Four Ways to Kill Motivation on the Job

“An employee’s motivation on the job is the direct result of the sum of interactions with the manager.”  ~ Bob Nelson

We’ve all heard the expression “Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”.  Managers are expected to lead their team in such a way that goals are met and hopefully surpassed.  In order to lead a successful team, avoid the following:

Keep your team in the dark:  Some managers don’t share good news, bad news or any news at all.  They think sharing good news will lead to demands for more money and sharing bad news will lead to too many questions and people abandoning ship.  Sometimes, the information being withheld isn’t game changing, but could lead to service breakdowns. For example, a product has been discontinued, but nobody bothered to tell the sales team, so they are out there selling something that can’t be delivered.   Leaving team members in the dark leads to rumours and sends the message that you do not value or trust them.

Keep them guessing:  Want to really frustrate someone? Don’t let them know what you expect from them, or better yet, vary your reaction based on the “mood of the day”.   If your team is not clear on performance standards, they will feel resentful when you try to fix the problem.  Be clear and be consistent when recognizing and rewarding.  Don’t let something slide one day and then get upset about the same thing the next day because you spilled your coffee on the way to work.   Your team members shouldn’t have to try and figure out how to behave based on how you greet them (or don’t greet them) in the morning.

Micromanage:  I had a boss that made changes any time somebody submitted a report, not because his changes made the document better, but because he needed to see his red pen on that paper.  Sometimes it was one or two words, but there was always something.  It became a running joke and an opportunity to create an office pool. How many changes were going to be made and to which words?  Not a great way to build credibility and not a great way to encourage your team to put in their best effort knowing changes would be made no matter what.

Play the “Let’s Get Input” Game:  That’s when a manager asks for input from the team after attending a workshop.  But the question is all for show.   The manager knows exactly what’s going to happen and has no intention of using or even listening to any suggestions.   When bosses play that game, employees catch on very quickly.  Input and creativity dies and the boss thinks, “See, I knew it was all bogus.  I ask but get no suggestions.”   Asking for input increases employee engagement and buy in only if you listen to what they have to say and find ways to incorporate some of their ideas.

Leading a team successfully means respecting and valuing the people on your team.  It means keeping them in the loop, it means consistency, it means trusting them to do their job and it means sincerely asking for their input and suggestions.   A motivated, engaged team can accomplish great things.  It’s the manager’s responsibility to create the environment for great things to happen.

6 thoughts on “Four Ways to Kill Motivation on the Job

  1. You are spot on: consistency is so important. People will put up with a consistent jerk far more than someone who is nice but inconsistent. Hire great people, set direction and boundaries, provide feedback (congrats and developmental as needed), and get out of the way. [Way easier said than done!]

    Keep up the great thoughts!

    • Get out of the way … so true. It is hard to let a team member run with a task or project. They might make a mistake, they might not do it our way and yet making mistakes provides learning opportunities and it’s pretty seldom that our way is the only way.

      Thanks for your feedback.

    • Thanks Doug, for both the comment and the reblog. I believe that most employees want to do well, they want to be engaged and the influence that a boss plays on that continued desire for engagement is critical.

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