Motivation, Satisfaction, and Performance

By Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., Curphy, G.J.

Edited by Paul Ducham


One way to get followers to engage in and persist with the behaviors needed to accomplish group goals is to appeal to their needs. Needs refer to internal states of tension or arousal, or uncomfortable states of deficiency people are motivated to change. Hunger would be a good example of a need: people are motivated to eat when they get hungry. Other needs might include the need to live in a safe and secure place, to belong to a group with common interests or social ties, or to do interesting and challenging work. If these needs were not being met, people would choose to engage in and persist with certain behaviors until they were satisfied. According to this motivational approach, leadership practitioners can get followers to engage in and persist with certain behaviors by correctly identifying and appeasing their needs.

   According to Maslow, people are motivated by five basic types of needs. These include the need to survive physiologically, the need for security, the need for affiliation with other people (that is, belongingness), the need for self-esteem, and the need for self-actualization. Maslow’s conceptualization of needs is usually represented by a triangle with the five levels of needs arranged in a hierarchy of needs (see Figure 9.2) . According to Maslow, any person’s behavior can be understood primarily as the effort directed to satisfy a particular level of need in the hierarchy. Which level happens to be motivating a person’s behavior at any time depends on whether lower needs in the hierarchy have been satisfied. According to Maslow, lower-level needs must be satisfied before the nexthigher level becomes salient in motivating behavior.

    Maslow believed higher-level needs like those for self-esteem or selfactualization would not become salient (even when unfulfilled) until lower needs were satisfied. Thus a practical implication of his theory is that leaders can motivate follower behavior only by taking account of a follower’s or team’s position on the needs hierarchy. Applying Maslow’s hierarchy to Julie, it might be inefficient to try to motivate our ski lift operator by appealing to how much pride she could take in a job well done (that is, to her self-esteem) if she was underdressed for weather conditions. If her boss wanted Julie to do more, she should first make sure that Julie’s physiological needs were met, that she worked and lived in a secure place, and that she had ample opportunities to socialize with other employees. Only after these lower needs had been met should the boss try to increase Julie’s self-esteem. Thus if leadership practitioners want to use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to motivate employees to work harder, they need to determine where their followers are on the needs hierarchy and ensure that all lower-order needs are satisfied before appealing to their followers’ self-esteem or self-actualization needs. Leadership practitioners should watch for mismatches between their motivational efforts and followers’ lowest (on the hierarchy) unsatisfied needs.

    How could you determine the needs of flight attendants, and what kind of program would you implement to improve customer service? Although Maslow’s theory provides some useful ideas on how to improve customer service, it has several limitations. For one thing, the theory does not make specific predictions about what an individual will do to satisfy a particular need. For example, if Ling Ling was trying to get her belongingness needs met, she might exert considerable effort to establish new friendships at work, try to make friends outside work, or join several professional or business associations. This lack of specificity and predictive power limits the practical applicability of Maslow’s theory in real-life settings. On the other hand, awareness of the general nature of the various sorts of basic human needs described in this theory seems fundamentally useful to leaders. Leaders will have a difficult time getting followers to maintain various work behaviors by emphasizing good relationships with co-workers or appealing to their sense of pride if the job pays only minimum wage and followers are having a difficult time making ends meet. A person may be reluctant to volunteer for a self-actualizing opportunity in support of a political campaign if such participation may risk that person’s financial security. Perhaps the greatest insight provided by this theory is that leadership practitioners may need to address some basic, fundamental areas before their attempts to get followers and teams to expend more effort on work-related behaviors will be successful.

    Along these lines, it may be interesting to look at how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be applied to workers from 2002 to 2009. One could argue that during the economic growth years many workers were putting in long hours but operating at the esteem and self-actualization levels. However, with the recession of 2008–2010 those who remained employed switched their focus to meeting their security needs. Theseindividuals were working longer hours than ever before, but this was to ensure they had a job versus making a meaningful contribution or being fulfilled. And many of those who were not gainfully employed may have spent much of their time just trying to get food on the table (physiological needs). As the economy recovers, it will be interesting to see if leaders will be able to convince followers that their lower-level needs will be met and get them to shift their focus to self-esteem and self-actualization needs.

figure 9.2


Is it possible that some people are naturally more motivated or have “more fire in the belly” than others? Do some people automatically put forth a higher level of effort toward group goals simply because they are hardwired this way? Unlike Maslow’s theory, which claims all people share some fundamental needs, this approach to motivation is simple. To improve group performance, leaders should select only followers who both possess the right skills and have a higher level of a personality trait called achievement orientation.

   Atkinson has proposed that an individual’s tendency to exert effort toward task accomplishment depends partly on the strength of his or her motivation to achieve success, or as Atkinson called it, achievement orientation . McClelland further developed Atkinson’s ideas and said that individuals with a strong achievement orientation (or in McClelland’s terms, a strong need for achievement ) strive to accomplish socially acceptable endeavors and activities. These individuals also prefer tasks that provide immediate and ample feedback and are moderately difficult (that is, tasks that require a considerable amount of effort but are accomplishable). Additionally, individuals with a strong need to achieve feel satisfied when they successfully solve work problems or accomplish job tasks. Individuals with a relatively low need to achieve generally prefer easier tasks and do not feel satisfied by solving problems or accomplishing assigned tasks. McClelland maintained that differences in achievement orientation are a primary reason why people differ in the levels of effort they exert to accomplish assignments, objectives, or goals. Thus achievement orientation is a bit like “fire in the belly”; people with more achievement orientation are likely to set higher personal and work goals and are more likely to expend the effort needed to accomplish them. People with low levels of achievement motivation tend to set lower personal and work goals and are less likely to accomplish them.

    Achievement orientation is also a component of the five factor model or OCEAN Model of Personality dimension of conscientiousness. Conscientiousness has been found to be positively related to performance across virtually all jobs as well as predict success in school, in the military, in blue-collar and retail workers, and in management positions. All things being equal, people with higher levels of achievement orientation are likely to do better in school, pursue postgraduate degrees, get promoted more quickly, and get paid higher salaries and bonuses than their lower-scoring counterparts.

