Understanding your Staff's Pleasure and Pain

Published on 2011-09-18

Source: Clay Junell @ Flickr
YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE. “I don’t understand my staff!”, “All they want is more money!” and “The 80s generation can’t be motivated!”
Everywhere I go around China, I hear these types of statements about why managers are unable to motivate their team.  With companies bearing down on their managers to produce results, and quick growth leaving little time to develop young talents’ ability, it is no wonder that managers are constantly left holding the door open as staff continue to come and go, and companies experience attrition often as high as 50%.
Lets not try to make a complex issue of the matter though. A manager’s job is to motivate, and there are only two motivators in life: pleasure and pain.  People seek out things that pull them towards pleasure and move them away from pain.
Now that we have established the only two motivators that matter, we must think about how they manifest themselves in us, as managers, and in our team. Below I have profiled the two common groups we see in middle management.
The 80s Employee:
Let’s think for a minute of one of the most problematic groups in management today; the 80s generation.  In China specifically, this generation is the most internationally exposed generation entering the workforce, having been  reared under the ‘One-Child Policy’, and never having experienced hardships.
In developed countries, generations are often frustrated when benchmarking their lives to their parents they have not improved. However, in China, benchmarking is much more short-term. Development is so rapid, that it is not a questions of whether or I will live better than my parents, as that it is already a foregone conclusion.
So what is pleasure?  And what is pain?
The 70s Manager:
In many multinational companies in China there is a group of savvy senior managers and directors who are filled with incredible business acumen, and entrepreneurial zest. The problem they have though is in empathy.
For the most part these managers came to be who they are based on their own abilities.  There was no senior manager who showed them how to develop their careers and take charge of their personal development.  Why can’t the younger generation stop whining and just get the job done without asking for more money, or a promotion?
So what is pleasure? And what is pain?
Begin by profiling your team will help you better understand how to motivate them. How do age, gender, educational and experience differences effect how people define their pleasure and pain? How do you define your own?  Better understanding this, is the first step to motivating your team and strategic delegation.