By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team

Sirota's Three-Factor Theory

Keeping Employees Enthusiastic

Sirota's 3-Factor Theory of Motivation

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Enthusiastic team members work hard.

High enthusiasm at work usually means eagerness, and a willingness to work hard.

So have you seen people begin new jobs with lots of enthusiasm, ready to start contributing, but then watched as they've steadily lost that motivation?

Unfortunately, this is common. And it can lead to serious problems for managers, as they struggle to motivate frustrated, indifferent, uncooperative, and unproductive team members. Close supervision, motivational speeches, reward programs, progressive discipline, and department transfers – these are all part of the manager's toolbox. However, these strategies are often not effective.

Dr David Sirota, an organizational researcher and consultant, conducted research into ways of motivating employees. His work was based on surveys from over four million workers around the world – as well as focus groups, interviews, case studies, and informal observations. Most prominently laid out in his 2005 book, The Enthusiastic Employee, he concluded that the way to enthuse workers is to give them what they want.

Sirota's Three-Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace is based on three fundamental principles:

  1. The organization's goals are not in conflict with the workers' goals.
  2. Workers have basic needs that organizations should try to meet.
  3. Staff enthusiasm is a source of competitive advantage.

To understand and appreciate Sirota's theory, it's important to recognize the starting point: that most people start a new job with high levels of motivation and enthusiasm, and that they generally want to enjoy what they do. He argues that this natural state of motivation is then reduced, over time, by bad practices and poor conditions within the company.

The three factors, which together build enthusiasm, are as follows:

  1. Equity/Fairness – People want to be treated fairly at work.
  2. Achievement – People want to do important, useful work, and be recognized for this.
  3. Camaraderie – People want to enjoy good relationships with their co-workers.

Factor One: Equity/Fairness

People are motivated by fair treatment, and they want their company to provide basic conditions that respect their physiological, economic, and psychological needs.

Sirota's surveys included questions about...

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