What Motivates Us

A simple but crucial question with, probably, not a straight forward answer. Unless that answer is, to quote Arthur Daley, of “Minder” fame who, when asked if he was said Mr Daley, replied “It depends”. Well, it probably does to a degree, depending on circumstances.


In Jesse Norman’s book, “The Big Society”, in the chapter entitled, “The Danger of Happiness”, he writes of Theory X and Theory Y. According to Mr Norman, Theory X holds that people are natural shirkers who will avoid work wherever possible, are gullible, unambitious, resist change, dislike responsibility and will only work if bribed or coerced towards an organisation’s goals. Theory Y, in contrast, holds that people are naturally inclined to work, enterprising, and keen to use their ingenuity to solve problems. Mr Norman goes on to say that, the problem is that Theory X is self fulfilling and if people are treated as if they conform to this theory, they become demoralised and unproductive. At which point, those in charge assume that this is how people really are, confirming their views even more. It is, in fact, a self defeating view of humanity. Mr Norman then goes on to write that part of The Big Society is to return us to Theory Y. On that basis alone, the concept has signally failed. Interestingly, no one in government mentions the idea anymore and hasn’t done for some time.


I write this just as I am finishing the book, “Hack Attack” about the phone hacking scandal and the Murdoch empire. I would recommend it to anyone who has any ambiguity on the matter. There is none as this excellent book demonstrates. Some of the comments made by those involved make, what little hair I have left, curl as well as my toes. As I said, please read.


So where am I going with this. Well because it seems to me that governments and many organisations, whether or not they subscribe to Theory X or not, run their organisations as if they do. No wonder that we are in the state that we are. Yet, as I keep writing, there is an alternative based on Theory Y.


Now, as you may have gathered, I incline more to Theory Y than Theory X by some margin. I am now 7 years past retirement age and still working. Yes, I have a young daughter to see through university and a mortgage still top pay so may have less choice than others of my age. Yet, since joining the voluntary sector in 1980, I have worked continually, as I saw it, helping others to help themselves not just providing charity. Moreover, I have worked alongside many others who were doing the same, for not very good pay, because that felt that it was worthwhile and fulfilling.  It certainly was both of these. Money has never really been a consideration other than the need to pay my bills. Perhaps another reason that I’m still working. During that whole period, I have never been bored; a situation that continues to this day. The joys of getting paid to do what you enjoy in stark contrast to working life for many today. It has been, often worrying, financially, but worth and I will be describing that life and the alternative view of society as I plan a series of talks over the coming months.


So, if you have a chance to make a change and want to then start doing so. A series of small steps are all that are needed and, I think, you will find that you will see another view of society, if you don’t already.

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