Most managers, who can hold extensive discussions about strategy, implementation and effective usage of resources will find themselves at their wit’s end, when asked what they’ve done differently to motivate their teams, of late.

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup  in his blog estimates that out of the US’s roughly 100 million full time employees, a startling 70 million are not engaged at work. He further states if out of them, we take a ballpark ratio of 1:10 for managers and employees respectively, then around 7 million managers aren’t doing enough to keep their employees engaged.

This means there’s a huge chance that your employee is trudging through the day unmotivated, and does the bare minimum to get by.

For those managers or employers who feel they’ve deciphered motivating employees, we try to debunk a few myths-

Myth 1: Money is the best bait!

It’s not really a fallacy. Money motivations work fabulously. It’s the most common cause behind that ear to ear grin across your employee’s face.

However, the truth is money might only work as a quick fix to ‘keep people’, but by doing this employers are actually chickening out from motivating them rightly. It’s a short term solution to make them feel indebted by preparing them for a ‘your wish-my command’ association.

The magic of cash only, is bound to derail sooner than you expect. It’s better to club it with other things like employee recognition, good career growth, work-life balance, etc., and make it a complete package.

Myth 2: “I can motivate people”

We respect your conviction. But many managers fail to recognize the difference between motivating their potential clients and their employees. Motivating your employees is a different ball game.

Maynard Webb, the former CEO of eBay, in an interview with Forbes said, to keep employees motivated over time, “you need to tap into a higher purpose”.

It’s about keeping employees informed about the real reason behind your company’s existence, apart from monetary gains.

Employee engagement is to do with the energy, initiative and the effort an employee brings to the table. And it is you who has to provide them enough reason to feel motivated.

You can motivate them by empowering them. It’s often about building an atmosphere where your employees  feel encouraged.

Try to fill your corporate environment with the right values to inspire them. Like Pat Riley, the famous NBA basketball coach who said, “being a part of success is more important than being personally indispensable”.

Myth 3: People generally remain Unmotivated at work

If you too are a victim of this philosophy, ask yourself-

  • Have you ever tried to dig into how much your employees trust you as a leader?
  • Are you rewarding your employees correctly during performance appraisals?
  • Does the rewards you’re giving mean anything to them?
  • Are you genuinely taking interest in listening to your employees?
  • Have you taken any measures in improving their work-life balance recently?
  • Do you have a tendency of losing your temper in front of your employees?
  • As a Manager have you ever stood up to save any of your team members from the senior management’s wrath?
  • Do you have a knack of proving everyone else wrong ?
  • Is work getting too monotonous for your employees?
  • Does your workplace offer them the right environment?

These and many such factors are the causes of employee dissatisfaction and low morale. Fixing them will increase the probability of  fixing their happiness. Of course, it’s debatable whether happy employees work more, or whether employees remain generally demotivated.

But, it’s always better to leave no stone unturned.

Myth 4:  Smart employees or High performs don’t need to be motivated

You may think your ‘smart new hire’ is a quick learner, go getter, adaptable and is blessed with a good acumen.

Don’t jump the gun.

Just because one is intelligent doesn’t mean s/he will be self-motivated too. As a matter of fact, smarter employees need more engagement as they get bored much more quickly than your average joe. They might in fact feel unmotivated or frustrated early on if not handled carefully.

They are also constantly buzzing with energy, new ideas and demand a certain stature (especially in your mind). It is your responsibility to maintain a balance between all your employees.

Myth 5:Employees don’t want ‘Your support  for making progress’

In January 2010, the Harvard Business Review inquired six hundred Managers across different industries about what they thought motivated their employees. They were given 5 parameters to rank- incentives, recognition for work, support for making progress, interpersonal support  & clear goals.

The position that came out 1st was-recognition for work and the one that ranked 5th was- support for making progress.

When HBR matched it with a multi-year analysis of 238 employees in 7 organizations, it was found that support for making progress came out 1st, while recognition for work stood 2nd .

Inference: employees need your support the most when they’re on their job. That’s the time they feel least motivated. The uncertainty of the outcome and the dire need to overcome hurdles can take a toll on them.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing less tricky than knowing what’s important to your employees. In this age of customization, it’s tough to say whether blanket policies are good enough for them or not. Besides, all employees have separate aspirations. For some promotion is important, for others its remuneration, seeking newer challenges, growth, etc.

Motivating your employees also depends a lot on your personal association with them.

A quick example from history– Napoleon shared a great camaraderie with his soldiers. So, strong it was that he knew almost all the soldiers of his finest regiment, the Old Guard , by their names.

Guest Author: I am Mike Federer, a writer by profession-an observer by instinct. Researching about subjects of my interest and contributing write-ups to online publications, blogs and websites is a daily activity for me. When I am not working, I spend time with my little angels, Sara and Ryan. They are the reason behind my childlike curiosity.

Image Credit:

Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor is the Founder and CEO of HR Knows

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