Five Things That Kill Employee Motivation

A boss creates fear. A leader creates confidence.

Motivation isn’t too difficult to understand, and it’s not too difficult to instill. And yet millions of dollars have been spent on thousands of research studies, all asking the same question. They’re all asking, “How do you motivate other people?”

Most of the research has focused on what a person should DO. The assumption has been that if you just know enough techniques and apply them properly you can get people all fired up.

That’s true – to an extent. The problem is — motivation is not only a questions of what you SHOULD DO, it’s also a question of what you have to STOP DOING.

Think about it. No manager ever hired anyone that hated the job, belittled the products, berated the customers, disliked their colleagues, and distrusted the management. And yet companies often have lots of people like that. How can that be? Where did they come from?

Obviously, something happened to those employees that turned them off. During the course of their employment, situations occurred and actions were taken that demotivated them.

If you want to motivate other people, you’ve got to stop doing those things that demotivate them. You’ve got to start by taking a good look at your own communication. For example,

=> 1. A Lack Of Recognition Eats Away At Motivation.

Everyone needs to know that her work counts, has quality, and is done right. Just like the little kid at the swimming pool who shouts to her mother, “Look Mom. Look at me,” your employees are saying, “Look Ms. Manager. Look Mr. Supervisor. Look at my work. Let me know that you’ve noticed.”

Don’t make any excuses. Don’t say you’re too busy to go around praising people. Don’t justify your lack of recognition by saying your employees already know if they’re doing a good job. The fact remains — unverbalized recognition demotivates the employee!

=> 2. A Lack Of Clarity Is Just As Bad.

If an employee doesn’t know exactly what’s expected, he can’t feel confident that he’s doing the right thing the right way. And with all the changes in the business world, many employees feel lost and demotivated.

This lack of clarity may come from information stinginess. Some managers don’t take the time to keep their employees fully informed, or they may not want their employees to know certain things. Either way, the price you pay is lowered employee motivation.

According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, the second most powerful motivator is full, accurate, timely information. So tell your employees everything they need to know about where the company is headed, what goals you’re trying to achieve, what changes are forthcoming, and how they can best complete their jobs. As Japanese professor Shibutani says, “You had better keep your employees informed, or they’ll make it up, and it won’t be flattering.”

In addition to these communication demotivators, there are some structural demotivators you’ve got to stop. Each of these structural deficiencies widen the hole at the bottom of the motivation funnel and drain away employee energy.

=> 3. One Example Is Working In A No-Win Situation.

It may be the employee who reports to two bosses. One wants speed and the other quality. Producing both may not be possible. Or it may be the employee who works across departmental boundaries where marketing wants one thing while manufacturing wants another. Obviously there is a need for some face-to-face meetings, some listening, brainstorming, creative problem solving, prioritizing, and teamwork.

=> 4. Jobs That Never End Can Also Demotivate.

In some work places, there never seems to be an end in sight, no matter how long or how hard the employee works. The in-basket is always full. Customers are always waiting. And more items are always coming down the assembly line. As a result, the employee doesn’t experience any sense of job completion or satisfaction.

The smart manager counteracts those difficulties by establishing some criteria for success. She looks for little wins and big gains. She’s on the hunt for every victory, and she celebrates those successes with her employees.

=> 5. Finally, Unfair Rewards Are A Major Demotivator.

In many organizations, there are situations where an employee knocks himself out, doing the best possible job for the company. But when pay day comes, there’s not a dimes’ difference between his check and the sluggard who did just enough to get by. In other organizations, the only thing that counts, when it comes to compensation, is how long a person has been there — no matter how good or bad his work might be. After a while, the good employee can’t help but let his performance slip.

If you’re in a position of leadership, eliminate those inequities. Reward top performance. Let the sluggard pay the price and feel the effect of poor performance.

If you have no power to affect those demotivators, you can at least let your employees know that your hands are tied. You can empathize with them. Then give them all the psychological recognition they deserve, and give them some occasional, tangible rewards. Take them out to lunch or bring them a gift once in a while.

With the ever-increasing rate of change, there has never been a time when motivation was more needed than right now. But don’t go for half of a solution. Don’t just put the motivation in. Make sure you don’t let it out.

Action:  Instead of focusing on how to motivate your employees or coworkers, spend a little time finding out what demotivates them. And then see if you can do something to remove one of the demotivators. You’ll see instant results.