    Given that individuals with higher achievement orientation scores set high personal goals and put in the time and effort necessary to achieve them, it is hardly surprising that achievement orientation is often a key success factor for people who advance to the highest levels of the organization.For example, achievement orientation appears to be a common success factor underlying the careers of Michelle Bachelet, Mark Roellig, Wu Yi, and Richard Branson (Profiles in Leadership 9.1–9.4). Although achievement orientation is often associated with higher performance, high achievers can get demoralized when facing unclear or impossible tasks. Working with elite Army Ranger units, Britt found that these units almost always performed at high levels and were often successful. But when given unclear missions with few resources and impossible timelines, these same units could self-destruct quickly. In these situations the units felt they were being set up to fail, and fail they did. This phenomenon is clearly depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, where Army Ranger units were sent to Mogadishu, Somalia, to capture a Somalian warlord. The important lesson here is that leaders need to give high achievers clear goals and the resources they need to succeed.

    How could a leader apply this knowledge of achievement orientation to improve the performance of Julie, Ling Ling, and the flight attendants? Perhaps the first step would be to ensure that the hiring process selected individuals with higher levels of achievement orientation. Assuming they had higher scores, we would expect Ling Ling to work with her boss to set aggressive goals for renting apartments and then work as many nights and weekends as were needed to achieve them. We might also expect Ling Ling to obtain her MBA from Hong Kong University over the next few years. Julie could also be expected to set high personal and work goals, but she may find that her job limits her ability to pursue these goals. Unlike Ling Ling, who can control the number of nights and weekends she works, Julie has no control over the number of people who ride on her lift. The job itself may limit Julie’s ability to fulfill her high level of achievement orientation. As a result, she may pursue other activities, such as becoming an expert skier, joining the ski patrol, doing ski racing, looking for additional responsibilities or opportunities for advancement, or finding another job where she has the opportunity to achieve and get rewarded for her efforts. Because Julie would set and work toward high personal goals, a good boss would work closely with Julie to find work-related ways to capitalize on her achievement orientation. Thus achievement orientation may be a dual-edged sword. Leadership practitioners may be able to hire a group of highly motivated followers, but they also need to set clear expectations, provide opportunities for followers to set and achieve work-related goals, and provide feedback on progress toward goals. Otherwise followers may find different ways to fulfill their high levels of achievement orientation.

    Applying the achievement orientation approach to the flight attendant situation or to U.S. workers from 2002 to 2009 leads to some interesting thoughts. Perhaps the airline did not screen for conscientiousness when hiring flight attendants and does not have enough people with high scores to deliver good customer service. Or the company could have hired only people with high conscientiousness scores but not set any measurable goals, repeatedly ignored requests for better equipment, failed to back up staff when they were challenged by “bad” travelers, or not given any recognition for jobs well done. In this case the flight attendants could feel that they have been set up for failure. With respect to people working in the United States from 2002 to 2009, those with the highest levels of achievement orientation were most likely to get promoted during the economic boom and stay with their companies during the recession. However, because many companies went under or eliminated entire work units or functions, some achievementoriented types found themselves out of jobs. Because work is so important to people with high levels of achievement orientation, some of these individuals probably found work elsewhere. Others may be devastated by their job loss and are bitter about being set up for failure.

Michelle Bachelet


Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated as president of Chile in March 2006 and is ranked by Forbes as the 17th most powerful female in the world. Bachelet is a surgeon, pediatrician, and epidemiologist with a master’s degree in military studies from the Chilean Army War Academy and previous experience as the country’s Health and Defense Minister. A moderate socialist who believes in free markets, Bachelet and her government have negotiated a number of bilateral trade agreements with other countries. Her government has also worked to reduce corruption, improve public transportation, resolve border disputes with Peru and Argentina, manage the aftermath of an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, and reduce the gap between rich and poor (Chile has one of the largest wealth gaps in the world).

   Bachelet’s father was a Chilean Air Force Brigadier General, and she moved a lot while growing up. While she was in high school her father got a two-year assignment to the Chilean embassy in Washington, D.C. Her family then moved back to Chile, where she graduated near the top of her high school class and applied to medical school. She had one of the highest scores ever recorded on the medical school entrance examination, but while she was in medical school Augusto Pinochet came to power and began to purge anyone associated with the previous administration. During this time Bachelet’s father was working for the Salvadore Allende government as the head of the Food Distribution Office. He was arrested by Pinochet’s forces and interrogated and tortured. He had a heart attack and died while in prison. Shortly thereafter Michelle Bachelet and her mother were also arrested, interrogated, and tortured, but due to family connections they were granted exile in Australia. Bachelet then moved to East Germany to continue her medical studies. She remained in East Germany for three years before she was allowed to move back to Chile. Upon her return the country’s medical establishment refused to honor the coursework and medical training Bachelet received in East Germany, so she had to repeat many of the courses she had taken earlier. She graduated near the top of her medical school class and then worked as a doctor helping the children of parents who were tortured or missing during the Pinochet administration’s reign.

   A fluent speaker of five languages, Bachelet is the first woman to be democratically elected as a head of state in Latin America who was not married to a previous head of state. Because the Chilean constitution prohibited her from running for two consecutive terms, Bachelet resigned from the presidency in March 2010. Had these constitutional prohibitions not been in place, it was likely that she would have been reelected because she had an 80 percent approval rating when she resigned. What do you think motivates Bachelet? How would you measure her performance and effectiveness?

Richard Branson


Richard Branson is the chairman of Virgin Industries, which owns such companies as Virgin Airlines, Virgin Records, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Fuels, Virgin Media, Virgin Comics, and Virgin Health Care. An entrepreneur since the age of 16, Branson had his first business success publishing Student magazine in 1966. From there he started Virgin Records, which at the time was an audio record mail order business. In 1972 he owned a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, and installed a recording studio. At the time the studio was used by a number of top bands, including Mike Oldfield, the Sex Pistols, and Culture Club.

    In the 1980s Branson ventured into the airline industry with the launch of Virgin Atlantic Airways. He expanded his airline holdings to include Virgin Express, a low-cost European carrier, and Virgin Blue, an Asia-Pacific carrier. In 2004 he partnered with Paul Allen and Burt Rutan to launch Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company. His Virgin Fuels business was launched to find more environmentally friendly fuels for automobiles and airplanes.

    Having a long history of creating successful companies, selling them, and then using the proceeds to fund other business ventures, Branson sold Virgin Records to EMI for approximately $750,000,000 and sold Virgin Mobile for $1,500,000,000. Virgin Industries currently employs 50,000 people in 30 countries and generates $23,000,000,000 in annual revenues. With a personal net worth of over $4,000,000,000, Branson has turned his attention to more humanitarian causes. Working with the likes of Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and Desmond Tutu, Branson is looking to develop peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts. He is an active promoter of using entrepreneurship to solve environmental problems. What motivational approach would best describe Richard Branson?


