October 31st to November 2nd, 2001

(Revised November 22nd, 2001)

Southshore Harbour Resort

League City, Texas

Thomas E. Clarke, M.Sc., M.B.A.

Stargate Consultants Limited

1687 Centennary Drive

Nanaimo, British Columbia V9X 1A3

(250) 755-3066



"Not only is good management of research the critical difference between a thriving research organization and an average one, but research is the most difficult to manage of all functional activities" – Senator Maurice Lamontagne, 1972

The theme of this conference is "Beyond Motivation to Engagement". I would like to be so bold as to rephrase the title to "Applying What We Know About How to Motivate and Lead Scientists".

The fact is that we have known how to effectively manage and motivate scientists and engineers for the past forty to fifty years. When I first took an interest in this area back in the mid-1960’s, there were already two major journals dealing with the topic; the IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management (1953) and Research Management (1957) [now called Research-Technology Management]. Now there are at least 15 dedicated R&D management journals including your own "Managing the Modern Laboratory.

Another fact is that the application of that knowledge into the everyday management of scientists and engineers is not consistent from company to company, or from one laboratory to another.

This lack of application is well illustrated by the popularity of Scott Adam’s cartoon character Dilbert and his dealings with his "pointy haired" boss. According to Mr. Adams, the situations in which Dilbert finds himself in are based on real life experiences.

My presentation this morning is intended to summarize what we know about the motivation and leadership of scientific staff in order to promote both creativity and productivity in the workplace.

The four themes I am going to cover are:



Before addressing motivation and leadership of scientists, I would like to put the environment in which you must motivate and lead scientists in context.

There are several unique features to the R&D environment that must be taken into account in the management process. For a full listing of the features please read "Unique Features of an R&D Environment and Managing Scientists and Engineers" on the Stargate website

Uncertainty Associated with Scientific Activities

"R&D, by its very nature, is an activity that is aimed at generating new knowledge, testing hypotheses about how matters in the physical or social world act and react, and in general, providing know-how which can be used to create or improve activities or systems in that part of our life to which they pertain. (Salasin and Hattery, 1977, p.5)

A distinguishing feature of R&D that differentiates it from other functions in an organization is the level of uncertainty associated with it. R&D is characterized not only by uncertainty in terms of how long a research project might take or how much it will cost, but also by the nature of the results. This is especially so at the research end of the R&D spectrum, which is usually regarded as the stage from basic scientific research through to experimental development

A fully competent scientist may tackle a research project, and conduct it in a totally acceptable manner, and still not obtain the output required to answer the scientific question or solve the problem being addressed. In most organizations this would be considered a failure, and reflect badly on the worker. However, in a well managed R&D organization, the results would be viewed as valuable in that a line of research has been shown to be unproductive, and another approach must be made. The researcher would not be blamed for this "failure".

In another situation, totally unexpected results might be obtained which may lead to even greater benefits. Is it a failure that the original objectives were not met? Technically yes, but only a bureaucratic mind or "bean counter" would insist on calling it a failure. 3M's glue that would not permanently stick to anything was clearly a technical failure at one level, but a huge success at another given the widespread use of it in "Post-It" notes in all their many manifestations.

Uncertainty associated with scientific activities can also take the form of "by-products" of the research process that the observant scientists must recognize. As we all know, penicillin was not a planned discovery, but the result of Alexander Fleming noting something unusual in a petri dish.

Most other professionals, such as medical doctors and lawyers, usually deal with an existing knowledge base (e.g., well-understood diseases or prior case law), or known technology. This is not the case for scientists. They are either developing a new understanding of a natural phenomenon, developing new analytical techniques, or solving a problem for which there is no known solution. In some cases, they must throw out what they think they know, and work in totally unknown territory. No other professional occupation faces the situation of pushing back the frontiers of science or engineering. "To go where no one has gone before".


Difficulty of Assessing the Contribution or Impact of the Research Results

The output of research is knowledge and it is difficult to predict in advance, with any accuracy, the quality, quantity or usefulness of the knowledge that will be generated from any given research project. Yet accountants, finance officers (bean counters), bureaucrats and politicians like to be able to show quantitative evidence that the resources invested in research have tangible results or impacts, usually within the time frame of their budget or evaluation period, or their term of office.

