Psychological Contract or Covenant: The Coaching Challenges

William Bergquist July 1, 2016 1
Psychological Contract or Covenant: The Coaching Challenges

Hygiene and Motivating Factors

Building on the need hierarchy of Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzbergv suggested many years ago that workers in the modern era tend to look first toward basic hygiene factors when judging the satisfaction of their job: job security, benefits, working conditions (comfort, safety), and clarity of job responsibilities. Once these factors are in place, the worker will look toward what Herzberg calls motivating factors, such as prospects for advancement, interpersonal relationships and the meaningfulness of the work. Salary can be either a hygiene factor (minimum amount of money to meet basic needs) or a motivating factor (sufficient money to buy things that I enjoy and the linkage of salary to personal accomplishments).

This two-factor theory relates directly to the shift that occurred in worker values between the modern and postmodern eras. In essence, the modern era was one in which Herzberg’s hygiene factors were prevalent. A modern worker is motivated by the receipt of money (or food or shelter) on a regular basis, and by adequate working conditions. Trade unions were originally established at the start of the modern era to secure these hygiene needs, given that employers were no longer beholding to the paternalistic concerns that dominated their relationship with workers during the premodern era. The postmodern era, by contrast, is one in which Herzberg’s motivating factors have become more prevalent—especially as unions (and government regulations) have more successfully ensured that the hygiene factors are in place.

The modern day psychological contract is built on the assumption that work is performing primarily to meet needs that are external to the work itself. We are paid in money or various forms of psychological capital (e.g. self-esteem) for work that is not inherently worthwhile. We redesign the work environment in order to motivate the worker and bring the worker more fully into the decision-making processes regarding work, without considering whether or not there is an implicit motivating force in the job itself.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speaks of the autotelic (self-rewarding and self-directing) properties of many jobs and notes that physicians, accountants, rock musicians, and teachers often find their work to be inherently gratifying and need no outside motivator to keep them involved, happily, in what they now do. Such factors are central elements in Herzberg’s motivating factor. The notion of psychological contract may seem quite foreign to these autotelically driven men and women who want only to be left alone to do their work, or want nothing more from the organization than the resources that are needed to perform their work.

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1 Comment on "Psychological Contract or Covenant: The Coaching Challenges"

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Rey Carr
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It would seem that the more articulated, visible, and transparent the covenant can become, the greater the satisfaction the parties to the agreement will experience? I hesitate to say it, but is it a coach’s job to make the unconscious elements of the covenant more conscious for both the employee and the organization?

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