Jose Antonio Cangco

Today the average employee is easily overwhelmed with too much disruptions. We have entertainment, news and information coming from the radio, television, network cable, cell phones, the internet, and other wonders of technology.

Karma and Employee Motivation is an exciting new concept in motivating employees. It was developed by a Filipino and is being offered first in the Philippines. It is a tool for the employee to become aware that his actions have consequences in his work environment and in his personal life.

When the employee starts to lose interest in his job, it is because he is beginning to forget the value of his work. He does not know anymore the feeling of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. So he tries to find meaning elsewhere.

Karma can be used as a tool to motivate the employee. It focuses the employee’s attention back to his job. It makes the employee aware that his actions have consequences in relation to his work environment and to his co-workers. It assists the employee understand the consequences of his actions in relation to his work environment, and on gaining such knowledge, he may use this effectively to promote job efficiency.

This is done by motivating the employee through explanation of the real meaning of karma, the three kinds of karma, and how he can use this knowledge to his advantage.

First, what is motivation? Motivation is from the French word motiver which means to stimulate action. It is a process whereby effort is expended to maintain it. Many believe that once they have been motivated by a lecture or seminar, to just let go of their drive, not knowing that it must be nurtured, too. I always like to compare motivation with riding a bicycle: once you learn how to keep your balance, you must keep on pedaling otherwise you will fall. If the type of motivation you learn is lost within a day or two, it was not real motivation but an inspiration. Inspiration is a dream, while motivation is waking up with all the aches and pains, to pursue it.

The traditional theory X of motivation by Sigmund Freud states that man is basically heavy-footed and indolent. He tries to avoid responsibilities, and the only way to galvanize him is by giving incentives and rewards or by punishment. On the other hand, with the traditional theory Y of MacGregor, it is believed that people want to learn, and work is a natural activity. Management is there only to guide them. Employees develop self-discipline and self-development. They want difficult and challenging tasks. The basic objectives of both management and workers are therefore met.

Abraham Maslow developed a needs hierarchy theory also known as traditional theory Z. He taught that needs at lower levels had to be met before a person could satisfy the needs at the next higher level. There are five levels of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-actualizing. By achieving the lower needs, the employee would then be motivated towards those at the higher level.

Who will benefit from becoming motivated? It is an internal kind of change within the person. The company alone will not benefit from it, but the first and last to reap its rewards is the employee. He will be the one to gain most, because being an ability or talent or attitude, it will always be part of him whether in times of retrenchment or if he happens to move on to another company. The benefit goes even beyond the formal work environment, because if the concerned employee is a family man, his work habits and attitude will rub on to his children. It is a proven fact that industrious parents have children who are more diligent and hard working compared to the children of easy going couples.

Secondly, what is karma?

The concept of karma was first developed in India some 5000 years ago. It is from the Sanskrit word kri which means action or “to do”. This knowledge was not only limited to Asia. The Jews during their wanderings in the desert were also very much aware of the notion that their actions had consequences—disastrous or not. When Buddhism was discovered some 2500 years ago, it explained the cause of human suffering and the path to take to avoid it. It too dealt with karma.

Karma is defined as the consequences of a past action or accumulated past actions. It is not religion. Believing in karma will not change a Christian into a Hindu, anymore than a Muslim following the golden rule shall become a Christian. It therefore transcends religious barriers as the golden rule applies universally. There are three kinds of karma: good, white and bad, the first two being positive, bringing beneficial or non-malefic consequences.

Karma is common sense. If you have an open mind and you are just a little curious why there are consequences to your every action and decision, then with a little effort and reflection you will be able to improve aspects of your life and career.

After one of my seminars, a director of a government office told me that what I was teaching was very practical and plain common sense. The director however was wondering why only a few people cared about improving themselves and their work. I said that this is because not very many people would care to go beyond the obvious. For example, if something bad happens to them, they would just accept it, as part of everyday life and fate. They don’t go and take that extra step to reflect on the cause or reason of their misfortune. They don’t anticipate and they don’t plan. That’s the reason, I told the director, why some employees become lost in the cycle of daily living.