Many management researchers have noted that, even when the results of a research project can be measured, in that the research has achieved its objectives or produced some tangible results, the delay between obtaining the results and the eventual application of those results in a product or methodology can be so great that it is difficult to use the results of the research in planning for the future. Technological forecasting, like R&D, is not an accurate science.

In many cases, the results of one line of research must await developments in other areas of science or technology before their impact or application can be seen.

The impact or applications of laser technology, for example, languished for years before practical applications were developed. No one could have predicted such widespread uses from a substitution for record player needles to optical surgery.

Assessing the contribution of a scientist's output to a field, or the eventual impact that contribution will have in the future, can be especially challenging. In some cases, a scientist's manager may be ill-equipped to evaluate the scientist’s performance because of a lack of an in-depth knowledge of the scientific field of the scientist being evaluated. On more than one occasion, Nobel Prizes in science have been awarded years after the initial scientific discovery, because at the time the value or importance of the discovery to the field or to a completely different field of science was underestimated.

These uncertainties make it difficult for science managers to determine, during annual performance appraisal, what rewards and recognition are warranted, and to what degree.


Rapid Advancement of Scientific or Technical Knowledge

In no other area of human endeavor is change more dominant than in science and technology. In almost no other profession is the pace of change as rapid. Medical procedures change relatively slowly, changes in management practices and theory can be measured in years, changes in law can take decades. In contrast, it has been estimated that the half-life of initial engineering education is less than five years.

Technological obsolescence is a constant fear of scientists and engineers because it is very easy to fall behind. An assignment that takes a scientist away from his or her work for six months, may, depending on the field, force the scientist to have to study the field anew for a year just to catch up with colleagues. This does not occur in most other professional occupations.

Technological obsolescence also applies to equipment and analytical procedures. Out-of-date equipment or techniques limit the ability of the scientists to be involved in "cutting edge" R&D, and also limit the services a laboratory can offer to its clients.

Failure to avoid technological obsolescence in either people or equipment will result in inadequate, or overly expensive solutions to problems, problems avoided and not solved, and a general reduction in the organization's ability to fulfill its mandate or to survive. Thus avoiding technological obsolescence in the face of rapidly evolving science and technology is another of the unique characteristics of the R&D work environment.



Research scientists and engineers while sharing many attributes with highly trained people in other professions, have some characteristics that are more associated with them, than with other professionals.


Orientation Towards Things Not People

In general, people who go in for science or engineering are oriented more towards things or natural phenomena than people. Many are characterized as having a poor grasp of social skills, and do not make friends easily. They are more comfortable working with things that they can objectively measure and control (Badawy, 1983). In addition, many scientists, more than engineers, are introverts, preferring the company of a few friends or acquaintances rather than being surrounded by strangers at a party.

One result of this orientation is the reluctance among many research scientists and engineers to take on managerial responsibilities. Unlike many other professionals, most scientists and engineers do not seek out promotion to the ranks of management as this would force them to interact with people to a greater degree and detract from their focus on their scientific profession. They simply would not get any satisfaction out of a management position. In a survey of scientists and engineers in the Canadian federal government conducted several years ago, to determine their views on becoming a supervisor, one respondent when asked whether he would like to be a supervisor said, "hell no, I would rather drive a cab". This author has also noted the difficulties some government laboratories have in encouraging competent scientific staff to move into managerial positions.


Orientation Towards Profession Not Employer

Research scientists, and to a lesser extent research engineers, care more about how their colleagues around the world think about their work than what their immediate supervisor thinks. Scientists or engineers with what is called a "cosmopolitan" orientation:

Badawy (1971) in a study of role orientations of scientists concluded that the goal orientation of scientists who have a more cosmopolitan perspective was towards:

This orientation may be the result of the socialization process which research scientists and engineers are subject to while attending university and obtaining advance degrees.

Other professionals, including some scientists and engineers, are more likely to have a more "local" orientation to their work that is described as:

This difference in orientation between cosmopolitan and local is something a manager must keep in mind when thinking about how to motivate an employee.


Expectations and Values

"Because professionals invest more time and energy in educational preparation for their work than do most other employees, they bring unique, higher and more specific expectations to work" (Miller, 1988).

