A different take on expatriate motivation

So I’ve been asked to deliver a two hour workshop on motivation, or, to be more exact, on how management can motivate people in these trying times.   I’ve done my research and I was busy typing away and creating Power Point slides when it dawned at me: this theory of motivation in the workplace I’ve been working with fits very well with my general work with expatriate issues.

I am talking about the Frederick Herzberg Theory of Motivation, also known as Hygiene Theory or Two Factor theory.   Herzberg conducted many interviews with employees asking them what pleased and displeased them in their work.  And what he discovered was that “the factors causing job satisfaction (and presumably motivation) were different from those causing job dissatisfaction”.  Based on that Herzberg developed the motivation-hygiene theory where he called the satisfiers motivators and the dissatisfiers hygiene factors.  For him “hygiene” meant “maintenance” — factors that are necessary to avoid dissatisfaction, but that by themselves do not provide satisfaction.

Now, this theory was developed for a workplace but when I looked at it, I saw certain parallels with our lives as expatriates.  For instance, here is a list of hygiene factors as outlined by Herzberg:

(1) Company policy
(2) Supervision
(3) Relationship w/Boss
(4) Work conditions
(5) Salary
(6) Relationship w/Peers

And here is a list if motivational factors:

(1) Achievement
(2) Recognition
(3) Work Itself
(4) Responsibility
(5) Promotion
(6) Growth

According to Herzberg, “hygiene” factors help us avoid dissatisfaction.  The motivational factors help us reach satisfaction.  However, the two sets cannot be treated simply as opposites of one another.  That is, the things in our lives that keep us from being dissatisfied are rarely enough to satisfy us. They are rarely enough to motivate us and to move us towards fulfillment and overall happiness with our lives.

If you look closely at the two sets of factors, you’ll probably notice that factors in the second set are deeply connected with the human desire to grow, to achieve, to learn, and to develop.  Factors of the first set, while nice to have, don’t help us move to fulfilling life.  At the same time, we can be growing, achieving, and learning while being dissatisfied with the environment we live in.

It’s similar with the expatriates.  In order to have a good expatriate life it might be enough to have a nice house, a good school for the kids, friends, and things to do; yet in order to have a fantastic and satisfying expatriate life one needs something more.  Something that will satisfy our innate desire to become and to grow – and something that will motivate us to get a fulfilling life… wherever we are.

How are you satisfying that desire to grow?  What motivates you?  What moves your experience from simply “not-dissatisfying” to enriching?

Copyright © 2009 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!

3 responses to “A different take on expatriate motivation

  1. Hi Coach,
    Hmmmmmmmm………. Not sure if I fully agree with you about Hertzberg being the best or appropriate model to apply to Expatriates. I think Hertzberg applies mostly to the corporate world of the 1950’s to 1970’s, when there was some semblance of job security- that is, the “maintenance” issues were taken as a given. I think that is no longer true today, meaning we have to look to other models.

    I would respectfully suggest you look at Mazlow, http://www.12manage.com/methods_maslow_hierarchy_needs.html not only because I think his theory has more relevance in today’s global situation but because, based on having lived and worked internationally for more than 20 of my 40+ years working experience, Expats in particular seem to me to be more motivated by Mazlow’s higher order motivators.

    Dr. PDG, Jakarta

  2. Pingback: Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really All About Going Through the Stages « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

  3. Pingback: Success: what does culture have to do with it? « “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” What was your expatriate experience like?

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