Karma is part of the natural law and everyday life; it is not science nor art. It is just part of the natural order of things. In physics, for every action there is a reaction. What goes up must come down. So, for every action that you do, an after-effect will issue forth—good or bad depending on your original deed.

The misunderstanding of the Hindu karma arose when western writers interpreted it as meaning “those consequences that will be experienced in the next life”. In the Philippines, meanwhile, we are a little more enlightened—we talk of karma as “that which will happen to you as punishment” for a transgression done to another person. We have a negative interpretation of it but to put things in the right perspective, karma is not the punishment today or in the after life. Because there is good karma then it is a positive force, and more so because it is possible to reap today the fruits of our efforts and hard work. For an employee to be motivated, I always insists that he follow the first rule of karma to think positively that his efforts and hard work will be rewarded during his lifetime.

When the employee starts to become motivated and develop a positive attitude in his work, he will be aware that the opposite of his actions is also true: that if he works carelessly and performs badly there is nobody accountable for his mistake except himself. He begins to care and exercise caution in his work and develop a sense of responsibility. This is a sign of maturity in the workplace. This is especially true when he realizes that his co-workers may be affected as a result of his carelessness and sloppy work. This then brings us to the second rule of karma: the employee should not do sloppy work because the repercussions will always come back to him. It may not be easy to get the skill to know the job religiously but it is worth the time and effort to learn and avoid bad karma.

In spite of this rule that we are made answerable and accountable for our mediocre and maybe even reckless actions, there are several advantages that we can get from understanding and then applying our knowledge of karma.

One advantage of having the knowledge of karma at work is it will help develop the employee’s personal human skills. When the employee is fully conscious that his actions have short and far reaching effects at his work place, he will try to listen and discuss problems with his co-workers, too. If he is a supervisor or has a senior position, he will be sought for advice since he knows more about the nuts and bolts of the job. Nobody can doubt that being approachable and likable are very important traits in the office environment. Being sympathetic and understanding are also assets that bring out good inter-personal skills.

Another advantage is it will help the employee avoid commit similar mistakes. Being aware that his work has repercussions, maybe even beyond his immediate circle of friends and co-workers, he will try to remember which process or steps or particular tasks bring the best result, and which ones to avoid. This will lead to increased efficiency.

Aside from these advantages of learning and adopting karma in our workplace, it is also a permanent knowledge. What is true today was the truth yesterday and will remain the same tomorrow. If we say that by hard work and industry we shall reap our rewards, we do not mean that it is true only for today and the immediate future, but for a longer time as well.

Finally, how does the employee use this knowledge to get motivated and increase his work efficiency?

Karma is the reason or cause which pushes us to work. (Simply put, if we don’t work, we don’t eat). It is what drives the daily wage worker, the office clerk and the manager to endure the daily grind of their jobs. For the employee with knowledge of karma however he uses this to get motivated by believing that hard work, diligence, industry and skill are the positive steps to his reaching his objective. If he had experienced that bad work and deeds led to unpleasant consequences, he should have a definitive and clear cut attitude that hard and honest work will bring results. A little qualification is needed here, by the way, that although the desired end may not materialize immediately in the next few days or in the near future, it will come eventually.

Good acts are never passed over. For the employee to improve his work efficiency, he will need some conscious gear shifting to put his mind in an enthusiastic drive: he will have to understand and apply the rules of karma in his work. To become a good and improved worker is to follow the rules of karma. But to be a successful worker, he must set goals to accomplish. However, that is another topic.

In conclusion, we can use our knowledge of karma that our efforts will be rewarded sooner or later, that our diligence and industry in the past can accumulate to propel us forward in our search for a satisfying job and that our sloppy work will come back to haunt us. To know happiness in our lives and improve ourselves in our work, let us accumulate good karma.

Copyright by the Author
(Published in the Philippine Panorama, May 7, 2006)

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