Examinating Cross Cultural Motivation in employees

                Motivation of employees is the essence for high performance in companies, which in turn ensures the competitively of a company, in today’s world where global competition is fierce especially with China’s growth. The poor performance of the European & American countries on the other hand, makes it more difficult for them to compete with China. These are probably the consequences of extremely powerful labor unions that ensure employment protection of employees. Employment protection legislation, which is the set of rules on how to fire or hire an employee (Zientara, 2006), has often been the focus of studies explaining that its effect is high unemployment. However, no studies have been done on the effects of employment protection legislation on the attitudes and behavior of employees.

            On the other hand, Lebanon representing the Middle East is rarely concerned with employment protection and labor unions have very minimal influence in companies.

            So the purpose of my paper is to determine whether employees in a country where employment protection legislation are more motivated than a country with lenient regulations on employment protection. In order to achieve this study, I have conducted some in-depth interviews and prepared a questionnaire for companies of Lebanon & Italy.

            In the end, the results of my study show that in fact employees that are highly protected by employment protection legislation are less motivated than employees where employment protection legislation is more lenient.

Employees are the most important asset a company has, therefore motivating them is the best way to ensure high performance of a company and in turn increase the companies’ competitivity. Yet, Western Europe is facing a period of crisis where productivity is low and competitivity is decreasing. This is why, it is essential to ensure that all employees are motivated, which will ensure an increase in productivity. Indeed, between 1980 and 1995, Europe had an average labor productivity growth of 2.33% and in 1995 to 2001, it fell 1.37% (Evans, 2004). This causes delocalization of many companies to cheaper and more flexible countries or major labor cuts increasing the already heavy unemployment rate which is at 7.8% in Europe, against 4.6% in the US and 4.2 in Japan, according to the European statistical agency. This crisis also affects on employee motivation at work, where work loads increase to avoid employing new workers and therefore, avoiding all the complications of regulations. The actual situation in Europe is the consequence of powerful unions and very strict employment protection legislation. On the other hand, in the Middle East, the labors have very low employment protection legislation and labor unions have very miniature influence. While the Middle East differs from Western Europe regarding labors’ conditions; it also faces problems regarding employees’ behavior. Performance isn’t at its highest rate either and often companies face the problem of employees working a minimum throughout the day. Both regions need to find a way to motivate employees in order to increase productivity. Yet, since companies in Europe accept and adapt to the employment legislation protection, the best way of ensuring productivity and therefore competitivity is by motivating employees to perform at the optimum level.

A Cross-cultural study is necessary in order to understand better the causes and effects of low motivation. Therefore, I chose a region that could be considered quite different from the Western Europe (Italy): The Middle East. Indeed, as depicted by Hofstede’s 5 cultural dimensions, the 2 regions have different values. However, few studies have been done on the rate of motivation and worker’s condition in the Middle East. One study entitled Job Satisfaction and Employee Performance in a Lebanese Banking Staff (Abou Zaki & Crosssman, 2003), analyzed job satisfaction of employees in a Lebanese bank, but it didn’t include an analysis of employee motivation. However, studying whether or not employees in the Middle East are motivated and how to increase their motivation is crucial in order to understand how to increase performance.

According to Nicoleth (2000), Italy, which is the Western European country I will be studying, has been rated as the third strictest country in terms of employment protection legislation. Like other countries in Western Europe, Italy’s problem today is that it is losing its competitivity because laws of employment are too strict and wages are high. Since companies in Europe cannot change laws and cannot decrease wages, their only way of ensuring competitivity is by increasing productivity to a maximum. However, because employees in Western Europe are extensively protected, they perform just enough to guarantee that employer has no legal reason to lay them off. Therefore, productivity isn’t at a level high enough to ensure competitivity. The only solution to encourage employees to be more productive would be to motivate them at work.

On the other hand, Lebanon is the center for the Middle East with an opening to the Mediterranean. Being a modern country with both local and international companies, it is interesting to study this country. Furthermore, even though there are a few employment protection regulations, protection is applied and respected to a minimum level in Lebanon. Within this context, it is normal that employees, especially part timers, aren’t motivated to perform at their best, knowing that they could be fired at any moment.