One of the most familiar and easiest formal systems of motivation to use with followers is goal setting. From the leader’s perspective, this involves setting clear performance targets and then helping followers create systematic plans to achieve them. According to Locke and Latham, goals are the most powerful determinants of task behaviors. Goals direct attention, mobilize effort, help people develop strategies for achievement, and help people continue exerting effort until the goals are reached. This leads, in turn, to even higher goals.

   Locke and Latham reported that nearly 400 studies involving hundreds of tasks across 40,000 individuals, groups, and organizations in eight different countries have provided consistent support for several aspects of goal setting. First, this research showed goals that were both specific and difficult resulted in consistently higher effort and performance when contrasted to “do your best” goals. Second, goal commitment is critical. Merely having goals is not enough. Although follower participation in setting goals is one way to increase commitment, goals set either by leaders unilaterally or through participation with followers can lead to necessary levels of commitment. Commitment to assigned goals was often as high as commitment to goals followers helped to set, provided the leader was perceived to have legitimate authority, expressed confidence in followers, and provided clear standards for performance. Third, followers exerted the greatest effort when goals were accompanied by feedback; followers getting goals or feedback alone generally exerted less effort. (See Highlight 9.5 for a practical application of goal-setting theory.)

    Several other aspects of goal setting are also worth noting. First, goals can be set for any aspect of performance, be it reducing costs, improving the quality of services and products, increasing voter registration, or winning a league championship. Nevertheless, leaders need to ensure that they do not set conflicting goals because followers can exert only so much effort over a given time. Second, determining just how challenging to make goals creates a bit of a dilemma for leaders. Successfully completed goals give followers a sense of job satisfaction, and easy goals are more likely to be completed than difficult goals. However, easily attainable goals result in lower levels of effort (and performance) than do more difficult goals. Research suggests that leaders might motivate followers most effectively by setting moderately difficult goals, recognizing partial goal accomplishment, and making use of a continuous improvement philosophy by making goals incrementally more difficult.

   A leader’s implicit and explicit expectations about goal accomplishment can also affect the performance of followers and teams. Research by Dov Eden and his associates in Israel has provided consistent support for the Pygmalion and Golem effects. The Pygmalion effect occurs when leaders articulate high expectations for followers; in many cases these expectations alone will lead to higher-performing followers and teams. Unfortunately the Golem effect is also true—leaders who have little faith in their followers’ ability to accomplish a goal are rarely disappointed. Thus a leader’s expectations for a follower or team have a good chance of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. These results indicate that leaders wanting to improve individual or team performance should set high but achievable goals and express confidence and support that the followers can get the job done.  

   How could leadership practitioners apply goal setting to Julie and Ling Ling to increase their motivation levels? Given the research findings just described, Julie and Ling Ling’s bosses should work with these two followers to set specific and moderately difficult goals, express confidence that they can achieve their goals, and provide regular feedback on goal progress. Julie and her boss could look at Julie’s past performance or other lift operators’ performance as a baseline, and then set specific and measurable goals for the number of hours worked, the number of people who fall off the lift during a shift, customer satisfaction survey ratings from skiers, the length of lift lines, or the number of complaints from customers. Similarly, Ling Ling and her boss could look at some real estate baseline measures and set goals for the number of apartments rented for the year, the total monetary value of these rentals, the time it takes to close a lease and complete the necessary paperwork, customer complaints, and sales expenses. Note that both Ling Ling and Julie’s bosses would need to take care that they do not set conflicting goals. For example, if Julie had a goal only for the number of people who fell off the lift, she might be likely to run the lift slowly, resulting in long lift lines and numerous customer complaints. In a similar vein, bosses need to ensure that individual goals do not conflict with team or organizational goals. Ling Ling’s boss would need to make sure that Ling Ling’s goals did not interfere with those of the other real estate agents in the firm. If Ling Ling’s goals did not specify territorial limits, she might rent properties in other agents’ territories, which might cause a high level of interoffice conflict. Both bosses should also take care to set measurable goals; that way they could give Julie and Ling Ling the feedback they need to stay on track.

    Goal setting could also help the airline company motivate flight attendants to provide better service to customers. Airline executives may believe customer satisfaction is critically important for keeping planes full, but they may not have set a specific goal for or devised a good way to measure customer satisfaction on individual flights. Customer service may improve only when the airline sets a clear customer satisfaction goal, makes feedback against the goal readily available, and holds flight attendants accountable for improved customer satisfaction results. Likewise, goal setting was also very prevalent for U.S. workers from 2002 to 2009. The first five years of this period saw a steady increase in market share, revenues, new product, profitability, and similar goals set each year, but the economic recession resulted in most if not all corporate goals being scaled back to where they were five years earlier. For example, a company with a $500,000,000 revenue goal in 2003 and steady growth may have had a $700,000,000 revenue goal by 2007. With the recession this revenue goal may have been scaled back to $500,000,000 in 2008. Although many key organizational goals were scaled back during the 2008–2010 recession, most leaders had significantly fewer people to get the goals accomplished. In many cases those who remained found that they needed to get much more work done with many fewer people. Those who were laid off often set goals for finding new jobs and the activities they would engage in to make this happen. Goal setting is a widely used and powerful motivational technique.

The Balanced Scorecard


A practical method for implementing goal setting in organizations involves the creation of balanced scorecards. Kaplan and Norton argue that most of the measures typically used to assess organizational performance are too limited in scope. For example, many organizations set goals and periodically review their financial performance, but these indicators suffer from time lags (it may take a month or longer before the financial results of specific organizational activities are available) and say little about other key organizational performance indicators, such as customer satisfaction, employee turnover, and key internal Operational Performance indicators, such as customer satisfaction, employee turnover, and key internal operational performance. To get around these problems, Kaplan and Norton advocate creating a set of goals and metrics for customers, employees, internal operations, and finance. Customer and employee goals and metrics make up leading indicators because problems with customer satisfaction and employee turnover often result in subpar operational and financial performance.

    Curphy has developed balanced scorecards for rural Minnesota hospitals and school districts. For example, hospitals begin this process with a comprehensive review of their market demographics, customer trends, financial performance, internal operations (pharmacy, surgical use, infection rates, radiology and lab use, and so on), and staffing and facility data. Key community and health care leaders then create a new five-year vision for the hospital and set strategic priorities in the customer, financial, internal operations, and workforce and facilities categories. These priorities are refined further to create clear, measurable goals with readily available metrics to track monthly progress. These balanced scorecard goals are used to drive specific department goals and track hospital performance and have been very effective in helping all hospital employees understand how their efforts contribute to the hospital’s overall performance. In several cases hospital performance has dramatically improved as a result of these balanced scorecard efforts. A partial example of a typical balanced scorecard for one of these rural hospitals is as follows:

Customer: Improve patient satisfaction ratings from 74 to 86 percent by 1 January 2012.

