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Home » A Disgusting Braying Donkey or a Dignified Charming Unicorn? How Does Organizational Motivation Change Donkeys’ Perspective to Unicorns’?

A Disgusting Braying Donkey or a Dignified Charming Unicorn? How Does Organizational Motivation Change Donkeys’ Perspective to Unicorns’?


Societies need work and workers to survive. This need has existed for centuries and will continue to exist in the future. Work makes up a large part of each person’s life. Even in primitive societies, everyone had to work and take on some of the tasks assigned to him/her in the society (Shafiabadi, 2001). The main source of power for organizations is unique human resources with various areas of expertise. However, unfortunately, the importance of this valuable and effective resource is not well recognized, and its vital role is neglected in practice (Abbaspour, 2013). Organizations try to achieve rapid growth, continuous improvement, efficiency, profitability, flexibility, and privileged positions in their scopes of activity through educated human resources to survive and develop. Without these qualities, organizations can’t act competitively and effectively in the face of the best organizations (Schuler and Jackson, 2001). Although employees are the organization’s largest asset, all organizations, including industrial, commercial, and service organizations, have strived to increase their productivity and their, professional capacity, and human resource satisfaction and have linked productivity to employee motivation and quality of their working life (Dolan and Schuler 1999). Some of the effective factors in employment and successful continuation of work are occupational adjustment, job motivation, job success, and job satisfaction, which improve the quality of people’s working life and job motivation.

Spector (2021) states that people can perform well in their jobs when they have the ability and motivation to have a good performance. He believes that ability and motivation ensure good job performance. In general, motivation is an internal force that causes people to engage in certain behaviors. Motivation causes a person to perform a behavior directionally, with effort and perseverance over a certain period.

Paying attention to the human factor in the organization and improving human resources have recently drawn lots of attention in human resource management. The performance of an employee depends on his/her motivation. A highly capable but unmotivated employee will have less productivity. This issue has occupied the minds of scholars since the early 1960s (Naeli, 1994). Many qualities of work-life (QWL) programs have sought to increase employee job satisfaction and performance by enhancing their intrinsic motivation (Gordon, 1999).

By creating a suitable environment for each person, this study can increase engagement in finding innovative ways and add value to activities. Organizations also need to consider the direction of collaborating with the people who work for them (Apter, 1999).

To clarify the importance of the issue, I ask the following questions;

  • How do we reach the maximum number of people who participate in the organization with a lot of energy and talent?
  • How do you ensure that rewards and incentives maintain their mode and function concerning sustained changes in the roles and labor market conditions?
  • Perhaps most importantly, how do you capture and nurture such fragile and intangible resources as loyalty, knowledge, cognition, and spirits?

This article attempts to identify how successful organizations in the future can adopt a practical, innovative approach to motivation and performance improvement.

Recognize what you are? A donkey or a unicorn?

The infographics below define the characteristics of a donkey employee (average employees) and a unicorn employee (great employees); (see figure 1).

The two types of employees are (average employees) Donkey employees and (great employees) Unicorn employees.

Donkey or Unicorn?

  • A donkey employee refers to average employees with these characteristics (see figure 1).
  • A unicorn employee refers to great employees with these characteristics (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Unicorn Vs. Donkey

Source: https://medium.com/

Motivation what does it mean?

Employee motivation is the enthusiasm, commitment, energy level, and amount of creativity that an employee brings to the organization daily.

The root of motivation is derived from the Latin word “movere, which means movement. All the definitions you would read in books or the dictionary related to the fact that motivation is behavior. One needs to channel this behavior to achieve desired aims and results.

Employee motivation is related to how engaged an employee feels in tandem with the organisation’s goals and how empowered he/she feels. Motivation is of two types:

  • Extrinsic motivation
  • Intrinsic motivation

Which path do you take to motivate your employee?

There are two kinds of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. An organisation needs to understand that not employees are clones; they are individuals via different traits. Thus effectively, motivating your employees will require a deeper understanding of motivation’s different kinds and paths.

Acknowledging this, you will be able to categorise your employees better and apply the right type of motivation to enhance the level of employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Intrinsic motivation may work better for some employees, while extrinsic motivation may work better for others.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is when a person’s motivation is fueled by external factors such as rewards and recognition. Some people will never be internally motivated, and only external motivation will help them complete their tasks.

