Issue 48

Motivation Butchers

George Lupașcu-Pruna
Accredited Intercultural Practitioner @ itim International


By now, most of the leaders agree that one component that you need in order to succeed in your business is to be able to motivate your people. Having motivated people ensures your access to the infinite resources that the human mind can offer. In theory, almost everybody agrees that motivated people will decrease your production costs, will deliver the projects faster, will earn you more clients, will keep your clients happy, and will increase the overall value of your business. However, the behaviors and expectations, some of the managers display, really make you feel you are watching an infant trying to eat by himself with a spoon.

There are genuinely unskilled leaders, that you might hear telling their people: "We have a motivation problem? So, motivate yourself!" There are also some who are just operating outside a familiar culture and, by having positive experiences from their own cultures, or from books that were written in other cultures, they KNOW that their style MUST work. You can imagine what they do to the motivation of their people.

"People Should work for money!", hence by increasing their salaries, they should be more motivated and work more". Working JUST for money is already achieved in some companies, and, while this is very convenient for the manager, the company is not capitalizing on big amounts of energy, not to mention that it makes itself vulnerable to the other companies on the market that are inclusive. There are cultures in which getting people to be loyal requires a huge investment, but there are cultures in which being loyal to your leader comes naturally and, after a certain level, the benefits (if fair) are not the decisive factor in keeping the talent with you. Trying to Motivate people with salary-increases is the "lazy" leader's way. Sure, it is nice for the people, but it is unnecessary and redundant when the real Motivating factors are missing.

"Anyway, the situation is so hard in the country that you should be thankful that you have a stable job". Yes. However, "Being thankful" lasts for the first month only. After that, Motivation has to replace it, in order to fuel the energy of the people. This, coupled with the statement that "Life is hard" are the best examples of how leaders from restrained cultures de-energize their people and bring them to the level at which nothing is worth doing at work. Then, people get fired and replaced all the time.

Attrition is going up, and the next miss-belief is born naturally as: "All the people from this nation are lazy".

The "Apprentice" style or the "Steve Jobs wannabes" works very well in some cultures where the name of the company alone ensures a constant pool of talents at the company gates. However, there are cultures in which people do not care about the prestige of the company. In that case, managers might end up alienating some of their best talents, just because employees could not fake a style that managers could recognize (as assertive, as cooperative, etc). The first companies to understand local culture and adjust their Organizational Cultures to take advantage of it, usually collect all the talents from the market.

"Pseudo- coaching" is terrible for the person who must report directly to the next person up the hierarchical ladder. These persons have to endure a weekly or monthly 1: 1 discussion with their managers that try to convince employees that their values are wrong, and that, in order to succeed in life, employees should behave more like the managers do, etc. These coaching sessions, despite usually starting with a calibration attempt from the employees' direction, are transformed into a "Yes, Sir/Madam" discussion, just to avoid conflicts with the boss, conflicts that will inevitably influence the salary increase at the end of the year.

The "not taking of the monkeys" approach is a good practice in equalitarian societies where negotiation is a tool accessible to everybody. However, in hierarchical societies, if this is done unwisely, it may end up with the leader "talking to the walls".

The most dangerous of them all is "Treat your people like you would like to be treated". This is dangerous because this is a very Powerful Motivator in the leader's culture or in similar cultures, but it can be a real de-motivator in cultures with different values. This is so, because everything is done with the best intentions and with an extra dose of energy, which sometimes triggers a negative cycle. Leaders feel frustrated that their best intentions are not appreciated, while subordinates only alienate them more.

Without a proper understanding of Cultural Differences, anyone can become a Motivation Butcher. If we refer to Hofstede's 6D model for Cultural Differences, a good leader can identify which technique is suitable for which culture. Most of the managerial techniques and motivational recommendations come from masculine cultures and they work very well there. However, if leaders looks at Romania, a country that scores in the middle on this Cultural Dimension, slightly on the feminine side, leaders can easily remove at least the "Apprentice" style from his toolbox, and realize that "only the Money" is not enough. Romania is still a collectivistic culture, so by trying to make people compete individually against each other, an unexperienced leader will lose a good part of the energy he could gain from having his people work in a harmonious environment. Understanding the Cultural Differences enables leaders to invest their energy in the right places, and avoid wasting it on a fight against the windmills, by trying to transform the local Culture into a "known Culture".




  • Accenture
  • BT Code Crafters
  • Accesa
  • Bosch
  • Betfair
  • MHP
  • BoatyardX
  • .msg systems
  • Yardi
  • P3 group
  • Ing Hubs
  • Colors in projects


George Lupașcu-Pruna wrote also