Organizational Motivation and Leadership In Workplace

In an organisational setting, the term organisational behaviour is used to describe the dynamics that exist between individuals and groups in a common workplace in addition to the operational nature of the organizations in question. There are a myriad of factors that come into play whenever people interrelate, intermingle or work together in organisations. This paper explores aspects of power, conflict and leadership in International Business Machine (IBM).

The historical development of IBM can be traced back even before the actual development of computing system was fully on board. It all started as a Tabulating Machine Company. It was incepted by Hollerith Herman towards the close of 19th century (1896) and its line of specialisation was in the development of machines known as the punched card data (IBM, 2010).

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Motivation of employees at IBM

IBM Inc. employees can be motivated through a well defined process of setting goals for the organisation. Studies have revealed that people tend to be motivated to work when there are certain goals to be achieved after a given period of time. This type of motivation is well explained by Locke’s goal setting theory.

At this point, it is undisputed that IBM can attain its short, medium and long term goals once they have been set. Nevertheless, it implies that employees will only be motivated when they are part and parcel of goal setting. Moreover, each group member within wider IBM community should be made to visualize the importance of the goals being set.

In most cases, employees will not inject an additional effort if they have no clear idea on how the set goals are going to beneficial, not just to the organisation, they should also derive quantifiable benefits upon achieving the goals.

The motivational theories are important to handle and bring resolutions to the problems. It is imperative to understand how to apply them in conflict. There are three main motivational theories developed by Maslow, Helzberg and Emmet. Maslow believed that the basic needs of a person are physiological.

When the leadership fails to meet the physiological needs the workers will not work hard (Hoffmann, 2006). If workers are not comfortable at workplace, productivity will be low. The leadership should use this theory to create conducive environment. They have to create good relationship between seniors and juniors. Workers also need security, being rewarded after doing a good job.

Helzberg developed hygienic factors as motivational theory. He documents that if the organization provides a good pay, then workers will be motivated to improve their efficiency and productivity. In this case, leadership at IBM can use this theory to solve conflict among employees. Satisfaction will indeed motivate employees to offer the best they can.

The organization also needs to use Emmet’s Theory to manage conflict among its workers. Emmet developed a theory that says workers are not motivated by money only, but also by social needs (Gerzon, 2007). The company needs to meet their social needs. The result of this theory is the introduction of “Human Relation School of Thought”. As such, employees need effective communication between them and the management at IBM.

The conflict can be resolved by promoting communication among the conflicting groups. The management also needs to introduce team working in the organization. When the workers learn how to work in groups, they can solve some of the grievances. Good communication and team work will help to minimize conflict at workplace.

IBM leadership

The leadership style at IBM is a lot more participatory whereby Samuel J. Palmisano who is the Chief Executive Officer works hand in hand with other immediate executives below him in implementing the policies of the organisation. Leadership in the different departments within IBM is participatory although the overall leader still remains to be accountable on the final decisions made.

All the team members are involved in important processes such as goal setting, the importance of setting the very goals as well as implementation. From this standing point, participative leadership style perceives a leader more as a coordinator or facilitator in the management of organisational affairs. The leader does not necessarily assume the role issuing orders, but rather involves the group in each and every undertaking.

IBM should strive to nurture participative style of leadership in its leadership structure (Fletcher, 2004). The main benefit of this type of leadership style is that additional leaders are developed during the process. It prepares leaders in advance and hence, the organisation may not be in need to either outsource leaders or embark on intensive training program for upcoming leaders.

This is exactly the same case with IBM. The current CEO and Chairman of the organisation, Samuel J. Palmisano joined the organisation as a salesperson (Kang & Dickinson, 2003). Through the leadership experience gained over the years, he finally managed to rise in ranks to become the top leader of the organisation.

He is currently 59 years, just short of one year before attaining the traditional retirement age for CEOs at IBM. However, with the recent reshuffle of the top executives close in rank to him, Palmisano may stay in office a little longer. The reshuffle may as well as a short list of potential candidates to take over from him.

Power, authority and conflict at IBM

Most organisations do not often stick fully to the rules and regulations. As a result, a vacuum is left where power play and conflicts can thrive. Hence, managing organisations in a systematic and well defined way can only be achieved if the dynamics of conflict, authority and power are well understood. The three elements are interdependent and cannot be separated from each other.

First of all, it is necessary to distinguish between power and authority in organisations. They are frequently used interchangeably in spite of the fact that their meanings are completely different (Salaman & Asch, 2003). Authority is legally acquired and its enforcement is done according to the provisions of the organisation.

However, power emanates from an individual and has nothing to do with management in organisations. Besides, when authority has been acquired, it harnesses a relationship between the subordinate and senior management staff in an organisation although power is tagged on the understanding of an individual and is quite informal as well (Algert & Watson, 2002).

Authority has a close relationship with the structure of an organisation and its scope of application is limited by the policies of the organisation. However, individuals may own unlimited power going beyond boundaries. The recent reshuffle of IBM top executives has in some way concentrated authority and not power to the CEO of the organisation owing to the fact that the most immediate executives have been lowered one level below their original position. This may be seen as a power play that may lead to organizational conflict.

Nonetheless, this is not coercive power bearing in mind that the organisation has had a long term experience in the organisation of its leadership structure. No wonder, most of the IBM top executives are recruited from sales team. The incumbent CEO was a salesperson. The organisation has laid a strong corporate culture on the sales of its products and services and consequently increasing its revenue base and market capitalization at the New York Stock Exchange market.

In recap, it is imperative to note that the International Business Machines started as a Tabulating Machine Company towards the close of the 19th century. Its main product line was a punched card that was very instrumental during the 1890 Census. The company has grown by leaps and bounds to emerge as one of the market leaders in the field of computer technology.

The organisational structure of IBM is in form of a hierarchy whereby there are different levels of leadership ranging from the departmental level to the top managers and executives. Samuel J. Palmisano is the Chairman, CEO and also the President of IBM. Besides, the company is subdivided into five main areas to facilitate smooth running of the organisation.

In order to improve its performance, IBM management has to understand the importance of group dynamics such as group efficacy and team building. In addition, employee should be motivated to offer their best skills, competences and talents. However, its participatory leadership style has seen the company return to profitability. The company has established a strong corporate culture and brand name improving its performance even further.


Algert, N. & Watson, K. (2002). Conflict Management: Introductions for Individuals and Organizations. Texas: Bryan.

Fletcher, C. (2004). Appraisal and feedback: making performance review work. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Gerzon, M. (2007) Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences Into Opportunities. Watertown, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Hoffmann, S. (2006).Classical Motivation Theories: Similarities and Differences Between Them. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag.

IBM (2010). IBM Archives. Retrieved on 2nd November 2011 from

Kang, K., Oah, S. & Dickinson, A. M. (2003). The relative effects of differing frequencies of feedback on work performance: A simulation. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 23: 21-54.


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