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, rest.
  • Safety and security needs: People want a safe and organized environment. They want physical safety and psychological security.
  • Social needs: Generally, people prefer to live and work in groups which are often larger than their families. They want to be accepted and be part of something.
  • Esteem needs: People want respect from others, and to achieve status in the workgroup.
  • Self-actualization needs: At this stage, people want to reach their maximum potential, and like doing their own best thing.

An important aspect of Maslow’s theory is that it provides for constant growth of the individual. There is no point at which everything has been achieved. Having satisfied the lower needs, one is always striving to do things to the best of one’s ability, and best is always defined as being slightly better than before.

5.4.3 Hertzberg: Motivation Hygiene Theory

Frederick Hertzberg argued that certain factors lead to job satisfaction while others lead to dissatisfaction. He identified these as “motivator” and “hygiene” factors respectively.

  • Motivators: According to Hertzberg, typical job motivators are:
  • The degree of career achievement;
  • The intellectual challenge of work;
  • Recognition by others as being successful;
  • The actual value of the work;
  • The actual level of job responsibility;
  • The opportunity for promotion.
  • Hygiene factors: Hertzberg identified hygiene factors as:
  • The restriction of management policies and procedures;
  • Technical/administrative aspects of supervision;
  • Salary structures;
  • Job conditions;
  • Relationship with management;
  • Work environment.

Hertzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory is generally well-received by practising managers because of its relatively simple distinction between factors inducing positive job satisfaction or those causing reduced job satisfaction.

5.4.4 McGregor: Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor advocated that there are two extremes of management attitude towards employees in the workplace, and these have a strong influence on the level of employee motivation.

  • Theory X: Characteristic assumptions of managers behaving in this “mode” are:
  • The average person is basically lazy and dislikes work.
  • People at work need to be forced, controlled, directed and threatened.
  • the average person avoids responsibility and prefers to be directed.

McGregor states that this style of management is no longer suitable in the modern organizational setting.

  • Theory Y: Characteristic assumptions of managers in this “mode” are:
  • Work is as natural as recreation and rest.
  • People will exercise “self-direction and control” to achieve objectives to which they are committed.
  • Commitment to objectives is related to the satisfaction of achievement.
  • If the conditions are right, the average person at work will seek and accept responsibility.

In a way, Theory Y is related to what we nowadays call ‘participative management.’ Theory Y principles are now generally recognized as being more likely to achieve optimal employee performance.

5.5 Motivation strategies

To a large extent, a high level of employee motivation is derived from effective management practices. To develop motivated employees, HR manager should ensure that HR personnel as well as other departmental managers must do the following:

  • Empowering employees: Empowerment occurs when individuals in an organization are given autonomy, authority, trust, and encouragement to accomplish a task. Empowerment is designed to unshackle the worker and to make a job the worker’s responsibility.
  • Providing an effective reward system: To motivate behaviour, the organization needs to provide an effective reward system. Rewards demonstrate to employees that their behaviour is appropriate and should be repeated. If employees don’t feel that their work is valued, their motivation will decline. Common examples are pay bonuses, promotions, time off, special assignments, office fixtures, awards, verbal praise etc.
  • Redesigning jobs: Many people go to work and go through the same, unenthusiastic actions to perform their jobs. These individuals often refer to this condition as burnout. But smart managers can do something to improve this condition before an employee gets bored and loses motivation. Redesign attempts may include the following:
  • Job enlargement: It increases the variety of tasks a job includes. It may reduce some of the monotony, and as an employee’s boredom decreases, his/her work performance generally increases.
  • Job rotation: This practice assigns different jobs or tasks to different people on a temporary basis. The idea is to add variety and to expose people to the dependence that one job has on other jobs. Job rotation can encourage higher levels of contributions and renew interest and enthusiasm. The organization benefits from a cross-trained workforce.
  • Job enrichment: This application includes not only an increased variety of tasks, but also provides an employee with more responsibility and authority. If the skills required to do the job are skills that match the jobholder’s abilities, job enrichment may improve morale and performance.
  • Creating flexibility: Today’s employees value personal time. Because of family needs, a traditional 9 to 5 working may not work for many people. Therefore, for some categories of employees, ‘flexi time’ – which permits employees to set and control their own work hours – is one way that organizations are accommodating their employees’ needs, e.g. marketing personnel. Here are some other options organizations are trying as well:
  • A compressed work week is a form of flexi time that allows a full time job to be completed in less than the standard 40-hour, 5-day work week. Its most common form is 4/40 schedule, which gives employees three days off each week. This schedule benefits the individual through more leisure time and lower commuting costs. The organization should benefit through lower absenteeism and improved performance.
  • Job sharing occurs when one full time job is split between two or more persons. Job sharing often involves each person working one-half day, but it can also be done on weekly or monthly sharing arrangements. When jobs can be split or shared, organizations can benefit by employing talented people who would otherwise be unable to work full time. The qualified employee, who is also a parent of a small child, may not want to be in the office for a full day but may be willing to work half day. Although adjustment problems sometimes occur, the arrangement can be good for all concerned.
  • Telecommuting, sometimes called ‘flexi place,’ is a work arrangement that allows at least a portion of scheduled work hours to be completed outside of the office, with work-at-home as one of the options. Home workers often demonstrate increased productivity, report fewer distractions, enjoy the freedom to be their own boss, and appreciate the benefit of having more time for themselves. Examples of such jobs are: computer software development and tele-marketing.