Extrinsic rewards, according to research, can sometimes increase a person’s willingness to learn a new skill set. Perks, bonuses, and awards, for example, can motivate employees or provide tangible feedback.

Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, should be avoided! Anything in excess can be harmful. As a manager or supervisor, you must determine how you will motivate your employees to achieve organizational objectives.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to a person’s motivation coming from within. He or she wants to do well at work because the results are consistent with his or her beliefs.

The strongest motivating factors are usually an individual’s deep-seated beliefs. Curiosity, acceptance, honor, and a desire to succeed are all characteristics shared by such people.

Praise has been shown to increase intrinsic motivation and positive employee feedback in studies. However, everything should be done in moderation. If you do too much of any of these, there’s a good chance you’ll lose motivation.

It has been observed in children, and I am using this as an example here, that when children are overly praised for the small tasks they are expected to complete daily, their motivation levels drop. If you are reading this article, there are good chances you are not a child; although we encourage children to read good content, writing this article is to still focus on adults.

So, if you’re a manager, a leader, or a supervisor, please be thoughtful about how you give feedback or praise. Make sure it empowers your employees and that they are aware of your expectations.

How to Motivate Donkeys or Unicorns?

Here are five simple ways to motivate your employees at work if you’re looking for a new way to motivate them:

1. Employee motivation questionnaire: Conduct employee motivation surveys using an online questionnaire software or platform. Allow them to express themselves openly and honestly about their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. This will assist you in recognising areas that need your attention.

2. Provide flexibility: Employees are not all the same. Some people prefer 9 to 5, while others don’t; some enjoy going to work every day, while others don’t. Commuting to work can be exhausting for some people. Allowing some flexibility within reason will keep your employees happy and motivated.

3. Autonomy, not bureaucracy: Micro-management is the worst thing you can do as a manager. It is not only time-consuming but also really unwanted. If you have hired people with certain skillsets, let them do their job, be a facilitator, not a dictator. Humans value autonomy because it allows them to do things their way and observe the results.

4. Employee satisfaction surveys: Employee satisfaction depends on many factors such as work environment, infrastructure, roles, responsibilities, etc. Conducting employee satisfaction surveys will assist Managers in understanding dissatisfaction factors and acting on them. Frequent surveys will help address dissatisfaction problems faster.

5. Job well done- recognise it! Employee motivation is boosted significantly when they receive recognition. It assists in creating a healthy bond among the employer and employees. It not only fulfills our basic need for esteem but also facilitates belonging.

6. Focus on intrinsic rewards: Some people need rewards to get tasks done, but extrinsic rewards fade quickly. Concentrate on motivating your employees from the inside out. “Yeah, this is all good, but we have to eat and pay rent,” some may say… True, you should compensate your employees well for their efforts, but you should also ensure that your company’s values are long-lasting.

7. Create a unique work environment: No, it’s not Fussball, free snacks, or a coffee machine. Ohio State University research shows that your work environment significantly impacts your mood. As a result, it makes sense to invest in the workplace, where people spend 60 hours per week. Your employees will be more motivated if you create a positive environment. Just go ahead and do it.

8. Be a visionary: Vision is a powerful tool for leading. Employees must understand that their efforts are making a difference. They must know where they are going and how to get there. How do you expect your employees to own up to your vision if you, as a leader, don’t have one? Make a visual representation of your company’s road map and encourage your employees to contribute. You’ll be astounded at how creative they can be.

9. Solicit ideas and suggestions, act on them: You’ve received feedback from your employees now that you’ve conducted surveys. They are certain that their ideas, suggestions, and grievances will be investigated and addressed promptly.

10. Career-pathing: Having a career development plan with roles and responsibilities that are clearly defined. It helps them concentrate and direct their efforts toward an attainable goal. Make sure you sit down with each employee and develop a transparent and well-communicated career plan.

What is the importance of employee motivation?

According to psychologists, self-realisation is a very human thing. It is in our nature to care for something and see it grow.; it applies to most things we do in our day-to-day lives. This is true for social and societal spaces (See figure 2).

Figure 2. Importance of Employee Motivation

Source: http://www.changedynamics.biz

Motivation plays a vital role in a human’s life. It doesn’t matter if we’re trying to improve our performance or our company. Motivated employees do not require instructions on how to complete tasks. They take the initiative, are eager to take up additional accountabilities, and are innovative and go-getters.

