True determination

Over the holiday period I was involved in a battle over the building rights of a house. You may wonder what this battle was about and was the law called in to intervene on my behalf.

Well after placing my wreath on my door as is the Christmas custom I discovered that two sparrows found it to be the ideal place to build their home. So I decided that I will fight to the bitter end to protect my rights, after all it was my door. So when they put in the straw/bramble of some sort, I quickly took them out and this battle went on for two whole days (both Christmas Eve and Christmas day).

By late Christmas evening I thought I had finally won the battle, so I staked my claim, cheered and sat on the porch to chat with some friends and was in the midst of boasting about my victory when one of my friends pointed out with upmost delight that the birds had simply acquired a wreath by the other door. So I had lost the battle but what was amazing was the determination of those two little birds.

Before I perform a more in-depth discussion of determination and the associated theories let me first say that if we as individuals had some of the determination that those two birds had, we would all achieve our highest potential.

Let us look at the family for example, if both parents would collaborate like those two sparrows to ensure that the family unit was safe and secure maybe the divorce rate would be much lower (my apologies to lawyers). One cannot help but wonder if the crime rate would be much lower if parents would combine their determination and focus on building stronger value systems in the home environment rather than focusing on material things.

Now let us look at the school. If the head teacher and staff could collaborate with the sole objective of teaching the nation’s children not only Math and English but how to read, write and reason instead of how to regurgitate and imitate then our nation would be a force “to reckon with”.

Moreover, the entrepreneurial spirit that politicians are pontificating about would be easily achieved since it takes a great deal of determination, analytical ability, risk and creativity to be an entrepreneur.

Furthermore, I noticed that the birds were placing the bigger and firmer leaves at the bottom before placing other softer and finer material on the inner layer of the nest. This activity reminded me of ethical behaviour in the workplace. If only we would choose to perform at our optimum, ensuring that good quality work is completed with the requisite materials then our housing stock would not be at as great a risk should a hurricane decide to use us as target practice.

It also caused me to reflect on how employees short change employers when feelings of dissatisfaction prevail. Very often unethical behaviour influences their attitude and they may not perform at their optimum. Employees should consider that unethical behaviour often comes back to hit us in the face.

What if the pharmacists put in a little more of this or that in the medication when feeling dissatisfied. What about the doctor, what if instead of taking out the gall bladder, he takes out a uterus, or kidney or any such vital organ just because he feels dissatisfied about something.

You see, we have to use the birds as an example of how to maintain ethical standards because although they were faced with adversity they continued to build not only with high standards but also with the determination to succeed. Not once did they let their standards drop because they had encountered harsh conditions.

This whole episode made me reflect on a paper I was reading on self determination theory and how it can be used to motivate employees. So the article this week is based on this theory and how determination can influence behaviour in the workplace.

In a nutshell the self determination theory underpins intrinsic and extrinsic motivation but is tripartite in meaning.

According to Gagne and Deci (2007), the self-determination theory supports the three processes of introjection, identification and integration. Let me explain, normally workplace regulations can control employees’ behaviour and yet may not be accepted by them.

Take, for instance, when an employee feels pressured to behave in a particular manner in order to feel valuable. In other words an employee may perform a certain task that massages their ego or that of the boss however, this is short lived because they may not have fully embraced the concept Gagne & Deci.

With introjection (a psychoanalytic term) the employee will adhere to the values, attitudes and regulations of the organisation so that the presence of the boss is not necessary to complete an assigned task.

You may wonder how this is accomplished well, according to the theory, when an employee has gone through the process of introjection they will perform a task because it makes them feel worthwhile Gagne & Deci.

Secondly, identification as the name suggests speaks to allowing employees to identify with the goals of the organisation. In addition, identification creates autonomy which then allows employees to merge their personal goals with those of the organisation thus providing an enabling environment with a strong value system Gagne & Deci (2007). Finally, integration is where the behaviour of the employees reflects a measure of their true selves. In other words, when employees have fully integrated their own self worth with the values of the organisation they will develop a strong determination to achieve high standards of success Gagne & Deci.

In conclusion, if employers could create an enabling environment where the processes of introjection, identification and the integration of the values and goals of the organisation could be incorporated with those of the employees then perhaps they would work together in greater harmony. Perhaps they could consider the little birds who despite encountering danger while trying to build their home, maintained high ethical standards and the determination to succeed to the end.

Have a happy and self determined New Year – until next time.

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

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