5.6 Managerial styles in HR management

An “open” management style is likely to be successful in the HR department. Team working would enhance performance levels. The HR manager needs to involve the staff in the departmental decision-making process.

The concept of ‘responsibility sharing’ would involve consultation, involvement, and participation. In a team-oriented HR department, responsibility can be shared in the following areas:

  • Interpreting organizational policies;
  • Developing organizational procedures;
  • Winning the consent of subordinates;
  • Organizing meetings;
  • Maintaining communication networks;
  • Understanding and motivating others.

5.7 Disciplinary action

Managers and supervisors of various departments always try to motivate, guide, advise, and control their subordinates. In spite of this, occasions will arise when there is no alternative but to take disciplinary action. Before committing to any proposed disciplinary action, a manager/supervisor might consult the HR manager and brief him/her fully on the situation that has arisen and seek guidance. After having the full backing of the HR manager he/she must act firmly and confidently.

Depending on the severity of the offence, disciplinary action takes different forms. The following procedure may be adopted:

  • If it is a first offence, the person should be spoken to and advised. For example, if a subordinate arrives at work late without a satisfactory explanation, a counseling session might be beneficial.
  • If the same person continues behaving in the same way, for, say, a week, a formal written warning is needed.
  • If he/she still continues committing this offence, a final written warning needs to be given by the HR department, specifying the penalty if the employee does not improve his/her behaviour within a stated time limit.
  • If the employee still does not improve, he/she has to be penalized. The penalty may be transfer to another section or location, suspension without pay, or dismissal from job.

5.8 Employee counseling

Situations which can lead to disciplinary action may be avoided by taking certain steps. This involves having a talk with the employee concerned, trying to find a solution to the problem which is creating such a situation. This process of settling problems without resorting to disciplinary action is referred to as employee counseling.

5.8.1 Nature of problems

Some problems are related to work while others are of personal nature. Generally a manager or supervisor is concerned with the employee’s work-related problems, but sometimes he may have to deal with an employee’s personal problem also because that may have been the cause of starting a work-related problem.

5.8.2 Solving the problems

  • Solution to a problem can be found only through a joint discussion between the manager and his subordinate. This needs to be a two-way process. Sometimes a manager or supervisor arranges a counseling session, but sometimes it is initiated by the employee when he/she needs to share some problem.
  • It is important that the manager or supervisor keeps the information related to an employee’s counseling session confidential from other employees.
  • Every problem that needs to be addressed through counseling is individual in nature. Hence for each problem the manager or supervisor has to adopt a flexible approach and not try to fix every problem with the same solution.

5.8.3 Process of successful counseling

A counseling session is likely to be successful if the following points are considered:

  • The subject for discussion should be introduced in a discrete manner and not done openly.
  • The reasons for the discussion should be explained to the employee in a sympathetic manner so that he/she has confidence to discuss the matter further.
  • Questions should be asked in a gentle manner so that the subordinate is able to appreciate how the manager or supervisor is trying to help him/her.
  • Quite often all the questions related to the problem may not be addressed in one session. A few more sessions may be necessary in order to get all the facts right. Hence a lot of patience is to be exercised.

