All entries for Monday 18 October 2010

October 18, 2010

Seminar 1 – Motivating Employees

How would you handle employees who are dormant and passive or active and negative?

I think motivating people can be achieved in two main ways: rewards, or inducing fear. I personally prefer the first approach.

Having worked with children quite a lot, I always found that encouraging them to do something they didn't want to do suddenly became a lot easier when they might get a treat out of it. They would turn their attitude around, as they had a goal to aim for. They really wanted the sweets/ice cream, and they'd try their hardest in order to get it. And they'd do it again, in the hope they might be rewarded again. But if you tried the opposite approach, i.e. you told them to do something, or they'd be punished, you might get a response out of them, but it wouldn't ever be enthusiastic, neither would they care too much how great the result was. They would want to avoid punishment, which became their main goal, but they resented being cajoled and bullied into doing something they didn't want to do.

I'm not saying employees are like children who most be guided; that would be patronising. But the example is a microcosm of human behaviour, and good managers must be able to guide employees to get the best out of them, particularly in the identified situations. The pessimistic approach effectively assumes the worst of people, and only recognises people's basic motivational needs (as per Maslow's Hierarchy). I think that generally, better managers would take the positive approach, and target the higher end needs as well, such as self esteem, as these will lead to a far more fulfilled workforce.

So, once the approach has been decided, how do you tackle the two groups in question? For the first, I think you have to excite them about what they are doing, show how they can be involved and are important. By raising their energy and passion, their willingness to get more unto it may also increase. Arguably, the second group is harder. If people are actively negative, they have energy, but are directing it the wrong way. Turning that around would involve very careful management, and I think you'd have to talk to them to get to the root of the problem.

I think ultimately, you can't allow individuals to bring down the organisation, and if people are unresponsive in the long term, and not good at their work, you might have to fire them. But I don't think that threat should ever really be used as a motivational tool!


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