Miller (1988) outlines some generalized organizational and work-values usually held by professionals (with a cosmopolitan outlook):

There is also a strong expectation among scientists and engineers "at the bench" that their immediate R&D managers will, themselves, have a scientific or engineering background. The myth of "a manager is a manager is a manager" falls apart very quickly in an R&D environment. The manager is expected to be able to provide substantive advice, and act as a sounding board for technical ideas or proposals. This cannot be done by someone who does not have scientific or technical training in the field under study.

Many studies have noted that an R&D manager's initial credibility comes from his/her credibility as a contributing scientist or engineer, and then later, hopefully, as an effective manager.



"Managers motivate their scientists and engineers by the work environment they create" (Koning, Jr., 1993)

When we talk about motivation, what do we mean in practical terms?

What we generally mean is how to encourage employees to work to the best of their ability on projects of value to the organization. How do we do this?

Motivating an employee consists of identifying the psychological needs of each employee, and making job performance the path to satisfying those needs. [What I want to do to feel good, is what the company wants me to do, to make a profit.]

This means that you have to get to know each of your staff to determine what provides them with job satisfaction. What do they take pride in accomplishing?


Theories of Motivation

There are many theories of motivation, each with their promoters and critics. In order for you to more accurately assess why people act the way they do, I want to quickly go over some of the more well known motivation theories:

Traditional Theory of Motivation

Motivation = f($)

This theory argues that the more money you pay a person, the more productive they will be. Commission salesmen or piece-work factory workers are compensated on this basis. Offering large monetary rewards to scientists for an invention would be another example.


Maslow’s Need Hierarchy



EGO AND ESTEEM (level four)






According to this theory, each of us has five different levels of needs, and our actions are determined by which level of needs we are trying to fulfill. The need levels are:

Basic Physiological Needs for food, shelter, sleep, air, etc.

Safety and Security Needs concerned with protection against danger, threat or deprivation.

Belonging and Social Activity Needs – need for belong, acceptance by others, for love, for association and for giving and receiving friendship.

Esteem and Status Needs – to feel worthy, have self-respect, and to feel that others think we are worthy, gaining recognition, appreciation and respect from others.

Self-Realization and Fulfillment (Self-Actualization) – need to become all that one is capable of becoming; to be able to perform at maximum potential.

Once a person has acquired an adequate amount of need satisfaction at one level, they move on to acquire need satisfaction at the next higher level. In general, most scientific staff are seeking to satisfy the top three need levels of this hierarchy and want assignments that allow them to fulfill these need levels.


Herzberg Motivation – Maintenance Theory

Frederick Herzberg et al (1959) argues that there are some job conditions that operate primarily to build strong motivation and job satisfaction, but their absence does not promote strong dissatisfaction. He called these factors motivators. They are:

Condition (Duration of Effect)

Experiencing achievement (Short)

Gaining recognition for some activity (Short)

Quality of the work itself [interesting, challenging] (Long)

Having responsibility for the conduct of the work (Longest)

Possibility of professional growth (Medium)

Possibility for advancement (Medium)


Herzberg found another set of job conditions to be more powerful as dissatisfiers, but when these conditions were absent, employees were not motivated in a strong way.

These dissatifiers are:

Company policy and administration

Quality of technical supervision

Interpersonal relations with supervisor

General working conditions


Interpersonal relations with peers and subordinates

Job security

When these factors are considered satisfactory by the employee, they are still not powerful motivators, just not a source of dissatisfaction to get in the way of performance.

This theory states that employees are strongly motivated by what they do for themselves. Management is primarily providing the resources and environmental surroundings and support for the employee’s satisfying accomplishments.

Thus assignments that upon successful completion, allow an employee to experience feelings of achievement, gain recognition, acquire new knowledge or skills, and for which they are responsible for results, will be highly motivating.

According to this theory once an adequate salary is paid, it is no longer a source of dissatisfaction, but neither is a high salary a strong motivator. The quality of the work becomes of greater importance.


McClelland’s Socially Developed Needs

McClelland believes that we all have three psychological needs, and the degree to which we require satisfaction of each of these needs is learned in childhood.

The needs are:

nAchievement – need to experience success in overcoming challenges or solving problems

nAffiliation – need to experience good interpersonal relations with people

nPower – the need to be able to influence the actions of other people


Each of us has these three needs but in different levels of intensity. The need(s) with the highest intensity will determine our behavior and level of satisfaction we enjoy in our work.