Customer: Increase the number of live births from 12 to 20 per month by 1 January 2012.

• Financial: Reduce average accounts payable from 84 to 53 days by 1 January 2012.

• Financial: Increase operating margins from 2 to 6 percent by 1 January 2012.

• Internal operations: Increase orthopedic surgeries from 4 to 8 per day by 1 March 2012.

• Internal operations: Reduce patient infection rates from 1 to .5 percent by 1 March 2012.

• Workforce: Reduce days needed to hire nurses from 62 to 22 days by 1 March 2012.

• Workforce: Reduce employee turnover rates from 27 to 12 percent by 1 March 2012.

    A monthly balanced scorecard report is included in all employee pay statements and is a key topic of discussion in hospital and department staff meetings. Staff members review goal progress and regularly devise strategies for achieving department and hospital goals. A nice thing about the balanced scorecard is that it helps employees be proactive and gives them permission to win. In too many organizations employees work hard but never see how their results contribute to team or organizational performance. Adopting balanced scorecards is a way to get around these problems.


One popular way to change the direction, intensity, or persistence of behavior is through rewards and punishments. It will help at the outset of this discussion of the operant approach to define several terms. A reward is any consequence that increases the likelihood that a particular behavior will be repeated. For example, if Julie gets a cash award for a suggestion to improve customer service at the ski resort, she will be more likely to forward additional suggestions. Punishment is the administration of an aversive stimulus or the withdrawal of something desirable, each of which decreases the likelihood that a particular behavior will be repeated. Thus if Ling Ling loses her bonus for not getting her paperwork in on time, she will be less likely to do so again in the future. Both rewards and punishments can be administered in a contingent or noncontingent manner. Contingent rewards or punishments are administered as consequences of a particular behavior. Examples might include giving Julie a medal immediately after she wins a skiing race or giving Ling Ling a bonus check for exceeding her sales quota. Noncontingent rewards and punishments are not associated with particular behaviors. Monthly paychecks might be examples if both Julie and Ling Ling receive the same amount of base pay every month whatever their actual effort or output. Finally, behaviors that are not rewarded may eventually be eliminated through the process of extinction.

   When properly implemented, there is ample evidence to show that the operant approach can be an effective way to improve follower motivation and performance. Some of this research has also shown that rewards work better than punishments, particularly if administered in a contingent manner. When comparing the relative impact of different types of rewards, Stajkovic and Luthans reported that incentive pay targeted at specific follower behaviors was the most effective, followed by Social Recognition and Performance Feedback, for improving follower performance in credit card processing centers. Although some may argue otherwise, the research clearly shows that leaders who properly design and implement contingent reward systems do indeed increase follower productivity and performance.

   How can a leader design and implement an operant system for improving followers’ motivation and performance levels? Using operant principles properly to improve followers’ motivation and performance requires several steps. First, leadership practitioners need to clearly specify what behaviors are important. This means that Julie’s and Ling Ling’s leaders will need to specify what they want them to do, how often they should do it, and the level of performance required. Second, leadership practitioners need to determine if those behaviors are currently being punished, rewarded, or ignored. Believe it or not, sometimes followers are actually rewarded for behaviors that leaders are trying to extinguish, and punished for behaviors that leaders want to increase. For example, Julie may get considerable positive attention from peers by talking back to her leader or for violating the ski resort dress code. Similarly, Ling Ling may be overly competitive and get promoted ahead of her peers (such as by renting apartments in her peers’ territories), even when her boss extols the need for cooperation and teamwork. And leaders sometimes just ignore the behaviors they would like to see strengthened. An example here would be if Julie’s boss consistently failed to provide rewards when Julie worked hard to achieve impressive safety and customer service ratings (see Highlight 9.7).

     Third, leadership practitioners need to find out what followers actually find rewarding and punishing. Leaders should not make the mistake of assuming that all followers will find the same things to be rewarding or punishing. One follower’s punishment may be another follower’s reward. For example, Ling Ling may dislike public attention and actually exert less effort after being publicly recognized, yet some of her peers may find public attention rewarding. Fourth, leadership practitioners need to be wary of creating perceptions of inequity when administering individually tailored rewards. A peer may feel that she got the same results as Ling Ling, yet she received a smaller bonus check for the quarter. Leaders can minimize inequities by being clear and consistent with rewards and punishments. Fifth, leadership practitioners should not limit themselves to administering organizationally sanctioned rewards and punishments. Often leaders are limited in the amount of money they can give followers for good performance. However, research has shown that social recognition and performance feedback significantly improved productivity in followers, and these rewards do not cost any money. Using ingenuity, leaders can often come up with an array of potential rewards and punishments that are effective and inexpensive and do not violate organizational norms or policies. Julie might find driving the snow cat to be enjoyable, and her boss could use this reward to maintain or increase Julie’s motivation levels for operating the ski lift. Finally, because the administration of noncontingent consequences has relatively little impact, leadership practitioners should administer rewards and punishments in a contingent manner whenever possible. Highlight 9.7 provides examples of the unintended consequences of implementing an operant approach to boost organizational performance.

    The operant approach can also be used to improve customer service for flight attendants. Using the tenets, the airline would need to specify which customer satisfaction behaviors were important, determine if those behaviors were being reinforced or punished, determine what attendants found to be rewarding, and administered valued rewards whenever attendants demonstrated good customer service behaviors.

    The operant approach to motivation was alive and well in the United States from 2002 to 2009 and continues to be a popular motivational technique in many companies today. Most organizations tout a “pay for performance” culture and pay bonuses or commissions for results obtained. This can most clearly be seen in sales positions, where salespeople are paid a percentage of the total dollars they sell. Needless to say, salespeople experienced a large drop in compensation when customers stopped buying products and services during the 2008–2010 recession, despite exhibiting all the behaviors needed to retain customers or get new business in the door. This example points out a shortcoming of the operant technique, which is that situational factors can overwhelm the effectiveness of a reward program. Sometimes people can get big bonuses or commissions without working hard because they are selling a hot product or the economy is experiencing a boom. Other times they may do all the right things but nobody wants to buy their products because of factors beyond their control (such as selling Hummers when gasoline is $4.00/gallon or selling Toyotas during that company’s safety crisis).

