Monday, June 30, 2014

To motivate employees increase their sense of “causation”

Stress for Success

July 1, 2014 

Workplace stress takes on many forms. Moving further away from the Great Recession helps but there’s still plenty of other stress to take its place:
·         Still digging out of the financial consequences of the Great Recession;
·         Balancing home and work responsibilities;
·         Dealing with stressed out internal and external customers;
·         Deadlines, personality differences and the conflicts they produce;
·         Etc.

A casualty of this stress is employee motivation, which if suffered too long leads to burnout. And you don’t want your staff to get burned out since it usually requires drastic change to remedy, such as a getting a different job.

So what does and doesn’t work to increase employee motivation??

The research is in and it shows that rewards don’t really motivate, at least not for long. Rewards such as gifts, money, and benefits may be appreciated in the short run but according to much research these external motivators:
·         Can be perceived by the receiver as having strings attached - a controlling intention - which won’t motivate at all;
·         Refocus employees’ attention onto the reward to the point where the task suffers;
·         Rewards are difficult to end once started;
·         The most important reason: External attempts to motivate decrease a sense of causation on the part of the recipient, the true motivator that actually works;

Depending upon the intention of the person giving the reward (is it to recognize employees’ good efforts or to get them to work even harder?) will determine whether the reward motivates at all and if so for how long. Rewards tend to work better for recognizing people’s efforts if given with no strings or manipulative intentions attached.

The true motivators are intrinsic ones; specifically, conditions that increase a person’s sense of control – of causation.

Humans need to believe their own actions cause outcomes. That’s why bosses who include subordinates in decision-making and problem-solving in areas that affect their work become better managers with more productive employees. Bosses can also allow their employees to decide how work gets done as long as it meets the required outcome, rather than dictating how staff is to accomplish their work. This also explains why micromanaging is so demotivating.

Intrinsic motivators lead people to greater persistence, creativity and success. They’re so important that psychological researcher, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of PA, says that developed nations’ workforces are moving from assuming that money is the primary motivator - you can only buy so many things, which are extrinsic (external) motivators that don’t work well - to understanding that being the authors of their own actions is what truly motivates. The challenge is for managers to help their employees be more in the driver’s seat of their own jobs.

To apply this to your workplace, you could hold regular quarterly or monthly meetings with your employees to seek their input about how you can give them more control over how they do their jobs. Also, ask their advice on identifying problems and their solutions. These employee involvements will lead to their “engagement,” another strong predictor of employee motivation.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S. is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.  Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at  Email her to request she speak to your organization at