We tend to think that our work colleagues are similar to us – that what motivates and demotivates us, is the same for our colleagues. If we do think that, I’m afraid we are seriously misguided!
I’ve asked hundreds of people what motivates them at work and the spread of answers might surprise you. This is the case even for people doing the same job and who have similar qualifications. We all seem to respond to different sticks and carrots.
So how should managers find out what motivates their team members? It might be considered an awkward question to just come out and ask them. Even if we were asked, most of us would find it hard to answer the question!
It might be appropriate to come at this conundrum from the other direction. By which I mean, it can be easier to find out what demotivates them. Any behaviour that demonstrates a lack of buy-in, commitment and total engagement might provide a clue that there’s something happening that isn’t pressing all their buttons!
Here’s what different people could be motivated by and what managers could do to provide that motivation:
- High Pay – some people are particularly motivated by a level of pay that’s above average and with the potential to have their pay increased above the rate of inflation. There is not much managers can do about this. This issue is typically dealt with by HR Directors or the bosses.
- Advancement – to provide the opportunity for the team member to develop and learn new skills, the manager needs to delegate more stretching work and provide on-the-job coaching. We need to fight the urge to do it ourselves, just because it might be quicker or easier.
- Congeniality – this is thought to be what’s called a hygiene factor rather than a true motivator. Once people have congeniality, it apparently ceases to be a motivator. But if this is important to a team member, it will help if the manager demonstrates that they are a human being and if they open up somewhat about themselves.
- Autonomy – to enable the team member to set their own objectives and control how they achieve them, the manager needs to avoid being a control freak!
- Security – for some people, there might be stages in their lives (eg starting up a family or taking on large debt), when the assurance of continued employment might be particularly important. Again, there is not much managers can do about this one. HR Directors or the bosses control this area more.
- Responsibility – some team members want opportunities to make decisions and be accountable for results. To create this motivation, the manager needs to delegate responsibility and avoid being too directive.
- Status – some people are particularly motivated by recognition in non-monetary forms. Managers can provide this by allowing access to information, attendance at meetings and an enhanced role in meetings, perhaps by giving
- Achievement – to provide a sense of achievement, a few ‘well done’s’ will go a long way
Motivation is a seriously important issue. If motivating somebody is a challenge, I recommend we consider what we can do to avoid demotivating them.
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