Highlight 9.7


Empowerment is the final approach to motivation that will be discussed in this chapter. In general, people seem to fall into one of two camps with respect to empowerment. Some people believe empowerment is about delegation and accountability; it is a top-down process in which senior leaders articulate a vision and specific goals and hold followers responsible for achieving them. Others believe empowerment is more of a bottomup approach that focuses on intelligent risk taking, growth, change, trust, and ownership; followers act as entrepreneurs and owners who question rules and make intelligent decisions. Leaders tolerate mistakes and encourage cooperative behavior in this approach to empowerment. Needless to say, these two conceptualizations of empowerment have very different implications for leaders and followers. And it is precisely this conceptual confusion that has caused empowerment programs to fail in many organizations. Because of the conceptual confusion surrounding empowerment, companies such as Motorola will not use this term to describe programs that push decision making to lower organizational levels. These companies would rather coin their own terms to describe these programs, thus avoiding the confusion surrounding empowerment.

   We define empowerment as having two key components. For leaders to truly empower employees, they must delegate leadership and decision making down to the lowest level possible. Employees are often the closest to the problem and have the most information, and as such can often make the best decisions. A classic example was the UPS employee who last-minute Christmas rush. This decision was clearly beyond the employee’s level of authority, but UPS praised his initiative for seeing the problem and making the right decision. The second component of empowerment, and the one most often overlooked, is equipping followers with the resources, knowledge, and skills necessary to make good decisions. Often companies adopt an empowerment program and push decision making down to the employee level, but employees have no experience in creating business plans, submitting budgets, dealing with other departments within the company, or directly dealing with customers or vendors. Not surprisingly, ill-equipped employees can make poor, uninformed decisions, and managers in turn are likely to believe that empowerment was not all it was cracked up to be. The same happens with downsizing as employees are asked to take on additional responsibilities but are given little training or support. Such “forced” empowerment may lead to some short-term stock gains but tends to be disastrous in the long run. Thus empowerment has both delegation and developmental components; delegation without development is often perceived as abandonment, and development without delegation can often be perceived as micromanagement. Leaders wishing to empower followers must determine what followers are capable of doing, enhance and broaden these capabilities, and give followers commensurate increases in authority and accountability.

   The psychological components of empowerment can be examined at both macro and micro levels. Three macro psychological components underlie empowerment: motivation, learning, and stress. As a concept, empowerment has been around since at least the 1920s, and the vast majority of companies that have implemented empowerment programs have done so to increase employee motivation and, in turn, productivity. As a motivational technique empowerment has a mixed record; often empowered workers are more productive than unempowered workers, but at times this may not be the case. When empowerment does not increase productivity, senior leaders may tend to see empowerment through rose-colored glasses. They hear about the benefits an empowerment program is having in another company but do not consider the time, effort, and changes needed to create a truly empowered workforce. Relatedly, many empowerment programs are poorly implemented—the program is announced with great fanfare, but little real guidance, training, or support is provided, and managers are quick to pull the plug on the program as soon as followers start making poor decisions. Adopting an effective empowerment program takes training, trust, and time; but companies most likely to implement an empowerment program (as a panacea for their poor financial situation) often lack these three attributes. In addition, worker productivity and job dissatisfaction in the United States are at an all-time high. Many companies are dealing with high levels of employee burnout, and adding responsibilities to overfilled plates is likely to be counterproductive. As reported by Xie and Johns, some empowerment programs create positions that are just too big for a person to handle effectively, and job burnout is usually the result. 

Although the motivational benefits of empowerment are sometimes not realized, the learning and stress reduction benefits of empowerment are more clear-cut. Given that properly designed and implemented empowerment programs include a strong developmental component, a key benefit to these programs is that they help employees learn more about their jobs, company, and industry. These knowledge and skill gains increase the intellectual capital of the company and can be a competitive advantage in moving ahead. In addition to the learning benefits, welldesigned empowerment programs can help reduce burnout. People can tolerate high levels of stress when they have a high level of control. Given that many employees are putting in longer hours than ever before and work demands are at an all-time high, empowerment can help followers gain some control over their lives and better cope with stress. Although an empowered worker may have the same high work demands as an unempowered worker, the empowered worker will have more choices in how and when to accomplish these demands and as such will suffer from less stress. And because stress is a key component of dysfunctional turnover, giving workers more control over their work demands can reduce turnover and in turn improve the company’s bottom line.

   There are also four micro components of empowerment. These components can be used to determine whether employees are empowered or unempowered, and include self-determination, meaning, competence, and influence. Empowered employees have a sense of self-determination; they can make choices about what they do, how they do it, and when they need to get it done. Empowered employees also have a strong sense of meaning; they believe what they do is important to them and to the company’s success. Empowered employees have a high level of competence: they know what they are doing and are confident they can get the job done. Finally, empowered employees have an impact on others and believe that they can influence their teams or work units and that co-workers and leaders will listen to their ideas. In summary, empowered employees have latitude to make decisions, are comfortable making these decisions, believe what they do is important, and are seen as influential members of their team. Unempowered employees may have little latitude to make decisions, may feel ill equipped and may not want to make decisions, and may have little impact on their work unit, even if they have good ideas. Most employees probably fall somewhere between the two extremes of the empowerment continuum, depicted in Figure 9.3.

   Empowerment and the operant approach make an important point that is often overlooked by other theories of motivation: by changing the situation, leaders can enhance followers’ motivation, performance, and satisfaction. Unfortunately many leaders naively assume it is easier to change an individual than it is to change the situation, but this is often not the case. The situation is not always fixed, and followers are not the only variable in the performance equation. Leaders can often see positive changes in followers’ motivation levels by restructuring work processes and procedures, which in turn can increase their latitude to make decisions and add more meaning to work. Tying these changes to a well-designed and wellimplemented reward system can further increase motivation. However, leaders are likely to encounter some resistance whenever they change the processes, procedures, and rewards for work, even if these changes are for the better. Doing things the old way is relatively easy—followers know the expectations for performance and usually have developed the skills needed to achieve results. Followers often find that doing things a new way can be frustrating because expectations may be unclear and they may not have the requisite skills. Leaders can help followers work through this initial resistance to new processes and procedures by showing support, providing training and coaching on new skills, and capitalizing on opportunities to reward progress. If the processes, procedures, and rewards are properly designed and administered, then in many cases followers will successfully work through their resistance and, over time, wonder how they ever got work done using the old systems. The successful transition to new work processes and procedures will rest squarely on the shoulders of leaders. How could you use empowerment to improve the performance of Julie or Ling-Ling or the customer service levels of flight attendants? What information would you need to gather, how would you implement the program, and what would be the potential pitfalls of your program? And what do you think happened to empowerment as companies went through the economic recession of 2008–2010?

