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Why You Should Stop Motivating Employees

Recognize This! – Factors that serve to demotivate employees are stronger than those that motivate them.

For decades, “good” managers have concerned themselves with how to motivate employees – how to encourage their employees to give their best. New research from Jim Collins, co-author of Good to Great and Great by Choice, offers a new perspective (from the Financial Post):

“Collins heads up a leadership centre in Boulder, Colo., where he conducts research into what successful companies do and their leadership practices. Collins says that ‘the best leaders don’t worry about motivating people, they are careful to not demotivate them.’ He contends there are three key demotivators: Hype or the failure to acknowledge the real difficulties the organization faces; futurism, or always looking at distant goals or visions, and not being present; and false democracy, or inviting employees’ input when the leader has already made a decision. A combination of all three can kill employee motivation.”

This doesn’t surprise me based on similar research showing that bad behavior at work has a much stronger influence on company morale and productivity than good behavior does to counteract it.

Common Demotivators

All of this theory is well and good, but are there common demotivators you can eliminate in your workplace?

  1. Lack of clarity and communication– When people don’t know what you need from them, they lose motivation to work hard on the tasks at hand. They question whether their work is valid and useful to achieving end goals.How to turn it around: Recognize employees in-the-moment to clearly communicate to employees what it is you need and expect that is of value to the organization.
  2. Lack of meaning and purpose– Without this clear communication, employees lose all sense of meaning and purpose in their work, two factors often identified as critical to employee engagement and happiness at work.How to turn it around: Help employees understand the deeper value their contributions by tying recognition to core company values and strategic objectives. This lets them know how their efforts are contributing to achieving larger goals.
  3. Lack of progress– Recently identified through rigorous researchas the primary factor of employee engagement, progress is essential to motivation. Otherwise employees feel as if they are spinning in circles but never truly accomplishing an end result of valueHow to turn it around: Don’t wait until the conclusion of a project to recognize employee efforts and contributions – especially in projects that can last months to years. Keep employees focused and, yes, motivated by recognizing and rewarding progress along the way.

What other common demotivators do you see in your workplace? How could you or your mangers turn them around?

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