The actual motivation level of employees in both countries will be studied by using the Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory. This theory will help me first of all to determine if employees at work are satisfied or dissatisfied, from these results I will determine if employees need intrinsic or rather extrinsic motivation. I am expecting to find that Italians aren’t dissatisfied but are not satisfied either. Therefore, they have a neutral attitude toward their jobs, whereas Lebanese employees experience dissatisfaction. According to these expectations, it is probable that Italian, lack intrinsic motivation whereas Lebanese lack both  intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The logic behind these conclusions will be discussed furthermore in my paper.

H1: Italians need to be intrinsically motivated.

H2: Lebanese need to be extrinsically motivated.

The Job Design Theory will help me determine how jobs in each of the 2 countries should be designed in order to motivate employees. In order to do so, I will rank some characteristics that should be present in a job, according to the most motivating to the least motivating. The ranking will be based on the different intensity of motivation felt towards the different job characteristics. The final part of my paper will include recommendations on the best way a job should be designed in Lebanon and Italy, in order to ensure motivation.

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It is important to add that I am considering only these 2 theories because they respond best to the needs of my paper. Indeed, Maslow’s theory is not valid in theory and the ERG theory, is more valid than Maslow’s hierarchy, yet it also focuses on the needs of the employees only. The Goal Setting theory includes the motivational aspect of needs, yet is doesn’t focus on the characteristics of the job. Herzberg’s theory and the Job Design Theory best respond to the needs of this paper because both of these theories focus on characteristics within the job itself that can lead to motivation of employees.

Jumping to the definition of employment protection legislation, according to Zientara (2006), it is the set of rules on how to hire and/or fire rising from both the labor legislation and the collective bargaining agreements. Its aim is to ensure a secure job for employees. Zientara explains that as employment protection legislation is stricter, firing an employee becomes more costly and therefore it damages the labor market performance.

Therefore, the Italian legislation is very detailed in the 3 components of the employment protection legislation as the employer has limited power in withdrawing from the contract. Contrary to the Italian legislation, the Lebanese legislation is very vague and minimal as there are written laws concerning the protection of regular employees against dismissal and against collective dismissal. Yet there are no regulations concerning temporary employment, which already reduces the strictness of employment protection legislation. The only condition for an employer to dismiss an employee in Lebanon, is to give a compensation which is determined according to the nature of the work, the employee’s age, tenure, family and health conditions. When comparing the conditions imposed to employers for individual and collective dismissal and for conditions of temporary workers, it is clear that Italy is much stricter than Lebanon. It is important to add that: “in Italy, appeal to the court is likely to see the judiciary take such a favorable view of the employee’s social or family problems that dismissal is commonly judge to be practically impossible”. (Emerson, 1988, p.787). Whereas, in Lebanon, court costs  a lot and labor unions power and effectiveness are so low that chances for an employee to win a case are little.

The fact that strict employment protection legislation is still extensively applied in Italy, means that it does present several benefits. Society benefits because it avoids the payment of unemployment benefits (Zientara, 2006). In addition, it encourages employees loyalty and dedication toward the organization (Akerloff, 1984). Not to forget, it encourages companies to invest on training and upgrading the productivity  of labors and furthermore, accepts technological changes and internal job mobility (Piore, 1989).

On the other hand, strict employment protection legislation also presents some downfalls, which could explain the ongoing debate about it. First of all, strict employment protection legislation causes high unemployment rate since it discourages employers to easily dismiss employees and leaving the door open to prospective employees (Zientara, 2006). Furthermore, Italy cannot adapt to the changes of economic conditions (Emerson, 1988) which today present flexibility of employees and competitivity in the spotlight. Additionally, the low probability of being dismissed may have an adverse effect on employees whose effort and cooperation with others in the company will reduce (Emerson, 1988). No matter what the reasons of absenteeism are, the problems are that it causes reduction of productivity and that firing is too difficult because of strict employment protection legislation. This is why; the only solution to reduce effects of employment protection legislation on organization’s productivity is by increasing motivation.

