When I read one more article about employee motivation or I hear about one more employee motivation training course, I understand that theories and trainings actually do not explain or teach the leaders specific, practical methods how to motivate people.
When observing an employee, manager may think: “How can I motivate this person: should I raise the salary or say a good word? Should I praise him or offer something more? “
We are motivated when we are healthy (in a broader sense). This is our strength and our life-competence. Then we naturally have goals, desires and we are moving towards them. When I come to work, my goal is to earn money, achieve good results or even create something, actualize myself, carry out meaningful projects – find meaning and satisfaction.
Therefore, instead of asking “How to motivate an employee“, I would better ask “How to eliminate factors that demotivate an employee“ – in my opinion, these are the roots of the problem.
When I observe employees, I understand that the cause of demotivation may be too inadequate salary, excessive workload, tension at work, poor atmosphere in the team, monotonous job routine, lack of development opportunities, unpleasant feedback from the manager, underestimation (employee does not receive expected evaluation, praise or gratitude), injustice at work, lack of clarity on team goals and direction.
Consequently, a natural question arises – is the employee like a gentle flower which can fade from the slightest wind and lose motivation?
These cases may exist. Still, the most important factor and measure is the balance between benefits, positive things, and negative factors that interfere the work, cause dissatisfaction and ultimately decreases motivation and work satisfaction.
For example, all added benefits (cosy office, sport club or personal growth opportunities) can’t compensate “the loss“ that employee experiences when he/she gets insufficient salary. Also, high salary cannot compensate the price if the workload is excessive. Also, the prestige of the international company cannot cover the price paid (bad emotions, humiliation, etc) for the rude supervisor’s behaviour.
Thus, if we want to answer the question “How to motivate an employee“ first we have to solve the issue “how to remove factors that demotivate an employee“ and check whether everything works properly in our organization. In some cases, the best action to increase motivation is eliminating demotivating factors.
If a leader delegates an important task, tells a good word, notices achievements or invites an employee for a dinner and shows his/her trust in this way – then all these gestures add to the good relationship.
However, we have to acknowledge, that there is another way to motivate people and I would call it “mastery“. It means to motivate by your own example, by our authority, creating an inspiring vision, showing the meaning of the job, creating warm atmosphere and acceptance. This is the way how leaders motivate. However, for this kind of motivation employees have to be mature. How leaders implement their mastery? Do not ask! Every leadership school has its own specific explanation and knowledge, we would not finish the discussion by the end of the week!
Dr. Alisa Miniotaitė is a management and leadership expert, founder of UAB ALISA MANAGEMENT LABORATORY, ISM University of Management and Economics, Leadership Program Manager