Here at “What Motivates You” we talk a lot about how you can motivate your employees. We know how important it is to have an energized and engaged workforce. Equally important however, is making sure that you are not demotivating your workforce.
Here are five ways that you can dem0tivate your employees really, really fast.
1. Not being fully honest – it is amazing how quickly people can pick up on BS. Really. You might think that you can pull a fast one and not be fully honest about something, but people know. Researcher Paul Ekman, regarded as one of the world’s best experts on lying, suggests that when we lie, we often “leak” information about the truth or leave “deception clues.” As people, we might not be able to pick up on all of these clues right away, but we usually pick up some of them. When people do find out that their boss is lying, concealing, misleading or telling a half-truth, their trust is gone. When trust is gone, it is very hard to feel motivated.
2. Keep changing the game – we have conducted focus groups and field interviews with thousands and thousands of employees and every time we do, we are amazed at how many times the rules that employees are given are changed on them. At one company employees mentioned that their incentive plan goals had been changed on them three times in a quarter – twice raised and once lowered. The impact that this had on motivation was predictably horrible. It is hard to hit a moving target. This happens with incentive plans, recognition plans, strategic goals, work processes, new programs, etc…. While I don’t subscribe to the belief that change is bad – however, when change appears to be circumstantial, arbitrary, or because thoughtful planning wasn’t done, then it definitely has a negative impact on motivation.
3. Being perceived as unfair – I believe that we humans have a built in “fairness meter” that accesses things, not on their own basis, but in relationship to others (one just has to have children to really see this fairness meter in action). When we feel that we are being treated unfairly – somebody else was given more, had it easier, doesn’t have to work as hard, etc… – we tend to lose our drive to go out and produce. The key word in this is “perceived.” Reality, while important, is not the driving factor in this demotivator. Too often organizations do a very poor job of developing programs that are really fair or perceived as being fair.
4. Not recognizing accomplishments beyond the top 10% – there are very few humans who don’t appreciate being recognized when they have done something that goes above and beyond. Yet, I’ve worked in too many companies where the attitude is that to be recognized, someone has to do more than just above and beyond, they have to be at the top. Too often organizations recognition programs and their overall recognition attitude is to reward and recognize only the top few. While this is great for those who are at the top, it can actually create a schism with the people who are not. We need to look for ways to recognize and hold up as examples those activities that drive business or improve performance from all areas of the business.
5. Focusing on the negative, mistakes, or issues – David Cooperrider has researched and written extensively about the power of “Appreciative Management.” The very simplified overview of this, is that those things that get focused on are reinforced and grow. If we are always managing around the mistakes and issues that occur, we are creating a culture that is about those mistakes. This type of culture is very demotivating. As leaders, it is important that we can create a positive culture and focus on the appreciating the things that are going well and reinforce those. This is the type of culture that accelerates motivation.
There are many more factors that can cause employees to become demotivated – we would love to hear some of your main thoughts on this. If you have an idea…leave a comment. I will go through the comments and pick the best ones to put in another article and reference your insights…
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