Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Wouldn't it be great to work in a place where all of the people were excited about their jobs, enthusiastic about coming to work each day? It's a great vision, but few organizations reach it. Instead, managers are often frustrated in their search for motivated employees. At the same time,workers are often bored with their jobs, putting in far less effort than they could, generally because they've been frustrated in their attempts to change.

If neither managers or workers like the situation, how do organizations get demotivated people? All too frequently, they are unintentionally, but routinely, created.

It starts on the first day of work. New people arrive full of energy and ready to show what they can do. And those people are asked to wait. And watch. And get out of the way, because something more important came along. Don't worry, you'll catch on. OK, try this. No! Not that way! Try something else. No! You're doing it wrong. Here, just watch me. And so it goes.

Pretty quickly, the energetic new person learns (1) that he/she seems far less important to the organization than what's going on, and (2) do as little as possible, so that he/she won't get reprimanded. And a few months later, management notices that sure enough, another new person "decided" to just slide by doing very little. It's so hard to find good help...

Some people become good at their jobs despite the odds. Frequently, these promising leaders are never challenged, become bored, and eventually take new jobs--usually for a competitor in the same industry. Sure, the boss has a vision, and tries to get his/her people excited about it. But, while the boss was able to exercise some creativity, the people who work in the organization just had it sprinkled down from on high. Why would they feel excited?

Now add the clinchers. Avoid being clear with people; expect them to just somehow know exactly what you mean. Then, when they don't do what you expect, chew 'em out. They'll not only be careful never to take any initiative, they can also waste hours complaining about management when no one's around supervising. And they'll certainly avoid sharing any useful suggestions about how to improve the organization! Make sure the work environment is not conducive to accomplishing required tasks. Ask people to follow a lot of rules, but never let them understand the reasons for them. Better yet, just set policies, without clear reasons. Avoid any validity to job tasks.

And once a year, have a performance review, where people can be irritated by having a year's worth of stuff thrown in their faces all at once. (If any people have somehow stayed motivated up to this point, the performance review should kill it for sure!) Treat the newly demotivated people as intrinsically demotivated people, aggravating the situation further.

It's not that management isn't well meaning. Rather, our society has developed work related habits that just don't work well. And that applies to employees, too.


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