Motivated employees ensure:

  • They consistently outperform their peers in terms of results
  • There is a positive atmosphere within the organisation
  • Co-workers are pleased with their jobs and feel secure
  • Make sure clients are happy

As a result, motivation is a critical factor in ensuring that employees stay active and contribute their best to their company. Additionally, high motivation leads to lower employee turnover.

Herzberg’s motivation theory

Herzberg’s motivation theory or two-factor theory (see figure 3) says there are two factors to which an organization can adjust to influence motivation levels at the workplace.

The two factors identified by Herzberg are:

  • Motivators: Employees are encouraged to work harder when motivating factors are present. They are factors that can be found in the workplace.
  • Hygienes: Employees will be discouraged from doing their best work if hygiene factors are absent. Hygiene factors are the conditions that encourage employees to behave in a certain way.

Figure 3. Herzberg’s Hygiene and Motivational Factors 

Source: https://www.indeed.com/

Four statistics are involved here:

1. High motivation Vs. High hygiene

This is the ideal solution for any manager or supervisor to pursue. All of the employees are ecstatically motivated and have few grievances.

2. low motivation Vs. High hygiene

In this solution, employees have very few grievances but are not highly motivated. A very good instance of this situation is employees are paid well, but the work is not very interesting. Employees collect their paycheques and leave.

3. High motivation Vs. low hygiene

This is a tricky situation. Employees are highly motivated, but they also have a slew of complaints. A typical instance is when the work is extremely interesting, but the employees are not paid as per the market standard.

4. Low motivation Vs. low hygiene

No points for guessing; it is a pretty bad solution. Employees aren’t motivated, and there aren’t any hygiene measures in place.

How does this theory help?

1. First and foremost, correct and change the company’s bureaucratic policies. Inspect to see if your HR is comparable to what other companies provide. They know the leadership’s expectations—keeping both in mind, draft policies that are a win-win for everyone.

2. Make sure your managers are mentors as well as bosses. Each employee shall be respected and supported.

3. Organizational culture plays a very critical role here. No cliches here.

4. Inspect to see if the compensation, perks, and bonuses are competitive. Why would your employees want to take the initiative if you don’t pay them well?

5. To enhance job satisfaction, make sure the jobs are constructed well, and employees find their jobs meaningful.

6. Make your employees feel valued by delegating their responsibilities. Respect their individuality, pay attention to their feedback, and take action as needed.

Suggestions for braying donkeys’

1. What is your motivation for work every day?

Money should not be the driving force behind your attendance at work. Though it is part of the reason for being employed, it is still preferable if you enjoy what you do, leading to a more productive and positive outcome.

2. Why learning new things is important?

Learning new things broadens your horizons and gives you a new perspective on life. It will assist employees in conquering their fears and developing their skills.

3. Why do you need to read regularly?

Reading regularly allows you to discover new things you may require in your daily life. Employees gain more knowledge and skills by reading.

4. How should you deal with change?

It would help if you embraced change. It’s the only way you’ll know how to adjust to it.

5. How should you deal with success?

It would help if you planned for success. You cannot attain success overnight. It would help if you strived hard to obtain it and plan what needs to be done.

6. Why is it important to take responsibility?

It would help if you took responsibility for your choices in life. The most important thing about taking responsibility is acknowledging that your life is your sole responsibility.

7. What are the benefits of great health habits?

  • Controls weight
  • Improves mood
  • Combats diseases
  • Boosts energy
  • Improves longevity

8. What is an idea machine?

An ideal machine is a person who produces remarkable ideas—someone who contributes new ideas in life.

9. Why should you stop wasting time?

It would help if you stopped wasting time, or you will be left with nothing.

10. How to become a team leader?

  • Make some time to lead
  • Get to know your company team
  • Communicate
  • Reward and learn
  • Be decisive

11. Why do you need to adjust to your co-workers?

You need to adjust to your co-workers so they will find you fun to be around.

12. Who works better, donkey employee or unicorn employee?

Unicorn employees have all the positive characteristics of a productive employee.

** Notice: Remember to take the experience of your employees to the next level! Empower your leaders, make informed decisions, and increase employee engagement by empowering them.


Abbaspour, A. (2013). Advanced Human Resource Management (approaches, processes and functions). Place of Publication: Tehran, Publisher: Samat.

Apter, E. (1999). Continental drift: From national characters to virtual subjects. University of Chicago Press.