figure 9.3


Some people believe it is virtually impossible to motivate anyone, and leaders can do little to influence people’s decisions regarding the direction, intensity, and persistence of their behavior. Clearly there is a lot followers bring to the motivational equation, but we feel that a leader’s actions can and do affect followers’ motivation levels. If leaders did not affect followers’ motivation levels, it would not matter whom one worked for—any results obtained would be solely due to followers’ efforts. We hope that after reading this chapter you will have a better understanding of how follower characteristics (needs and achievement orientation), leader actions (goal setting), and situational factors (contingent rewards and empowerment) affect how you and your followers are motivated (and demotivated). Moreover, you should be able to start recognizing situations where some theories provide better insights about problems in motivation levels than others. For example, we can see that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides better explanations for the behavior of the survivors than empowerment or the operant approach. On the other hand, if we think about the reasons we might not be doing well in a particular class, we may see that we have not set specific goals for our grades or that the rewards for doing well are not clear. Or if we are working in a bureaucratic organization, we may see few consequences for either substandard or superior performance; thus there is little reason to exert extra effort. Perhaps the best strategy for leaders is to be flexible in the types of interventions they consider to affect follower motivation. That will require, of course, familiarity with the strengths and weaknesses of the different theories and approaches presented here.

    Similarly, we need to consider how the five motivational approaches can be used with both individuals and teams. Much of this section focused on applying the five approaches to individuals, but the techniques can also be used to motivate teams of followers. For example, leaders can set team goals and provide team rewards for achieving them. Leaders can also hire team members who have high levels of achievement orientation and then provide everyone on the team with the decision-making latitude and skills needed to adequately perform their jobs. Leaders can also assess where their teams are currently at on the hierarchy of needs and take actions to ensure that lower-order needs are satisfied. Again, having a good understanding of the five motivational approaches will help leaders determine which ones will be most effective in getting teams to change behavior and exert extra energy and effort.

    One of the most important tools for motivating followers has not been fully addressed in this chapter. Charismatic or Transformational Leadership is often associated with extraordinarily high levels of follower motivation, yet none of the theories described can adequately explain how these leaders get their followers to do more than they thought possible. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the theories in this chapter take a rational or logical approach to motivation, yet transformational leadership uses emotion as the fuel to drive followers’ heightened motivational levels. Just as our needs, thoughts, personality traits, and rewards can motivate us to do something different, so can our emotions drive us to engage in and persist with particular activities. A good example here may be political campaigns. Do people volunteer to work for these campaigns because of some underlying need or personal goals, or because they feel they will be rewarded by helping out? Although these are potential reasons for some followers, the emotions generated by political campaigns, particularly where the two leading candidates represent different value systems, often seem to provide a better explanation for the large amount of time and effort people contribute. Leadership practitioners should not overlook the interplay between emotions and motivation, and the better able they are to address and capitalize on emotions when introducing change, the more successful they are likely to be.

    A final point concerns the relationship between motivation and performance. Many leadership practitioners equate the two, they are not the same concepts. Getting followers to put in more time, energy, and effort on certain behaviors will not help the team to be more successful if they are the wrong behaviors to begin with. Similarly, followers may not know how and when to exhibit behaviors associated with performance. Leadership practitioners must clearly identify the behaviors related to performance, coach and train their followers in how and when to exhibit these behaviors, and then use one or more of the theories described in this chapter to get followers to exhibit and persist with the behaviors associated with higher performance levels.


There are different ways to look at a person’s attitudes about work, but researchers usually collect these data using some type of job satisfaction survey. Such surveys typically include items such as those found in Table 9.2 and are usually sent to a representative sample of employees in the organization. Their responses are collected and tabulated, and the results are disseminated throughout the organization. Table 9.3 presents examples of three different types of items typically found on a job satisfaction survey. Item 1 is a global satisfaction item, which assesses the overall degree to which employees are satisfied with their organization and their job. Items 2 through 7 are facet satisfaction items, which assess the degree to which employees are satisfied with different aspects of work, such as pay, benefits, Promotion Policies, working hours and conditions, and the like. People may be relatively satisfied overall but still dissatisfied with certain aspects of work. For example, a study of junior officers in the U.S. Army revealed that overall satisfaction among them has been in decline and is beginning to hurt reenlistment rates. A higher percentage of junior officers are choosing to leave the army than ever before; the two primary reasons for this high level of dysfunctional turnover seem to be dissatisfaction with immediate supervisors and top leadership. Many junior officers reported that they were tired of working for career-obsessed supervisors who had a strong tendency to micromanage and would just as soon throw them under a bus if it would advance their career. And given the multiple tours and tour extensions supporting the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, employee dissatisfaction among National Guard and reserve units is probably high, which has driven up turnover and made Recruitment more difficult. For example, retention bonuses for the U.S. military went from $80 million to $660 million between 2002 and 2008. This decline in global satisfaction is not limited to the U.S. Army: the same phenomenon is happening in many companies today. Much of this decline can be attributed to higher follower expectations, greater follower access to information through technology, economic downturns, organizational downsizings, and incompetent bosses. 

    Leadership practitioners should be aware of several other important findings regarding global and facet satisfaction. The first finding is that people generally tend to be happy with their vocation or occupation. They may not like the pay, benefits, or their boss, but they seem to be satisfied with what they do for a living. The second finding pertains to the hierarchy effect: in general, people with longer tenure or in higher positions tend to have higher global and facet satisfaction ratings than those newer to or lower in the organization. Because people higher in the organization are happier at work, they may not understand or appreciate why people at lower levels are less satisfied. From below, leaders at the top can appear naive and out of touch. From above, the complaints about morale, pay, or resources are often perceived as whining. One of this book’s authors once worked with a utilities company that had downsized and was suffering from all the ill effects associated with high levels of dysfunctional turnover. Unfortunately the executive vice president responsible for attracting and retaining talent and making the company “an employer of choice” stated that he had no idea why employees were complaining and that things would be a lot better if they just quit whining. Because the executive did not understand or appreciate the sources of employee complaints, the programs to improve employee morale completely missed the mark, and the high levels of dysfunctional turnover continued. The hierarchy effect also implies that it will take a considerable amount of top leaders’ focus and energy to increase the satisfaction levels of nonmanagement employees—lip service alone is never enough. See Highlight 9.12 for an example of a well-intended but poorly considered attempt at improving employee morale. Compensation is another facet of job satisfaction that can have important implications for leadership practitioners. As you might expect, the hierarchy effect can be seen in pay: a survey of 3 million employees reported that 71 percent of senior management, 58 percent of middle management, and only 46 percent of nonmanagers rate their pay as “very good.” Of nonmanagers, 33 percent rate their pay as “so-so” and 20 percent rate their pay as “very poor.” Given the wage gap between males and females, a disproportionate number of females can probably be found in these less satisfied groups. Many of these females may be the highest performers in their positions; therefore, this wage discrepancy, in combination with relatively small annual pay increases over the past few years, may contribute to disproportionately high levels of dysfunctional turnover among females.