The economic climates of the past decades have cause d an increase in de-motivation at work. Indeed, downsizing and the rationalization of policies causes de-motivation (Gee & Burke, 2001). All in all, change, uncertainty, lack of control and high work load are all causes for the increase in stress and therefore, the decrease in motivation. Yet motivation is the key for employees to exert 100% effort, which means performing as well as possible all the time (Gee & Burke, 2001), this explains how motivation is related to performance. According to Robbins (2004), motivation is defined as a psychological process which consists of the person’s intensity in terms of how hard he/she tries, the quality and intensity of the effort which is directed to the benefit of the organization and the persistence of the person in question. Motivation can be of two kinds: it can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is a tangible reward for a given performance (Adonis, 2007). Although it is very powerful at first, extrinsic motivation quickly becomes an expectation and loses its effects. Indeed it motivates in the short run but doesn’t consider the internal needs of the employee (Adonis, 2007). On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is triggered from inside the person by considering the needs of recognition and self-fulfillment of each individual through a sense of achievement, responsibilities, job satisfaction, involvement and empowerment (Adonis, 2007). In fact, intrinsic motivation is long term and aims at improving the morale of employees which in turn will increase the productivity by lowering absenteeism and increasing retention (Adonis, 2007).

The Hygiene-Motivator Theory shows the factors that lead to dissatisfaction in a job and satisfaction. Factors that cause dissatisfaction which are called hygiene factors are extrinsic; these include working conditions, pay, policies…(Robbins, 2004) On the other hand,  factors that are leading to job satisfaction are recognition, responsibilities, task achievement and other factors that are intrinsic. These factors are long term motivators (Gee & Burke, 2001)… Removing dissatisfying factors will not create a satisfactory job, but rather a neutral feeling towards the job. Indeed, factors that create satisfaction at work are different and separate from those causing dissatisfaction (Robbins, 2004). This is why, to cancel dissatisfaction at work, organizations must ensure hygiene factors that follow employee’s needs. To develop satisfaction at work, organizations must design jobs that include intrinsic motivators. The JDT, which I will now explain, provide companies towards the design of jobs, including the motivator factors stated in the motivation- hygiene theory.

The Job Design Theory, developed by Oldham & Hackman, shows 5 core dimensions that either increase or decrease motivation (Robbins, 2004) and they are the following: Skill Variety, Task Variety, Task Significance, Autonomy, and Feedback. According to JDT, motivation of employees through the 5 dimensions can be summarized as follows: “… internal rewards are obtained by individuals when they learn (knowledge of results) that they personally (experience responsibilities) have performed well on a task that they care about (experience meaningfulness).” (Robbins, 2004, p.184) As the presence of these 3 psychological states increase so does motivation, performance and satisfaction. First, to motivate employee through autonomy, the organization must ensure a flexible job in terms of schedule, work sharing, and telecommunicating and it can be promoted through ideas and challenges (Garg & Rastogi, 2005). In addition, to motivate employees, the HR department has the role of making the employees feel as the ” most valued asset of the organization” (Garg & Rabstogi, 2005, p.579). Further adding, to ensure motivation, employees must be recruited according to their knowledge, skills and abilities (Garg & Rastogi, 2005).

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After conducting in-depth interviews, and surveys in both the Lebanese & Italian market, it is time to show the results of my research. According to the results from the survey, Italian employees have a different feeling concerning intrinsic and extrinsic factors of motivation. The Italian rated intrinsic factors of motivation at an average of 4.97 over 7, this means that Italians don’t feel dissatisfied. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation was graded as 3.94 over 7, which means that Italians are not satisfied at work. These numbers support hypothesis which states that Italian employees aren’t dissatisfied at work but are not satisfied either. The results extracted from the Lebanese sample shows a slight difference between extrinsic and intrinsic satisfaction. Extrinsic satisfaction for the Lebanese Is rated as 5.39 which show that Lebanese are not dissatisfied. Furthermore, intrinsic factors were graded at 5.21, which also show that Lebanese are satisfied at work. In other words, employees are not dissatisfied and even satisfied at work. These results contradict hypothesis 2, which expected Lebanese employees to be not satisfied and even dissatisfied at work. In fact, it can be seen clearly, that Lebanese feel much less dissatisfaction than Italians. Yet the major difference stands in the intrinsic level of motivation as there is gap between Lebanese who seem satisfied and Italians who are not.

