5 Ways to Motivate the Unmotivated

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Tue, Sep 1 - 3:44 am EDT | 5 years ago by
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Let me begin by saying I don’t believe you can motivate people, at least not for lasting results. You may be able to motivate them to do something in their best interests for a short period of time, but as soon as the incentive you offered goes away, so does the motivation.

That being said, we had some great suggestions offered on what to do with the unmotivated that I thought I should weigh in with some of my opinion. My opinions are based on my years of management and may or may not work with your employees (see previous paragraph for why).

I'm not getting motivated - and you can't make me!

Understand what you need – Do you really need someone who is goal-oriented or is task orientation the better fit? Be honest with yourself, and dig deep. Sometimes you need task-riented people more than you do goal-oriented people.

Ask probing questions to better understand what MIGHT motivate an associate - As a manager, you have to use all the tools you have to find out why things are missing. Questions like “How do you like to be recognized and rewarded when you do a job well.” “What was something that’s made you feel great at work recently?” or something else that works with your employee. Trust matters.

Realize much of this is out of your control – If your employee isn’t motivated, it may not be your fault, it may just be how they are wired. If your employee IS motivated, it may not be your fault, it may just be how they are wired. It’s best to understand this at the job interview but if you didn’t know it then, you still have to accept it now – or fire the employee that’s driving you crazy.

Think about the example you’re setting – Are you motivated to do the job at a high level? If you’re not motivated, employees quickly realize motivation isn’t an important piece in getting promoted, so they won’t be motivated.

Peer pressure/competition works (sometimes) – Do you have an employee who is a super rock star who does everything she’s asked? Are her stats off the charts awesome and you wish everyone on the team were more like her? Perhaps a little peer review is in order. If the unmotivated associated is thrives on competition, this might work but be careful: This may end up demotivating your superstar by showing how little work someone can do and still keep their job.

Any other suggestions for motivating the unmotivated?

Becka likes to stick her tongue out photo credit to celebdu

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  • http://www.align4profit.com Helanie Scott

    I so agree with peer pressure as a powerful motivator. At Align4Profit we know it is through peer pressure that people change, the kind of peer pressure that drives and holds others accountable to commitments. Align4Profit’s proprietary Sustainable Learning Tool™ is an online accountability tool that ensures learning is continual, performance is visible and sustainable. It promotes peer alignment, individual accountability and management motivation. Teams engage in on-going learning activities and assignments to sharpen their Think.Act.Talk.™ skills. Through recommended articles, book reviews, blogs and feedback from other team members, the Sustainable Learning Tool™ and Align4Profit keep everyone engaged to execute diligently.

    Thanks for the post

  • http://www.mondaymorninggold.com Spencer

    What a spot on post!

    I work with team of employees from shop floor to director level. One of the things we do is use personality profiles to peg the individual needs and wants as well as a profile for the team as a whole. The second part helps me deliver effective training in my teams.

    Beyond understanding personality differences and diversity we do pass around a sheet and ask each employee how they want to be recognized when rewards are give out. Based upon the personality and wants for recognition we have a better chance at keeping a person or team motivated.

    This is one small aspect of successful teaming. I do agree that keeping anyone motivated is a continuous job. It is a job that is worth the effort in my mind.

    Thanks for a wonderful article.

  • http://www.singleandworking.wordpress.com Laura

    In the “Peer pressure/competition works” paragraph I tend to agree with the last sentence. There is nothing like seeing how little a co-worker does and how equally they are compensated to make you want to do less work. I realize it is a fine line, but if you want somebody to keep working at a high level, you have to show them that there is a reason – money, praise or whatever motivates them – to keep doing it.

  • http://www.buildyoursoulpurpose.com Brandon R Allen

    From a motivational standpoint, I like to make it about the individual. I ask questions regarding why they started working here? I have them write down their personal and professional goals in terms of what they want to achieve as a result of being here. What will their pay check allow them to do outside of work? Where do they want to get to inside of work? Once you have that established, if they are not working towards their goals you point it out and ask them why they are not. Over the course of some time employees either develop habits centered around goal achievement or they quit because as Phil said motivation is short term.

  • bill darbyshire

    I am self-motivated. Most of my colleagues at the many companies at which I’ve labored are also self-motivated. Mayhaps we can discuss in the future how not to de-motivate the motivated….

    Can we start with the standard and ubiquitous “job performance evaluation” used by so many companies? We can work our butt off, work our fingers to the bone, do everything to our best ability, be really good at what we do, maintain and improve our skills, always do more and better than asked, and then our supervisor gives most of us a middling “meets expectations” rating even while praising us for all the extra work we’ve taken on, and for our accomplishments that are outside our expected responsibilities.

    Even worse: supervisor can lie or tell us for the first time at the performance evaluation that we did something unacceptable 6 or 8 months ago, but didn’t say anything when the action unacceptable to him was taken.

    One supervisor I thought was OK even told me that he disagreed with what’s on the evaluation but couldn’t change it! Why? Because another supervisor gave him some false feedback (I should say lies) about me without my knowledge. Yes, it happened to me. Of course we have no recourse, because HR won’t get involved and upper management will stand by the supervisors.

    These are not isolated incidents. My co-workers and I compare notes….. we discuss what’s been done well and not so well…. and these things are fairly common. And I’ve seen them in the workforce since graduating High School in 1961.

    So bottom line here: if you haven’t worked for a living, and all your supervisory or management skills were learned in school or at the knee of a manager whose goal is to minimize our annual compensation, then you don’t get it.

    So let’s hear more from you all about other things that de-motivate us and that should be eliminated from our companies forever, like salary compression, maybe??

    Thanks for reading, and nighty-night!

  • http://globoforce.blogspot.com Derek Irvine, Globoforce

    Ah, interesting. But I disagree with you on being unable to motivate employees, specifically the statement: “You may be able to motivate them to do something in their best interests for a short period of time, but as soon as the incentive you offered goes away, so does the motivation.”

    That’s because you are incenting them, not motivating them. It all goes back to the argument of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation/rewards. Incentives are extrinsic, offered/advertised BEFORE the goal is achieved and very much if/then rewards. Dan Pink just did an excellent video on the science that proves these kinds of extrinsic rewards, as you say, do not work. (Available here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/09/science-proves-carrots-are-rotten-and.html).

    However, strategic recognition is much more in the intrinsic category — spontaneously recognizing and thanking employees for behaviors/actions AFTER they have been executed in appreciation for how those actions have mattered — have made a difference in the organization.

    I’ve written more on debunking five common myths of motivation here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/08/debunking-motivation-myths.html

  • http://globoforce.blogspot.com Derek Irvine, Globoforce

    Neglected to mention in my comment Steven Kerr’s excellent new book on the topic — Reward Systems: Does Yours Measure Up? (http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/07/measuring-reward-systems-driving-change.html). He discusses the various different types of awards with CONTENT awards being the most universally effective — those that give recognition, feedback, and management attention.