   People who are happier with their jobs also tend to have higher life satisfaction ratings. Life satisfaction concerns one’s attitudes about life in question. Because leaders are often some of the most influential people in their followers’ lives, they should never underestimate the impact they have on their followers’ overall well-being.

   Job satisfaction surveys are used extensively in both public and private institutions. Organizations using these instruments typically administer them every one or two years to assess workers’ attitudes about different aspects of work, changes in policies or work procedures, or other initiatives. Such survey results are most useful when they can be compared with those from some reference group. The organization’s past results can be used as one kind of reference group—are people’s ratings of pay, promotion, or overall satisfaction rising or falling over time? Job satisfaction ratings from similar organizations can be another reference group— are satisfaction ratings of leadership and working conditions higher or lower than those in similar organizations?

    Figure 9.4 shows the facet and global satisfaction results for approximately 80 employees working at a medium-sized airport in the western United States. Employees completing the survey included the director of aviation and his supervisory staff ( n = 11), the operations department ( n = 6), the airfield maintenance department ( n = 15), the communications department ( n = 6), the airport facilities staff ( n = 12), the administration department ( n = 10), and the custodial staff ( n = 20). The airport is owned by the city and has seen tremendous growth since the opening of its new terminal; in fact, less than two years later aircraft loads exceeded the capacity of the new terminal. Unfortunately staffing had remained the same since the opening, and the resulting workload and stress were thought to be adversely affecting morale and job satisfaction. Because of these concerns, the director of aviation decided to use a job satisfaction survey to pinpoint problem areas and develop action plans to resolve them.

   Scores above 50 on Figure 9.4 are areas of satisfaction; scores below 50 are areas of dissatisfaction when compared to national norms. Here we see that airport employees are very satisfied with their benefits, are fairly satisfied with the work itself, but are dissatisfied with top leadership, ethics, supervision, feedback, promotion opportunities, and the like. All airport employees got to review these results, and each department discussed the factors underlying the survey results and developed and implemented action plans to address problem areas. Top leadership, in this case the director of aviation, was seen as the biggest source of dissatisfaction by all departments. The director was a genuinely nice person and meant well, but he never articulated his vision for the airport, never explained how employees’ actions were related to this mission, failed to set goals for each department, did not provide feedback, never clarified roles or areas of responsibilities for his staff, delegated action items to whomever he happened to see in the hall, often changed his mind about key decisions, and failed to keep his staff informed of airline tenant or city council decisions. When confronted with this information, the director placed the blame on the rapid growth of the airport and the lack of staffing support from the city. The city manager then gave the director six months to substantially improve employee satisfaction levels. The director did not take the problem seriously; so, not surprisingly, the survey results six months later were no different for top leadership. The director was subsequently removed from his position because of his failure to improve the morale at the airport.

    It is rarely enough to merely administer surveys. Leaders must also be willing to take action on the basis of survey results or risk losing credibility and actually increasing job dissatisfaction. Upon receiving the results of these surveys, leaders with bad results may feel tempted to not share any results with their followers, but this is almost always a mistake. Although the results may not be flattering, the rumors are likely to be much worse than the results themselves. Also, followers will be less willing to fill out subsequent satisfaction surveys if they see denial of the results and little change to the workplace. Furthermore, leaders feeling defensive about such results and tempted to hide them should remember that the bad results may surprise no one but themselves; therefore, what’s to hide? On a practical level, leaders should never assess employees’ attitudes about work unless they are willing to share the results and take action.

The Hierarchy Effect and Stupid Corporate Tricks


The hierarchy effect can make people at the top oblivious to the frustrations and feelings of those at the bottom of organizations. One example of where the hierarchy effect is alive and well is the airline industry. The major airlines in the United States suffered tremendously after 9/11/2001. Many major carriers, such as United, Delta, and US Airways, had to declare bankruptcy as a result of reduced passenger loads and higher fuel prices. These carriers had to make massive personnel cuts and renegotiate contracts with the pilot, flight attendant, ground crew, and mechanics unions to regain financial solvency. Many union employee pensions were tied to airline stock and disappeared when their airline declared bankruptcy. In addition to their pension loss, employees were asked to put in 20 percent more hours while taking 20–30 percent pay cuts. Relationships between labor and management had always been problematic in the airline industry, but employee morale sank to new lows when these changes were implemented.

But executives were not blind to the plight of their employees. One major airline went so far as to create a booklet full of tips on how to help employees cope with reduced pay. This booklet was sent to 30,000 employees and contained such helpful ideas as these:

• Shop for jewelry at pawn shops.

• Take dates for a free walk in the woods.

• Do not be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.

With sensitivity like this, can anyone wonder why this airline’s customer service, lost baggage, and on-time arrival and departure statistics are poor? This airline is only now recognizing that employees are critical to its long-term success, but its efforts to engage employees have been limited to cheerleading events like those identified in Highlight 9.2. Rather than boosting morale, these mandatory activities have made employees even angrier. It is hard to get fired up to serve customers when top management’s actions (loss of pension, increased workloads, and pay cuts) speak louder than the “concern for employee” messages coming out of these motivational events.

Table 9.2

Table 9.3

Figure 9.4


As shown in Table 9.4, all five of the theories of motivation provide insight into followers’ levels of job satisfaction too. For example, it would be difficult for Julie to be satisfied with her job if she was consistently underdressed for weather conditions or for Ling Ling to be satisfied if her goals were unclear, she was not given feedback, or she failed to be rewarded for good performance. Nonetheless, several other theories offer even better explanations for job satisfaction, including affectivity, Herzberg’s two-factor theory, and organizational justice.

table 9.4


Affectivity refers to one’s tendency to react to stimuli in a consistent emotional manner. People with a disposition for negative affectivity consistently react to changes, events, or situations in a negative manner. They tend to be unhappy with themselves and their lives, and are more likely to focus on the downside or disadvantages of a situation. People with a disposition for positive affectivity consistently react to changes, events, or situations in a positive manner. They are happy with their lives and tend to take an upbeat, optimistic approach when faced with new situations. People with a positive affective disposition tend to see a cup as half full; people with a negative affective disposition are more likely to describe a glass as half empty. These two groups of individuals are thought to attend to, process, and recall information differently, and these differences affect both job satisfaction and satisfaction with life itself. Researchers have found that negative affectivity is related to job dissatisfaction, and positive affectivity to job satisfaction. Of course such results are not surprising—we all know individuals who never seem happy whatever their circumstances, and others who seem to maintain a positive outlook even in the most adverse circumstances.