For example, individuals with a high need for experiencing achievement would want work that involves taking personal responsibility for solving a difficult problem or working on a challenging assignment. Another person who had a high need for affiliation would enjoy work that puts him/her in contact with other people such as being a liaison between groups.

A person will be more effective if the type of job to which they are assigned satisfies the most intensive needs they have.


Goal Setting Theory of Motivation

This theory states that people work more effectively and productively when they have specific goals or targets to meet. This theory argues for SMART goals:

S Specific

M Measurable

A Accepted by the employee

R Realistic and attainable

T Time constrained, not open-ended


According to this motivation theory, a person’s performance is improved if he/she:


Expectancy Theory of Motivation

This theory states that people act as they do because they believe such action will allow them to receive some desired reward. That reward can be monetary or psychological. Having a desire for a reward however, is not sufficient to cause a person to act. They must believe two things:

    1. that their efforts towards doing something will be successful (e.g., if they try it, they can do it.); and
    2. successful performance will result in getting the desired reward.


For example, if the employee values praise from his/her supervisor, then taking on a particularly difficult analysis project may be the route to get that praise only if they believe they can do the job, and that the supervisor will in fact praise them for successful completion. If they believe neither of these conditions exist, then they will be reluctant to take on the challenging job.

To motivate staff, the manager must reinforce the employee’s belief that he/she can successfully carry out a difficult project, and when it is completed, provide the desired reward.


Summary of Motivation Theories

Scientific staff are highly motivated when they are allowed to satisfy their psychological needs for:

through working on projects of a challenging, important and/or interesting nature.

Even in times of economic and job uncertainty, the opportunity to do challenging, interesting work and to gain recognition are the most powerful motivators of scientists (Bucher and Reece, 1972).

What all this boils down to is that scientific staff are enthusiastic about their work and are most productive and creative when they experience job satisfaction; when they can take pride in what they do and accomplish.



"The leader is the person who is able to take credit for things that happen on their own" - Dilbert

Now that we know the theory behind effective motivation of scientific staff, how do we put it into practice.

First, some warnings. Don’t assume that what gives you great satisfaction, on the job, is the same thing that excites your employees. Motivation is personal. You may get great satisfaction doing a particular activity but your staff or even another manager may get nothing out of it.

Second, if the work does not lend itself to satisfying the psychological needs of the employees, and you cannot change the job in any significant way, then there will be nothing you can do to motivate the staff. The most you can do to improve morale is make sure that the factors which can make people very dissatisfied such as company rules or quality of management, are minimized.

How can you find out what motivates your employees. Psychological tests not withstanding, the simplest way is to ask them.

Since employee job satisfaction is what the manager should be aiming at, and how he or she can promote it, answers to the following questions in one-on-one meetings with employees should provide some insight into what "makes a particular employee tick".

  1. What gives you the most satisfaction in doing your work?
  2. What gives you the most dissatisfaction in doing your work?
  3. What can I, as your manager, do to allow you to be more effective in your work?
  4. What do I need to do more of, what do I need to do less of?

Obtaining honest and accurate answers to these questions depends critically on the relationship the manager has built up with the employees. If the manager has a reputation of being overly critical, autocratic and/or incompetent, then asking the questions will result in answers the employees think the "boss" wants to hear.



The many studies of leadership/management in the scientific setting overwhelmingly emphasize the need for the manager to be able to manage in a participative/consultative style. A participative style manager understands that his/her job is to create a work environment that promotes productivity and creativity through the sharing of decision-making and power with employees.

This does not mean that situations will not arise where the effective manager must be more directive in dealing with employees, but his/her normal style should be consultative.

Another important skill the manager must have is the ability to listen very carefully. The use of "active listening" skills is important if the manager is to really understand what he/she is being told.


Managerial Actions to Promote Productivity and Creativity

Allow Scientific Staff the Freedom and Autonomy to Make Decisions About Their Work

This factor stands out above all others as being critical to the creative process with scientists and research engineers. It also fulfills the need for achievement by scientific staff being held responsible for project outcome.