In terms of Turn-Over, Italians do not consider leaving their jobs, since the average turnover was 3.34 over 7 while Lebanese were graded as 3.52… so the intention of leaving their place at work is at the same level for both Italians and Lebanese, there are no flagrant differences.

The feelings towards the different motivational characteristics of a job were all considered as interesting and motivating. Yet, small differences in averages enable us to determine preferences.




Task Significance



Task Identity









Skill Variety



Task Variety



Knowledge Characteristics



As the table shows, the overall results are similar in Lebanon and Italy, yet two main ranking of characteristics vary. The first differences are in the first most motivating factors. Italians consider Task Significance as being the most motivating and then followed by the Task Identity. On the other hand, the Lebanese have a reversed feeling where Task Identity comes first before Task Significance. The second difference is in Task and Skill Variety.

The  results of the first part of the questionnaire enable me to lead to several conclusions which help me understand how employees in Lebanon and in Italy feel about their jobs. Furthermore, the results from the second part of the questionnaire can be a guide for designing jobs that will increase motivation. Yet, the results were affected by limitation during the research.

The results extracted from the questionnaire seem to lead to the conclusion that in general, Lebanese workers are more satisfied than Italian workers with their jobs. Indeed, whether when analyzing the extrinsic or the intrinsic factors, Lebanese gave a higher average of motivation. Although Italians are not dissatisfied at work, they still remain at the verge of the neutrality since they rated extrinsic factors of motivation at 4.97 against Lebanese who gave a 5.39 average, which leads to a confident extrinsic satisfaction. Under the same tone, results show that Italians aren’t dissatisfied at work in terms of extrinsic motivation but yet again, it is a very minimal average of 3.97 which is very close to neutrality. Therefore, overall it can be concluded that Italians lack intrinsic motivation, which support H1. This further illustrates the fact that regardless of how strict employment protection legislation in a country, it doesn’t ensure motivation of employees. On the other hand, Lebanese do not support H2 because  the results show that they are satisfied both intrinsically and extrinsically. This could mean that on the contrary maybe employees are more motivated when employment protection legislation is more lenient.

Results show that Italians and Lebanese don’t consider quitting their jobs. In fact, the results are very close for both countries. Besides, they are both very close to the neutral point which demonstrates that the intention of remaining in the same company isn’t a 100% there. Besides a very important contradiction is that Italians aren’t satisfied with their jobs but still they don’t consider quitting their job more than Lebanese who are satisfied do.

The results obtained from the second part of the questionnaire, although in general very similar between both countries, show a nuance of cultural differences in needs between Italians and Lebanese. Actually, it seems that Lebanese hold more importance to task identity which comes first before task significance. This means, that Lebanese would feel more motivated if they could put a name to their work. On the other hand, Task significance comes before task identity for the Italians, therefore, Italians are more motivated by the impact their job has on others whether inside or outside the companies. This is why,  it can conclude that Lebanese are more self-centered regarding their jobs, whereas Italians are more centered towards others.

Another difference can be observed concerning task and skill variety. In fact, results show that Italians would be more motivated by developing different skills than undertaking different tasks within their jobs. This means that Italians are more attracted to learning new techniques and methods of work and using them. On the other hand, Lebanese seem to care, more about using different tasks at work than about using different skills. This illustrates that Lebanese are more motivated by doing a number of different activities in order to complete their job. The rest of the characteristics are all ranked at the same level of importance for both countries. It is interesting to see that Italians and Lebanese consider knowledge characteristics as the least motivating. Therefore, they aren’t very concerned about learning and development. A very interesting point in relation to the Motivation Potential Score is that to motivate employees in Italy, the equation must be high in Task Significance more importantly in order to complete meaningfulness of the job. Task identity can also be added in order to enhance this psychological state. Autonomy and feedback must also be considered since they come in 3rd and 4th and they must complete the equation to ensure the motivation of employees. The Motivation Potential score equation for the Lebanese employees should be high in Task identity for meaningfulness of the job. Still under meaningfulness, task significance can be added but not as a priority. Of course, autonomy and feedback must be high in order to ensure motivation.

