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Derek Irvine


Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more about Derek Irvine

Blog: Why you should stop motivating staff


Recognise This! – Factors that serve to demotivate employees are stronger than those that motivate them.

For decades, “good” managers have concerned themselves with how to motivate employees – how to encourage their employees to give their best.
New research from Jim Collins, co-author of Good to Great and Great by Choice, offers a new perspective (from the Financial Post):
“Collins heads up a leadership centre in Boulder, Colo., where he conducts research into what successful companies do and their leadership practices. Collins says that ‘the best leaders don’t worry about motivating people, they are careful to not demotivate them.’ He contends there are three key demotivators: Hype or the failure to acknowledge the real difficulties the organisation faces; futurism, or always looking at distant goals or visions, and not being present; and false democracy, or inviting employees’ input when the leader has already made a decision. A combination of all three can kill employee motivation.”
This doesn’t surprise me based on similar research showing that bad behaviour at work has a much stronger influence on company morale and productivity than good behaviour does to counteract it.
Common demotivators
All of this theory is well and good, but are there common demotivators you can eliminate in your workplace?
  1. Lack of clarity and communication – When people don’t know what you need from them, they lose motivation to work hard on the tasks at hand. They question whether their work is valid and useful to achieving end goals. How to turn it around: Recognise employees in-the-moment to clearly communicate to employees what it is you need and expect that is of value to the organisation.
  2. Lack of meaning and purpose– Without this clear communication, employees lose all sense of meaning and purpose in their work, two factors often identified as critical to employee engagement and happiness at work. How to turn it around: Help employees understand the deeper value their contributions by tying recognition to core company values and strategic objectives. This lets them know how their efforts are contributing to achieving larger goals.
  3. Lack of progress – Recently identified through rigorous researchas the primary factor of employee engagement, progress is essential to motivation. Otherwise employees feel as if they are spinning in circles but never truly accomplishing an end result of value. How to turn it around: Don’t wait until the conclusion of a project to recognise employee efforts and contributions – especially in projects that can last months to years. Keep employees focussed and, yes, motivated by recognising and rewarding progress along the way.
What other common demotivators do you see in your workplace? How could you or your mangers turn them around?
Derek Irvine is senior vice president of global strategy at HR software provider, Globoforce.
We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section.



One Response

  1. Lack of equals a demotivator?

    This is semantics.

    If you use clear communication people are more motivated.

    If you give someone clear meaning and purpose in their work they are more motivated.

    If you don’t ignore someone’s efforts they tend to be more motivated. But don’t reward success, reward effort.

    I was doing the research on this 25 years ago and then experimented on my staff for 20 more years. I know it works.

    Herzberg’s research is very old, very basic but still not used.

    To find out how to win competitive advantage through staff motivation look at our website and follow our blogs, articles and Twitter feed.


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Derek Irvine

Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more from Derek Irvine

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