The main form of freedom or autonomy mentioned in the literature is freedom to determine how a project or problem will be tackled (operational autonomy). This form of freedom to act is in line with general management best practices that state that authority and responsibility should be delegated as far down the managerial ladder as possible. Operational autonomy allows employees to feel that they are in charge of their project; tofeel in control. Other forms of freedom described in the literature are: freedom to follow up on ideas, freedom to change research direction when necessary, freedom to work on areas of greatest interest, freedom to follow projects from the idea stage to the "finished" product, and freedom to pursue, without penalty, ideas that do not have official approval (Kaplan, 1960; Steiner, 1965; Gerstenfeld, 1970; Osbaldeston et al, 1978; Shapero, 1985; EIRMA Workshop, 1994).

Some organizations go as far as allowing researchers strategic autonomy to select some of the projects they work on (e.g., 3M’s 15% of time/resources spent on personal projects).

Total freedom, however, is not conducive to useful creativity. Thus most authors recommend that freedom/autonomy be generally confined to the determination of approaches to solve a problem, rather than strategic autonomy which involves setting the R&D agenda (Amabile and Gryskiewicz, 1987; Pelz and Andrews, 1976).


Provide Challenging, Interesting Project Assignments

The assignment of technical projects is a critical managerial tool for motivating staff to be both creative and productive.

Challenging, interesting assignments are noted by many management authors as being a key factor in supporting creativity and productivity in an R&D environment Vincent and Mirakhor, 1972; Osbaldeston et al, 1978; IRI Study Group, 1969; Gerstenfeld, 1970; Wolff, 1979; Ranftl, 1986; Bean, 1995). For this reason, creative personnel would like the freedom to select their own projects.

Challenging, interesting assignments, when successfully completed, allow researchers to gain respect and recognition from their peers, and provide for their needs to experience achievement and self-fulfillment on the job. Uninteresting, unchallenging assignments do not allow for need satisfaction and can be a major source of demotivation.

Challenging work assignments can also play a major role in preventing technological obsolescence among researchers. Challenging projects that demand that researchers must learn new techniques or acquire new knowledge provide opportunities for growth and self-development.

Many authors also point out that having clear goals or objectives on work assignments is important to creativity and productivity (IRI Study Group, 1969; Gerstenfeld, 1970; Zachary and Krone, 1984; Westwood and Sekine, 1988; EIRMA Workshop, 1994).

In reality, it is not always possible to provide an unending stream of either challenging or interesting projects. Importance to the employer is not always synonymous with challenge or interest to the scientist. From a practical point of view, the best a manager might be able to do is to make sure that a stream of uninteresting or unchallenging work is interspersed from time-to-time with projects that are either interesting or challenging, from the perspective of the employee.


Reinforce the Importance of the Work

Never assume that the scientists understand the importance of a particular assignment to the organization or the "client". Ensure they know.

The importance of the research project either to the organization, or to the advancement of science or engineering is a major factor in ensuring the involvement of scientific personnel (Kaplan, 1960). This, in turn, has been noted as a factor in productive R&D organizations (Bean, 1995). The assignment of a low-importance project to a creative person will result in neither creativity nor productivity.

One way of accomplishing this, is for the employee to meet the "client" for the work. Better yet, for the employee to be part of the team that is requesting the work. They will then understand more clearly why the work is necessary, and how it is to be used by the client group. It is easier to let down someone you don’t know and have never met, than it is someone you do know.

Being a member of the client team might allow the analytical laboratory input into the best way for the client to collect samples for testing. The client group can be an important source of feedback to the employee on how well he/she are doing their supporting task.


Provide Adequate Resources

To encourage creativity and productivity, the scientists must be provided with adequate resources in terms of personnel, equipment, facilities and time.

It is extremely frustrating to scientific staff to be given a challenging, interesting assignment, but not the necessary resources to complete it in an effective and efficient manner. If inadequate resources force scientists to do what they consider to be a substandard job, then they will not get any satisfaction on completion of the project. For those scientists who look for recognition from their peers, using equipment that is several generations behind that used by their colleagues will not likely lead to results that would be acceptable for publication or presentation at a conference.

Stable financial support is a major factor in sustaining the scientist’s commitment and enthusiasm for a project and in encouraging creativity (Sharwell, 1981; Westwood and Sekine, 1988). Resources should also be available to follow up on unplanned ideas as they evolve during a project (Shapero, 1985; Lewis and DeLaney, 1991).

Creative workers must be provided with sufficient time for reading, discussion and thought and creative reflection (Osbaldeston et al, 1978; EIRMA, 1994).