These findings suggest that leadership initiatives may have little impact on a person’s job satisfaction if her affective disposition is either extremely positive or negative. For example, if Ling Ling has a negative affective disposition, she may remain dissatisfied with her pay, working conditions, and so forth no matter what her leader does. This is consistent with the findings of a study of identical twins reared apart and together, which discovered that affectivity has a strong genetic component. Given that leaders can do little to change followers’ genetic makeup, these findings highlight the importance of using good selection procedures when hiring employees. Trying to increase followers’ job satisfaction is a reasonable goal, but some followers may be hard to please.

    From a leader’s perspective, affectivity can have several implications in the workplace. First, a leader’s own affectivity can strongly influence followers’ morale or satisfaction levels. Say you worked for a leader with negative affectivity. Chances are he or she would always find fault in your work and constantly complain about organizational policies, resources, and so on. The opposite might be true if you worked for someone with positive affectivity. Second, leading a high percentage of followers having either positive or negative affectivity would likely result in very different leadership experiences. The positive group may be much more tolerant and willing to put up with organizational changes; the negative group would likely find fault in any change the leader made. Increasing job satisfaction through affectivity means hiring those with positive affectivity. However, few, if any, selection systems address this important workplace variable. Because negative affectivity may not be assessed or even apparent until a follower has been on the job for a while, perhaps the best advice for leadership practitioners is that some followers may have a permanent chip on their shoulders, and there may be little you can do to change it.


Herzberg developed the two-factor theory from a series of interviews he conducted with accountants and engineers. Specifically, he asked what satisfied them about their work and found that their answers usually could be sorted into five consistent categories. Furthermore, rather than assuming that what dissatisfied people was always just the opposite of what satisfied them, he also specifically asked what dissatisfied people about their jobs. Surprisingly, the list of satisfiers and dissatisfiers represented entirely different aspects of work.

    Herzberg labeled the factors that led to satisfaction at work motivators, and he labeled the factors that led to dissatisfaction at work hygiene factors. The most common motivators and hygiene factors are listed in Table 9.5. According to the two-factor theory, efforts directed toward improving hygiene factors will not increase followers’ motivation or satisfaction. No matter how much leaders improve working conditions, pay, or sick leave policies, for example, followers will not exert additional effort or persist longer at a task. For example, followers will probably be no more satisfied to do a dull and boring job if they are merely given pleasant office furniture. On the other hand, followers may be asked to work in conditions so poor as to create dissatisfaction, which can distract them from constructive work.

Given limited resources on the leader’s part, the key to increasing followers’ satisfaction levels according to this two-factor theory is to just adequately satisfy the hygiene factors while maximizing the motivators for a particular job. It is important for working conditions to be adequate, but it is even more important (for enhancing motivation and satisfaction) to provide plenty of recognition, responsibility, and possibilities for advancement (see Figure 9.5). Although giving followers meaningful work and then recognizing them for their achievement seem straightforward enough, these techniques are underutilized by leaders. In other words, Herzberg argues that leaders would be better off restructuring work to make it more meaningful and significant than giving out shirts with company logos or decreasing medical copays.

    The two-factor theory offers leaders ideas about how to bolster followers’ satisfaction, but it has received little empirical support beyond Herzberg’s own results. Perhaps it is not an accurate explanation for job satisfaction despite its apparent grounding in data. We present it here partly because it has become such a well-known approach to work motivation and job satisfaction that this chapter would appear incomplete if we ignored it. One problem with two-factor theory, however, seems to lie in the original data on which it was based. Herzberg developed his theory after interviewing only accountants and engineers—two groups who are hardly representative of workers in other lines of work or activity. Furthermore, his subjects typically attributed job satisfaction to their skill or effort, yet blamed their dissatisfaction on circumstances beyond their control. This sounds suspiciously like the fundamental attribution error. Despite such limitations, the two-factor theory has provided useful insight into what followers find satisfying and dissatisfying about work.

Table 9.5


Organizational justice is a cognitive approach based on the premise that people who are treated unfairly are less productive, satisfied, and committed to their organizations. Moreover, these individuals are also likely to initiate collective action and engage in various counterproductive work behaviors. According to Trevino, organizational justice is made up of three related components. Interactional justice reflects the degree to which people are given information about different reward procedures and are treated with dignity and respect. Distributive justice concerns followers’ perceptions of whether the level of reward or punishment is commensurate with an individual’s performance or infraction. Dissatisfaction occurs when followers believe someone has received too little or too much reward or punishment. Perceptions of procedural justice involve the process by which rewards or punishments are administered. If someone is to be punished, followers will be more satisfied if the person being punished has been given adequate warnings and has had the opportunity to explain his or her actions, and if the punishment has been administered in a timely and consistent manner. Research has shown that these different components of organizational justice are related to satisfaction with the leader, pay, promotion, the job itself, organizational citizenship behaviors, and counterproductive work behaviors (in instances where perceived injustice was taking place).

   So what should leaders do to improve follower satisfaction and reduce turnover using organizational justice theory? The underlying principle for organizational justice is fairness; going back to our earlier characters, do Ling Ling or Julie feel that the process in which rewards or punishments are administered is fair? Are the potential rewards commensurate with performance? Do Julie and Ling Ling believe the reward system is unbiased? What would the flight attendants say about whether they were treated with dignity and respect, whether rewards were commensurate with performance, or whether rewards were administered fairly? How about the survivors and those who were laid off during the economic recession of 2008–2010? Leaders who want to improve job satisfaction using this approach need to ensure that followers answer yes to these three questions; if not, leaders need to change the reward and punishment system if they want to improve job satisfaction using organizational justice theory. Brockner notes that fairness in the workplace makes intuitive sense but is woefully lacking in many organizations. Too many managers play favorites, avoid rather than directly deal with uncomfortable situations, or for legal reasons cannot reveal how certain issues were handled. These instances of perceived unfairness are often the underlying causes of job dissatisfaction in many organizations.