Dolan, S., Schuler, R. S., & Valle Cabrera, R. (1999). Human Resource Measurement.

Gordon, J. R. (1993). A diagnostic approach to organizational behavior. Allyn & Bacon.

Schuler, R., & Jackson, S. (2001). HR issues and activities in mergers and acquisitions. European management journal19(3), 239-253.

Shafiabadi A. (2001) Group dynamic and group counseling. Tehran: Roshd publication; [Persian].Spector, P. E. (2021). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice. John Wiley & Sons.


Authors Biography

Mohammad Heydari is an Iranian associate professor, scientist, and author. He was born on August 14, 1992, in Tehran, Iran. He published more than 13 books and over 88 scientific papers with famous authors and high-level research groups in his research fields; Currently, his papers are published and accepted by 37 different countries. 

Mohammad Heydari is currently working at Business College, Southwest University, one of the country’s 100 key national universities. In August 2020, Dr. Heydari was accepted as the youngest associate professor and faculty member of Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) at Business College, Southwest University, Chongqing, China. At the same time, he was nominated for the “National Young Talent Program” title, one of the highest awards for foreigners working in academia. 

In 2019, he received the Chinese Government Ministry Award Education Scholarship for outstanding research and academic activities at the national level. In 2017, Dr. Heydari received the (Nanjing Municipal Government) scholarship in (MS&E). Dr. Heydari earned his DSc., Ph.D. from the School of Economics and Management, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, China. Dr. Heydari’s research is in the areas of (1) Human Resources and Business Administration, Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior and Organizational Studies; (2) Applied Mathematics, Optimization Algorithm & Operation, Supply Chain Management, and Decision Analysis; (3) Entrepreneurship Management and Psychological Entrepreneurship Research.

Author Email: MohammadHeydari1992@yahoo.com


Mahdiye Saeidi is an Iranian researcher and author. She was born on February 17, 1978, in Arak, Iran. She published one book, accomplished many scientific papers with Dr. Mohammad Heydari and worked in high-level research groups. Mahdiye Saeidi is currently working at Business Operation Dept. in National Iranian Tanker Company, one of the biggest shipping companies in the world, as a vessels’ demurrage and freight account, controller and vessels’ operator from March 2004. In 2017 she reached her Master’s degree in Information Technology from Payam Noor University of Tehran. The title of her Master’s thesis was assessing the effective factors in the acceptance of Internet of Things technology in smart buildings. She researches in (1) Information Technology (2) Human Resources and Business Administration.

Author Email: mahdisan57@yahoo.com


 Yuxian Huang, a bachelor student, was born in Shanghai, China, on March 8th, 2001, and raised in the same country. She currently studies in Business College of Southwest University, Chongqing, China. She was graduated from Chongqing Bashu Secondary School and then enter in Southwest University for Bachelor of International Business and Trade in 2020. 

In 2021, Yuxian Huang won the Gaotu Techedu internship, a technology-driven education company and successfully landed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the internship, she strategized and improved data collection efficiency, achieved the signing KPI 100%. At the same year she gains the Gold Award on the 7th China College Students “Internet+” Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition.

In the high school period (2016-2020), she created school radio stations called “MagnetiC” online through QQ, NetEase CloudMusic, TikTok, etc and has received over 4000 listeners.

Yuxian Huang also joined the Symphony Orchestra of school (2013-2020), won the silver medal of Carmel Bach International Festival in the United States. Participated in the New Year Concert of the orchestra in Chongqing Grand Theater from 2013 to 2019, and gained the provincial gold award and the national first prize for art performance in primary and secondary schools for many times.

Yuxian Huang, is a social science researcher with a particular interest in the area of Business Administration, Industrial and organizational psychology and Organizational Behavior and, Organizational Studies with specific emphasis on “psychological and social influences on work behavior,” “flexibility & change management,” “Leadership,” “employee empowerment” and “strategic employee relations” and “human performance in the workplace. I also intend to research Optimization Algorithm & Operation, Supply Chain Management, and Decision Analysis subjects such as “Operational Risk Management,” “Healthcare Risk Management and Emergency and Disaster Management,”, “Models of Risk in Supply Chain Management,”. Yuxian Huang wholeheartedly believes that she should endeavor to continue her research and look for new horizons within these fields.

Author Email: yxu_hanan@icloud.com

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