While pressure in the form of deadlines is thought to encourage creativity, the deadline should be set in consultation with the staff, otherwise it is counterproductive (Osbaldeston et al, 1978; Amabile and Gryskiewicz, 1987; Wolff, 1979). Hence it is important to have a manager that does consult with staff when setting both objectives and time lines (i.e., participative style of management is their normal style).

More time can be made available for creative people to conduct their research by reducing their administrative burdens (Lewis and Delaney, 1991). It is unfortunately not uncommon to hear first level science managers to say that science is what they do on weekends or after dinner. The downloading of administrative tasks through unwise cutbacks is turning many science managers into part-time clerks.


Encourage Risk Taking

A major duty of an effective science manager is to reduce the "terror quotient" in their organization for trying new, potentially risky activities.

Risks will be taken only if it is safe to take them. If an organization severely penalizes employees for taking on challenging assignments and failing, then no risks will be taken. If trying something new which results in a success is not rewarded then employees will play it safe and stick with the status quo, no matter how ineffective present practice is. This is the situation in many government organizations were taking a risk and being successful is more or less ignored, but failing is pounced upon with the full weight of penalties.

Encouragement of trying something new and challenging is in line with the "Expectation Theory of Motivation" when managers convey confidence in the ability of the employee to tackle something new successfully.

Encouragement to take risks and try something new, and to be open to new ideas is also an important factor in encouraging creativity (Steiner, 1965; IRI Study Group, 1969; Gerstenfeld, 1970; Shapero, 1985; EIRMA, 1994; Amabile and Gryskiewicz, 1987; Ranftl, 1978; Lewis and Delaney, 1991; Johnson, 1996).


Ensure a Responsive and Equitable Reward and Recognition System

"Whether managers use a people oriented approach or a monetary one , the intensity of application of a reward system is tied to its effectiveness" – L. W. Ellis and S. Honig-Haftel, 1992

Although creative scientific staff are generally self-motivated (e.g., operating at the upper levels of the Maslow Hierarchy, and have a high need for achievement), it is important that an organization has in place a system of rewards and recognition that reinforces the creative/productive behavior of its scientific staff.

Feelings of achievement and recognition can be influenced by the reward and recognition process in place in the workplace.

Forms of reward and recognition can be classified into several broad, non-exclusive categories:

Intrinsic-Extrinsic Rewards/Recognition

Intrinsic Rewards or Recognition are those experienced by an individual as a result of good job performance (e.g., feelings of achievement, pride, and competence).

Extrinsic Rewards or Recognition are those that are provided by the employer for a job well-done (e.g., promotion, salary increase, bonuses, public recognition at company function)

Monetary-Non-monetary Rewards/Recognition

Monetary Rewards or Recognition are those that have significant cash value such as a pay raise, large salary bonus, or stock options.

Non-monetary Rewards or Recognition, while still involving a small cash outlay by the organization, are more symbolic in nature in that they tend to satisfy the psychological needs of, for example recognition (e.g., small gifts, dinner vouchers, tickets to cultural or sporting events, etc.) Authority to make such awards is usually delegated to immediate managers.

Individual-Team Rewards/Recognition

Individual Rewards or Recognition are those provided to an individual for exceptional or outstanding performance above that of their colleagues. These can be monetary or non-monetary.

Team Rewards or Recognition are those that are provided to the whole team as a result of outstanding performance by the team in meeting group objectives. These rewards can be intrinsic, or extrinsic (monetary or non-monetary).

Intrinsic (internal) rewards (psychological need satisfaction) are seen to be associated more with creativity than extrinsic rewards such as salary or promotion. Thus management should ensure that its actions provide for intrinsic rewards or forms of recognition.

Among the intrinsic rewards sought by R&D staff are:

Extrinsic rewards, which are sought out by scientific staff who look to their employer for recognition and reward, must be provided in a fair and equitable manner, otherwise de-motivation and conflict can occur. Extrinsic rewards include:

In order to properly ensure that the form of reward or recognition reinforces the employee’s motivation to be productive or creative, a manager must know whether the employee has a more cosmopolitan orientation to their work, or a more local orientation. In the area of recognition, for example, a cosmopolitan oriented scientist would not be highly motivated by praise from senior managers, but would be from praise from his/her peers and colleagues inside, and especially outside, the organization. Hence sending the scientist to present a paper at a conference would be very rewarding. Someone with a local orientation would be very pleased with a personal meeting with the CEO where the CEO praises his/her work in front of senior managers and fellow workers.

