Flipping the Switch – 7 demotivators

Motivation can often be very fragile. It is usually much easier to demotivate than it is to motivate. Acknowledging that motivation is almost always intrinsic, that it originates within a person and that effective leadership and management can ignite the engine, this series would be incomplete if I did not give some mention to the seven key demotivators. In case you missed them, the seven key motivators can be found in a post of that name here.

Here is my list of seven almost certain turn-offs.

First – Be Excessively Critical. Direction, guidance, and correction are one thing. Criticism is another. The former points to success while the latter points out failure. We cannot sanction incompetence and we cannot simply ignore practices and procedures that may compromise safety, performance, or productivity. Our objective as leaders and managers is to reach the company’s or organization’s objectives and therefore we must manage the assets at our disposal. If a person is not performing up to standard, do what has to be done to resolve the problem. If the person is not a good fit, find another spot. If the need is for more training, provide it. Constant criticism does not help. It conveys only one message…that pleasing the boss is impossible so why try. Excessive criticism eventually creates employees and associates who will game the system meaning they will learn to work the system to their gain and your loss.

Second – Fail to appreciate. Our mothers taught us two magic things to say – Please and Thank You. They still work. I’ve written quite a bit about this because I’ve seen this demotivator perhaps more than any of the others. In today’s number oriented world, it is easy for managers and leaders to focus on them to the detriment of people skills. When a person or department reaches or almost reaches targets, celebrate the achievement. Do not immediately say anything that would indicate they should have done more (even if they really should have and really could have). Appreciation doesn’t function merely in celebrating achievement. It has a much broader definition. It also implies a regard for others and a respect for their participation. Barking orders, issuing mandates, or blustering your way around the job may make you feel important. It will backfire.

Third – Confuse them. Where there is no clear vision, people wander around. When the troops hear an uncertain bugle call they don’t know what to do. When you haven’t given enough information or you’ve changed your objective without telling anyone, the energy drains away. Be clear, be consistent, and be certain.

Fourth – Ignore progress. Checkpoints are very important. To get what you expect you must be faithful and diligent to inspect. It keeps up your confidence that objectives will be met, but it reassures your associates that they are on track too. Motivation is a feeling supported and energized by facts. Checkpoints provide the facts. They tell you what, if anything needs to be corrected or modified. It tells your associates and employees that they are doing well.

Fifth – Lack of results. The people who work for us are not machines and they are not unfeeling. Frustration is very possible when they feel like they are getting nowhere. This is very probable in sales but it applies in other fields, too. People lose motivation if they try to lose weight but the pounds just do not come off. Employees lose motivation when they see no or few results in their jobs, too. This is why celebration of progress is so crucial.

Sixth – Low pay, no reward for work. This should be a no brainer but amazingly a good many companies to not get it. A major big box store eliminated spiffs and commissions for its sales staff. They then trumpeted a new, noble objective – that all employees should make sacrifices for the good of the enterprise. I am not joking! They actually asked the workforce to make sacrifices so that the company could prosper. The problem exacerbated itself when it was learned that the corporate suits all received bonuses and stock options. Apparently sacrifice applied only to low level employees. People make sacrifices for noble causes and in desperate times. A position at a big box store or for that matter your office or shop is not a noble calling. It’s a job. Reward your staff accordingly.

Seventh – Floundering. Dr. Laurence Peters first identified it and it has become known as the Peter Principle. It says that in any organization a person tends to be promoted to the level of his incompetence. And it really is a downer. When you’re in over your head, the frustration and embarrassment makes things worse. If someone who works for you seems frustrated or discouraged, do some discreet checking to see if they are simply in a position that demands more than they can provide, then determine if they need reassignment or more training. See number one above.

The next post will be on working relationships and what you can do to build your line of credit with those you work with.

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