Experts in Front Line Leadership

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Forty percent of employee motivation is optional

Admit it; you’ve had managers you wanted to see succeed and you’ve likely worked for others that you didn’t respect or trust. And you’ve had occasions where you threw everything you had at your job and other times where you dialed it back to idle.

Managers and supervisors often think that the wages or salary they pay to employees will be enough motivation for the employees to give 100% to their jobs. Some hard-nosed leaders refrain from thanking or praising employees for what the manager perceives as, “That’s what we pay you for – your paycheck is enough thanks.”

Employees Decide how to use the Optional 40% of Motivation

When employees opt to hold back part of their motivation from putting more of themselves towards the job at hand, they can redirect these efforts to less productive behavior.

For example, when we look at some of the most difficult employees in the workplace, they choose to use their 40% discretionary motivation to make their supervisor and fellow employees miserable. They stir up conflict and drama in the workplace and enjoy watching management and human resources clean up the mess. Many of these difficult employees are quite intelligent. Smart enough to know exactly where the limits are, how to test them and how to back off long enough to keep from getting fired.

Other employees choose to redirect their 40% to personal pursuits like running a business on the side, excess socializing, or just taking it easy when their boss is away.

Playing Whack-a-mole isn’t the Solution

Some supervisors and managers choose the incorrect strategy of micro-managing employees. This close supervision only serves to reduce the perceived trust between the employees and their manager. In fact, the more the supervisor micro-manages, the more likely employees are to slack off when the boss isn’t around.

The Too-easy Supervisor

Another supervisory style that proves to be ineffective is the boss who sets low goals and low expectations for his or her team. The employees dial back their efforts to what their supervisor expects or accepts. These employees are craving challenge and accomplishment that they are not receiving from their manager.

How to Tap into the Optional 40% of Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is positively impacted by four dominant factors:

  • Purpose: Challenge and achievement – Employee motivation will be piqued by having a challenging goal to achieve in a supportive environment. They also appreciate knowing why their work makes a difference in the big picture.
  • Autonomy – The freedom to use their own talents and methods to achieve the desired results without being micro-managed.
  • Mastery: Learning and growth – Motivation comes from the ability to become really good at what you do. Training, mentoring and coaching geared towards improving performance will increase the employee’s sense of worth to the organization and their supervisor.
  • Team, Respect and Inclusiveness – Employees are curious about what is going on in the organization beyond their immediate job. They want to be treated fairly and equally. The supervisor needs to avoid playing favorites and using demeaning language. The employee also wants to know that their supervisor cares about them as a person and therefore a boss who shows interest in their personal lives will lead to the employee caring more about their job.

Most Supervisors and Managers Take Their Cues from Above

Senior leaders need to be aware of the impact that their behaviors and communication has on the managers and supervisors below them. While it’s possible for supervisors to create a positive sub-culture within a dysfunctional larger organization, most choose to follow the lead of their manager. If only the supervisor could understand that using positive motivators would help them achieve the desired results with a minimum of stress and aggravation.

After all, if the supervisor or manager could tap into the optional 40% their jobs would be so much easier and the employees would be happier.

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