The use of a dual career ladder to recognize and reward professional employees for their work and dedication has been successfully used by many organizations. Lack of a dual promotion ladder for researchers has been associated with low creativity (Wolff, 1992). The dual ladder has its greatest impact on scientists with a cosmopolitan orientation to their work.

When promoting the capabilities of a laboratory, an effective science manager will remember to first mention the high quality of people employed by the laboratory and not just dwell on the expensive equipment it owns. This is especially important when prospective clients are touring the facility, and the staff can hear these comments.

The use of a simple and timely "pat on the back" for a job well done is also a powerful motivator. Fear that such recognition will raise expectations of higher monetary rewards should not be an excuse for not thanking people for a job well done.


Encourage Interaction with Colleagues

Praise and recognition from peers is a powerful motivator for some scientists. The work environment and, if possible, the physical layout of the work place should encourage communication among the scientific staff and others in the organization, as well as among the scientific staff elsewhere.

Conference attendance cannot and should not be considered a luxury. In addition to its being a vital conduit for new information about the latest scientific or technical advances or potential new business opportunities to enter the organization, it also provides a major mechanism for scientists to have their psychological needs for personal growth fulfilled (i.e., learning about new techniques, etc.).

Interaction with the outside world can also be facilitated by the use of temporary exchange programs with similar laboratories, or by encouraging adjunct professorships at local universities or colleges.

Exposure to new ideas and methods of operation is also a good way of staving off technological obsolescence.


Managerial Actions that May Inhibit Employee Need Satisfaction

Science managers can, from time-to-time, make a decision, or take some action that inadvertently results in an employee being denied satisfaction of a psychological need. Lack of consultation with staff can contribute to this situation.

In those hopefully few situations where prior consultation with staff is not possible or permitted, good managers stop and ask themselves, "how will this decision or action affect the ability of my employees to satisfy their psychological needs or to gain job satisfaction?" before proceeding to implement their decision or action. They put themselves in the shoes of the employee so that they can anticipate the reaction of the employee and be prepared for it. If the reaction will negatively impact productivity or creativity, then the manager has an opportunity to rethink the action/decision or introduce it in such a way as to reduce the negative consequences.

While the lack of initiating the above mentioned managerial actions will result in a poorly motivated workforce, the following actions can have a direct impact on lowering an employee’s motivation and job satisfaction:

Arbitrary or overly restrictive rules about talking on the job

Change in work schedule that breaks up work groups or car pool schedules

- reduces ability to satisfy social or belonging needs

Criticizing an employee’s performance in public

- reduces ability to satisfy need for self-esteem or the respect of others

Insisting that all decisions must cleared through supervisor

- reduces any feeling of achievement or responsibility even if the project is a success

Arbitrarily setting project completion times instead of in consultation with employee

- reduces any feeling of respect for the employee’s input into decisions; impacts self-esteem

Tendency to take over a technical problem instead of assisting the employee to solve it

- reduces ability to satisfy the need for achievement, responsibility and for professional growth

Changing reporting relationships

- if employee is asked to report to a person which at a lower level in the management hierarchy, they will feel a loss of status and self-esteem.


Why Are We Not Motivating and Leading our Scientific Staff More Effectively

I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation that knowledge about how to effectively motivate and lead scientific staff has been known for many years. Why then has this proven to be so difficult?

I believe there are three fundamental reasons for this problem. First, selection of potential science managers has been based too much on a person's scientific or technical skills to the detriment of selection based both their scientific or technical skills and on their ability to learn and apply management skills with the result that unfit or autocratic people get appointed to management. These people may have the arrogant attitude that they do not need to learn anything about managing people. I have heard of situations where science managers had to be threatened with dismissal to get them to take a management course. My favorite example was a senior science manager who when told he needed to attend a management course said, "Management course, why do I need to attend a management course, I have a Ph.D. in physics". These managers believe there is nothing to learn about managing people.

Studies have shown that autocratic managers are unable to share decision making and authority with employees and would want to micro-manage to the point where individual initiative and creativity are stifled (Pelz and Andrew, 1976).

