6 work motivation methods that may be counter-productive

By Robert Half on 11 September 2018

Trying to motivate your employees and not seeing much success?

Giving your staff the inspiration and motivation to be productive can be challenging at times, particular if they're juggling multiple projects or struggling with finding work-life balance.

As a a manager, stepping in under these circumstances to not only relieve the stress, but also to help guide them towards success is a course of action that needs to be taken carefully. Without the proper amount of consideration, some motivation methods can go astray.

Here are some mistakes that even the best managers make at times.

1. Short-term incentives

It’s great that you’re giving your staff incentives for doing well to keep their work motivation high. 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.

Additionally, it makes the work environment very transactional in nature; if your employees are constantly asking what’s in it for them when you bring up a new initiative, something has gone wrong.

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, 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 love what they do.

2. Work flexibility privileges

Offering employees the chance to work remotely or with flexible hours is a great thing. Remote working gets rid of commuting time, and some employees will flourish given the space to do their work in the comforts of their own home.

On the flip side, without proper management, it can lead to a lack of productivity. Do set daily or weekly targets for your employees to work towards, and consider using cloud co-working programs like Google Drive to monitor their progress if the need arises.

3. 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, but it’s better in any situation to hope for the best, and plan for the worst.

4. 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.

5.  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.

6. 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 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.

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