For Good Leaders, It’s All About How NOT to Demotivate Your Employees

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.”

3 common demotivators

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.

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 research as 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 value.

How 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.

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

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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