Secondly, even if a potentially good science manager is selected, some organizations still have a bad habit of moving bench level scientific or technical staff into a supervisory position without one minute’s training as a scientific or technical manager. These newly appointed R&D managers have had no exposure to the vast pool of knowledge and information that has been built up over the past fifty years on R&D management. As a result many scientists and engineers fail to make the grade as managers, and cause considerable harm to the organization in the form of lower morale, and productivity. Universities could alleviate this problem somewhat by incorporating in their graduate science and engineering programs at least one compulsory course on R&D management. As an intrinsic part of the overall training of research scientists/engineers, the course would familiarize the students with the basics of R&D management and bring to their attention the body of knowledge that exists on R&D management that they could draw upon later in their careers.

I am no longer surprised when science managers who have been in managerial positions for several years sign up for my R&D management workshops and admit that this is the first time they have had any management training.

The first level of R&D management is a critical management level in the hierarchy of an R&D-based organization. The actions of a first level science manager can have immediate effects on the morale, creativity and productivity of a laboratory.

It is therefore important that the selection of potential science managers be done correctly, and that the prospective science manager/supervisor be exposed to R&D management principles and theories before they are assigned to a management position.

This training will reinforce that their role in the organization is going change from being only a technical contributor, to facilitating the technical contributions of others, and that there is a body of knowledge on R&D management that it is important to learn and apply. It will help them avoid the trap of trying to manage scientific staff relying only on their technical skills and personal experiences.

Such training will also reinforce their understanding that their actions shape the work environment and determine whether the organization will survive in these turbulent times.

Thirdly, I believe another contributing factor to the lack of application of what we know about effective R&D management has been the steady decline in the number of articles written by practicing R&D managers in R&D management journals. For example, articles by R&D managers concerned with how they deal with difficult-to-manage scientists are a rarity. With the exception of a few R&D management journals, many of the articles being published are written by academics trying to impress other academics. The information contained in the articles is of little practical use to R&D managers. It has been disheartening to watch some previously useful journals become so esoteric and theoretical that a Ph.D. in management is necessary to decipher their articles. So while more R&D management journals are being published today, the overall body of information that can be put into immediate practice by R&D managers is not expanding. Journal editors should make more space available for articles that provide practical information for R&D managers.



I would like to end my presentation by giving you the results of a short survey of scientists I conducted to determine the characteristics or actions of the best R&D manager they ever had who brought out the best in them. They reported that their "best manager":

In contrast, the scientists described the worst R&D manager they had experienced in the following terms:



I have covered a lot of material in this presentation, and so I would like to close by emphasizing the following points:

- better selection and training of first line science managers is critical to the overall improvement in the motivation and leadership of scientific staff;

- universities should incorporate at least one compulsory R&D management course in the graduate curriculum;

- the effective science manager "motivates" staff by creating opportunities in the work environment for them to satisfy their psychological needs; to gain satisfaction from their work, to reinforce their self-esteem and allow them to gain the recognition of both colleagues inside and outside the organization;

- task assignment is key in both keeping scientific staff both highly motivated and in avoiding technological obsolescence; and

- effective management and leadership of scientists is a major challenge; it is not easy; it takes well trained dedicated people to accomplish it successfully.


The difficulty in effectively managing scientists is captured by quote by Joseph Martino, Associate Editor of Technological Forecasting and Social Change:

"It has been said that managing scientists is like herding cats.

I’ve raised cats and I’ve managed scientists.

I am not sure but what I would prefer to herd cats"



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R&D Workshops Offered by Stargate Consultants Limited

Effective Motivation and Leadership of Technical and Scientific Staff

Topics covered in this three day workshop:

What does an effective manager do?
Easing the transition from researcher to manager
R&D leadership styles
Motivating your R&D staff
Improving interpersonal communications among scientific staff.


Effective Management of Technical and Scientific Staff

Topics covered in this three day workshop:

Managing change in the R&D environment
Managing conflict in R&D
Managing the R&D Team
Avoiding technological obsolescence, and burnout
Time management and delegation.

Custom workshops can be developed and presented on request.

Workshop fee: $650. per person. Group rates are also available.

Fee includes workshop manual.

For further information on Stargate products and services please visit the Stargate web-site at

Stargate Consultants Limited
P.O. Box 2010
Nanaimo, B.C. Canada, V9R 6X5

Tel/Fax: (250) 755-3066