The task of motivating employees is arguably the most difficult part of a manager’s job. Expert opinions vary on this topic, but decades of workplace studies more than suggests that managers can and do affect employee motivation both positively and negatively.
With respect to Communications, it’s a fact that employees generally get as many attitudinal cues from their managers as they get from co-workers. Thus, managers need to be careful about their words and demeanor. And this extends to the tone, clarity, and relevance of how and what they write.
Simply stated, if bosses are “invisible” and do little more than habitually write memos on work rules, production, and deficiencies, employees will quickly come to the conclusion that the front office is out of touch with reality.
This all goes to a manager’s credibility, and once this is compromised all the motivational initiatives and gimmicks in the world wont do a thing to positively affect employees.
That said, the first thing a manager must do to motivate their employees is to get out among their employees and exhibit a genuine positive and helpful attitude. Keep in mind that the practice of “Management By Walking Around” is much more effective than “Management By Memo”.
As evidence, consider how employees generally distinguish between good and bad bosses. For the most part, this judgment is based not so much on a manager’s easiness or toughness, but rather how managers are perceived with respect to their fairness, helpfulness and leadership.
Of course, any manager can affect a short-term spike in Employee Motivation through intimidation, but aside from the expediency of such a tactic, the risk of poisoning a work atmosphere for short-term gains makes this a dubious motivational tactic, not to mention a reckless management practice.
Second, managers need to “get real”. Employees today, whether they are adults or adolescents, are products of modern society complete with all the worldliness and cynicism of this age. The upshot
is that managers who ignore this reality and persist with an autocratic “do as I say” style shouldn’t be too surprised when employees ignore their motivational efforts.
Third, open up Communication Channels.The fact is that employees do things for their own reasons and these reasons may not always coincide with an employer’s expectations. Granted, getting a handle
on this is tricky as it is often difficult to read some individuals. Moreover, it is even trickier to presume what employees may be thinking.
The best practice is to encourage and facilitate open and frequent two-way communication.It’s a simple concept, but still the most effective way for managers to gain insights into employees’ wants and needs.
Fourth, managers need to be innovative in developing motivational tools. Obviously, money can be a great motivator, but psychic rewards in the form of a “pat on the back” and formal recognition often have residual benefits that no amount of money can buy. And let’s face it, in the current economic climate, doling out financial rewards may not be an option anyway. However, that’s not to say the manager can’t spring for an occasional lunch.
Fifth, decide on either an incentive or reward approach and stick with your choice. But there are caveats to either of these approaches. As such, be mindful that when motivational practices are treated as incentives,
they can become a rationalization for unfairly manipulating employees. On the other hand, when used as reward mechanisms, they can become subjective and arbitrary.
In the end, no manager wants their good intentions to backfire, so the best advice is that whatever approach is chosen ensure that it is administered fairly, consistently and transparently. But in order to make any motivational tool work, managers must set the proper tone and climate in their work units. In this regard, consider the following tips:
* Be a leader, not just a “boss”.
* Be approachable and helpful.
* Keep Memos to a minimum.
* Have frequent one-on-one meetings.
* Use Staff Meetings to recognize good performance.
* Discipline privately.
* Encourage innovation and risk-taking.
* Back your employees, don’t assume complaints are valid.
* Provide training opportunities.
* Promote excellent performers.
As a final word, it should be noted that Employee Motivation is fluid, and is often influenced by forces that may have little or nothing to do with the manager or the job itself. Likewise, not every motivation peak and valley warrants a manager’s intervention. But what it does warrant is monitoring and the insight to deal
with any downward trends.