What Workers Want

Excerpted from David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind, and Michael Irwin Meltzer, "The Enthusiastic Employee - How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want", Wharton School Publishing, University of Pennsylvania, 2005, pp.9-20, Book Website: www.EnthusiasticEmployee.com.

Three Factors

We assert that there are three primary sets of goals of people at work: equity, achievement, and camaraderie. We call this our Three Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace and we maintain that:
  1. These three sets of goals characterize what the overwhelming majority of workers want.
  2. For the overwhelming majority of workers, no other goals are nearly as important as these.
  3. To our knowledge, these goals have not changed over time and they cut across cultures, at least the cultures of the economically developed sectors of societies (the only sectors we studied).
  4. Understanding these sets of goals, and establishing organization policies that are in tune with them, is the key to high workforce morale and firm performance. There is no conflict between the goals of most workers and the needs of their organizations.

Keep in mind that our focus is on the goals of people at work. There is more to life than work, and our theory is not meant to cover all human motivation.


Equity. To be treated justly in relation to the basic conditions of employment.

Certain basic conditions are expected simply by virtue of the employment relationship. They are unrelated to the company or to performance. They are defined by generally accepted ethical and community standards and, while the basic goals do not change over time, a number of the standards that define what is acceptable do change. The basic conditions are as follows:

Achievement. To take pride in one's accomplishments by doing thingsthat matter and doing them well; to receive recognition for one's accomplishments; to take pride in the organization's accomplishments.

A sense of basic equity in the employment relationship serves as the foundation on which high employee morale can be built; the powerful need to feel proud of one's accomplishments and the accomplishments of the organization is then freed to drive behavior toward high performance. Pride comes from both the employees' own perceptions of accomplishment and from the recognition received from others.

Camaraderie. To have warm, interesting, and cooperative relations with others in the workplace.

Human beings are social animals: positive interaction with others is not only gratifying, but essential for mental health. We often neglect the extent to which an organization functions not only as a business entity, but also as a community that satisfies social and emotional needs of its members. 

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