Keeping employees motivated is challenging. Some managers try to motivate by fear. They threaten the loss of the job or a cut in pay, and for a short time the employee performs. The employee appears motivated so the manager is happy. But it will be short lived.
It’s a temporary fix
Motivating by fear is a temporary fix and it is external. The minute the threat is over the performance will falter. Employees will perform by fear, but the organizational culture will be one of stress and anxiety.
Other managers motivate with rewards. Each milestone in performance is met by a reward or bonus. This type of motivation also works for a short time. It is also an external motivation. Because once the person gets the bonus or gets the raise or wins the prize, they have no additional reason to stay focused. A company will ultimately become insolvent if they continually raise the stakes on rewards. Reward motivation is external, temporary, and leads to a culture of negative competition and stress.
Motivation is about THEM
Managers who believe they understand how to motivate their employees are often misguided. One example comes from a previous position where I worked with a CEO who believed he had an understanding of his employees. This particular group of employees had been working excessively long hours for the previous six months and they were wrapping up an important project. They were tired, burned out, feeling over worked and the culture of their group was one of exhaustion and frustration. However, when the CEO was around they appeared to be upbeat and highly motivated.
As the project was wrapping up, the CEO offered to take the group to a baseball game and dinner. He felt that this was a special reward that would make the employees feel appreciated. He sent them an email inviting each of them to attend this baseball game and dinner with him. Each employee responded positively and accepted the invitation. The CEO thought that by spending time with his employees, he was making them feel appreciated. He failed to realize that it was his position that the employees responded to, not his invitation. Remember, this group of employees just finished a major project that took them away from their families for extensive periods. The last thing they wanted at that time was to spend another evening away to attend a baseball game with the CEO. His attempt to motivate turned into a huge de-motivator.
It is difficult to motivate another person. Motivation must come from within. A person needs to find the drive. They need to find their passion. If you truly want to motivate someone, take the time to help them determine their inner drive. Try to find out what they love. If they love spending time with their family, help them recognize that meeting their goals at work, will provide them with that outcome. If they stay on task, they won’t be working overtime to finish. If they seem to want to buy a vacation home, focus on that outcome. Remind them that each goal they accomplish at work increases their value to you as an employer and the more valuable they are, the more they can be rewarded financially.
The key is to motivate each individual in a way that works for them. If you learn how to do that, you will no longer be using misguided motivation.