After the problem has been ascertained, an effort has to be made by both the parties to find a solution acceptable to both. When this happens, it is possible to have a high level of employee motivation. This is also very effective in controlling employee behaviour.

5.9 Equal Opportunity Policy

Equality in the workplace means that there is fair treatment for each individual. Everyone is supposed to have equal access to job opportunities, promotion and other benefits. It also means that there should be a system of equal pay for similar work in the organization.

There should be no discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion or physical disability. Today a large number of organizations have a policy referring to discrimination on the above-mentioned grounds. A good equal opportunity policy includes age, marital status, gender, HIV and AIDS. The policy should state clearly a commitment to equality in the areas of recruitment, promotion, training, performance appraisal and pay, transfers, terms and conditions, disciplinary procedures and dismissal, rules against harassment etc.

Policies alone are not enough. There must be a commitment to put them into practice by specific measures, and this should be the responsibility of HR management. The policy should be publicized to all staff and job applicants.

An important part of implementing equal opportunity policy is monitoring its effectiveness. In the case of gender, race or disability, there are usually arrangements to collect statistics to ensure that these people are represented in the workforce.

5.10 Resignations

Resignation occurs when an employee decides to terminate his/her employment with an organization. Whatever a manager may do to retain experienced staff, resignations will occur. When this happens, it is useful if the HR manager conducts an ‘exit interview’ with the employee concerned, to try to ascertain the real reason why he/she is leaving.

5.10.1 Unavoidable resignations

In many cases resignation is unavoidable on account of certain circumstances, for example, illness, accident, marriage, pregnancy, death in the family, or intention of self or spouse to move to another city, etc.

In such circumstances the HR manager has no option but to accept the resignation. However, the loss of a good employee is cause for concern to the HR department.

On the other hand, there might be a situation when an employee has committed a serious offence. In such a case, the employee may be given the option of resigning ‘voluntarily’ in order to avoid possible serious consequences.

5.10.2 Avoidable resignations

Sometimes resignations may occur on account of lack of motivation, terms and conditions of employment, difficult relationships with co-workers or manager/supervisor, denial of promotion or salary increase etc.

In such situations it is the HR manager’s responsibility to find out the real reason for resignation through an ‘exit interview.’ He/she might not be able to do anything for a particular employee, but he/she can definitely analyse the situation and make a report to the higher management and give his/her recommendations for future.

Some resignations are given in the “heat of the moment.” In such a situation, the HR manager can arrange a counseling session with the employee concerned, and prevail upon him/her to continue in the job.

5.11 Retirement

An employee ‘retires’ from the job when he/she has reached a certain age, and not because of any other reason.

5.11.1 Retirement ages

Ages at which people retire vary from country to country and from one organization to another. There might also be age differences for retirement between men and women in certain jobs e.g. air hostesses.

5.11.2 Retirement benefits

At the time of retirement, employees are generally eligible for certain retirement benefits. These differ as per the laws of the country, and rules of different organizations. They are usually of the following type:

  • Provident Fund: Throughout the period of his/her employment, the employee contributes a certain percentage of his/her salary, which is deposited in the bank or relevant government fund, with matching amount from the employer. At the time of retirement the employee has access to this fund.
  • Gratuity: In some countries and organizations, when an employee retires, he/she is given gratuity. It is calculated on the basis of the number of years of employment multiplied by the last monthly basic pay drawn. The total amount is given to the retiring employee.
  • Pension: In most countries, as well as some organizations, the retiring employee is eligible for monthly pension for life. Sometimes it is linked to group life insurance, and the employee’s pension is credited every month to his bank account by the insurance company concerned.

5.11.3 Planning and counseling for retirement

It can be a great shock for an employee who has worked for an organization for many years to suddenly realize that his/her services are no longer required because he/she has reached a certain age.

It is desirable for HR department to arrange for counseling related to retirement well before an employee is to retire. This way the employee can be gradually prepared to accept psychologically the fact of the forthcoming retirement, and plan accordingly.