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The conclusions obtained enable us to understand the different needs of each country in order to motivate employees.

According to the results, Italians seem to lack satisfaction at work. Therefore, managers in Italy should concentrate on intrinsic factors of motivation. In other words, employees must feel a sense of achievement, responsibility and furthermore, employees must feel recognition when they achieve something. Responsibilities can be developed through delegation and even more empowerment of employees who are given the possibility of participating in decision making concerning the company. “Empowerment is more than delegation, it is the opportunity to take responsibility for a particular task and see it through its completion”. (Hopkins, 1995, p.2) Achievements can be developed within the enterprise by listening to innovative ideas of employees and providing the means to put the idea to life when they have a potential of benefiting the enterprise. Another way of encouraging achievement is by supporting employees in completing their work. In order to complete the motivating aspect of achievements and responsibilities, recognition must be addressed. Indeed, recognition is a motivating factor that can be presented in the form of a simple thank you or more formally an award in front of the entire company with reasons for such a gesture (Hopkins, 1995).

Managers in Italy can also use the results of this paper in order to design jobs that will increase motivation and performance of employees. Focusing on the conclusion obtained from the Motivation Potential Score equation of Italians, it can be understood that jobs in Italy should be high in Task Significance as a priority, high in autonomy and feedback. Therefore, a motivating job in Italy should include characteristics that show the significance of the job for others. Adding to this, employees should participate in important actions or events of the organization in order to feel that they count. This can be done through the participation in decision making, proposition of new ideas and state problems in the company. Anything, which shows how important the employee’s input, is for the company is a good way of grading high in Task Significance. Yet, Task Significance also includes impact employees have on the world outside the company. This can be done through the image of the organization within the society such as social responsibilities and good reputation. In other words, employees must realize that their quality of work and performance helps in enhancing the reputation of the company. A program in the name of the company could also be developed where employees can participate in helping the society such as a cleaning the beach day. Another important motivational characteristic that could be present within a job is autonomy which can be developed by increasing freedom of employees in three aspects of the job:

1.      Work Scheduling through flexible schedules and flexible times of break, choice of part time jobs or shared jobs and even telecommunicating jobs when possible.

2.      Work Methodology, through the choice on how best to complete the job. Indeed, employees are those who perform that same job everyday, so they become specialized and very knowledgeable about it and this is why they are well placed to know the best way of conducting the task.

3.      Decision Making, concerning their part of the job. This can be through suggestion boxes or regular meetings where employees can share their concern or problems regarding their jobs and propose a plausible solution.

The 3rd characteristic that should be included in the design of a job that will increase motivation is Feedback. Feedback can very simply be assured within a job. Programs such as annual or monthly evaluation of employee performance are a good way of developing feedback in a company. Yet, just listing a number or a grade to an employee isn’t enough. In addition, managers should explain why weak evaluation’s results were obtained and give advices on how to perform better.

Since the results show that Lebanese are satisfied at work, the only recommendation that can be given is in the Job Design. As mentioned before, autonomy and feedback are important characteristics that should be present in jobs in Lebanon and to respect the Motivation Potential Score equation which therefore increases motivation. Here, Task Identity plays a very important role for motivating the Lebanese. To include Task Identity in their jobs, The Lebanese managers must ensure that employees can complete an entire piece of work with which they can identify with. An example of task identity is a factory of radios where each employee can put his name on the back of the piece they produced. Task Identity is enhanced when employees feel responsible and are given responsibility for their work. It also increases the pride employees have for the work they perform. Of course, motivation can further be enhanced by including task significance characteristics which is graded as second in motivating Lebanese employees.

Due to the limitations that this research can provide (lack of large number of responses in Lebanon, cultural tendency, anonymity, lack of commitment of companies), it would be interesting to re-proceed with this research with a larger sample in Lebanon, which is crucial for the specificity of the results. This same research, comparing to other countries would also be very interesting. Finally, this research focusing on the service sector is another interesting scope.

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