5 work motivation methods that may be counter-productive

By Robert Half on 17 November 2021

Finding the right tactic to motivate your staff with can be often a challenge with differing personalities and goals.

Are you finding that your staff as of late are underperforming or uninterested in their work, in spite of your efforts to instill them with work motivation methods?

It might be time to take a more closer look at the way you encourage and motivate your staff, as some common methods may be proving to do more harm than good.

1. Short-term incentives

Giving your staff incentives for doing well to keep their work motivation high is a common practice. However, by giving out shopping vouchers or time off to reward your employees every month, you may cause them to aim only for certain short-term rewards, derailing them from achieving major milestones.

Moreover, this approach can transform the work environment to become more transactional in nature. Instead, find out what motivates each individual other than just a competitive salary and incentive perks.

Some people do well because they enjoy the synergy they’ve developed with their team, whilst others thrive on being complimented on their work ethics and having achieved results. When you know what drives the individuals in your team, you can then act accordingly to help them.

2. Being overly positive

Being optimistic all the time is great, but sometimes it pays to consider the possible negatives when taking risks as well.

We all hope for the best case scenario, but it pays to have strategies in place to deal with any setbacks that may occur. A positive attitude is important for work motivation, but it’s better in any situation to hope for the best, and plan for the worst.

3. Cultivating a competitive work culture

Introducing some competition always gets things going, but it can also bring out the worst in people.

If someone isn’t playing fair, it’s best to nip things in the bud quickly and peacefully before any conflicts occur. Find ways to reward the whole team for building each other up, so everyone wins.

4. Always being there for your team

Being a leader isn’t an easy job. On one hand, you have to ensure your team’s performance, so it’s tempting to jump in when things go awry. On the other hand, too much hand-holding can result in your team becoming complacent and too dependent on you.

It’s natural for your team to look in your direction for guidance and mentorship in a crisis, but sometimes, it pays to let go.

We’re not saying to leave them in the lurch, of course. Instead, appoint employees whom you think will make reliable project leads, and observe from a distance to see how things play out.

This forces your team to become self-sufficient, increases productivity in the long run, and allows employees to show their work motivation.

5. Showing them who’s boss

While it’s normal to set your employees straight when they’ve done something wrong, do remember to give them credit where it’s due. A harsh boss will only lower staff morale; fear might force your employees to put their noses to the grind, but it won’t bring out much creativity and inspiration.

Instead, you’ll find people doing exactly what they’re told – nothing more, nothing less, which can severely limit your team’s potential. Be authoritative, not authoritarian.

The essence of good work motivation

Employee motivation is about taking the time to understand your staff better, and to capture what are the driving factors that inspire them to perform at their best in the workplace.

It's not uncommon for motivation practices to sometimes not work out. The important part is to learn from the experience and adjust strategies accordingly to meet both the needs of staff, and the goals of the business as a whole.

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