6 Things Every Manager Should Know About Employee Motivation

Every member of your team is different. However, as a manager, it’s your responsibility to know what motivates (and de-motivates) your team.

Here are 6 things every manager should know about employee motivation…

1. Meaningful work is motivational

In a series of studies, Harvard Business School researcher Teresa M. Amabile, discovered one massive factor that motivated employees, that many managers had been overlooking. Employees wanted to make progress on meaningful work.

By meaningful work, Amabile isn’t talking about world-changing goals like curing cancer or walking on the moon.

“Meaningful work can be as ordinary as providing customers with a useful service or a quality product. But for the progress principle to take effect, the work must be meaningful in some way to the person.” – Teresa M. Amabile.

In this article for Forbes, Amabile recommends a management tip that will probably be familiar to many productivity hunters…

“Another implication is that managers should break big goals down into smaller, achievable ones, so they can maximize the sense of progress that workers can experience. If you focus only on some momentous end goal, then you will not achieve the sense of progress that can come from a series of small wins – which, ultimately, achieve that same goal.”

2. Positive reinforcement is motivational

While negative feedback is necessary to help your team grow and improve, positive reinforcement is what motivates employees.

Megan Conley, founder and CEO of Social Tribe highlights the importance of finding the correct ratio between positive and negative feedback…

“Everyone has areas for improvement and you’re not doing any favors by avoiding problem areas. Simultaneously, positive feedback is fuel that keeps people motivated and should not be left out of the feedback loop. Identifying and applying the right praise-to-criticism for your team will empower your people to thrive!”

3. Recognition makes us more willing to work

Psychology and Behavioral Economics Professor, Dan Ariely, discusses motivation and happiness at work in this TED talk.

Through his research, Ariely discovered that people who were simply recognised for doing a task would increase employees’ motivation and willingness to work. Failing to give recognition of work had a demotivating effect similar to destroying the work in front of the participants.

“Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes” – Dan Ariely

4. Money isn’t the biggest motivator (but it helps!)

In one survey by McKinsey Quarterly, participants rated praise from their managers, attention from leaders and opportunities to lead projects as more effective motivators than cash incentives like pay rises, bonuses and stock options.

“Instead, consider making quality time with each employee a priority, pick up a personal tangible gift, offer a high five or fist bump, tell them they’re doing a great job or pitch in on a task. Connect with them. They’ll respect you more and work harder as a result.” – Dan Martell, Founder and CEO of Clarity

5. Transparency is motivational

Being open and honest about the company’s performance with all of your staff may seem a little scary but it could be more motivating than you think.

Skip Weisman works with companies to improve leadership, teamwork and communication in the workplace. According to Skip, being more open can help you build trust with and motivate your team…

“Transparency breeds significantly higher levels of motivation and commitment because it speaks directly to the level of trust in the workplace… Offering transparency shows an employee a direct correlation between their role and the company’s bottom line performance. It allows employees to understand the correlation between their compensation and the results the company achieves.”

6. Unrealistic deadlines will kill motivation

There’s no doubt that setting deadlines is motivational. If we didn’t set deadlines, we’d probably never get anything done.

However, setting unrealistic deadlines could go so far as to actually de-motivate your team.

“In order to properly motivate employees, they need to feel like they’re accomplishing something, or at least that their goal is attainable… If you set unrealistic deadlines, you’re most probably going to demotivate your employees , because it will feel like they’ll never cross that finish line.” – Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe

How do you motivate your teams? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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