I challenge anyone reading this article to find a single organization that wants lower employee motivation and engagement. Yet, you can find hundreds of articles and studies that indicate both are on the downslide. In current times of leaner employment, management continually tries to squeeze more and more out of each employee. This squeezing process can last for a short while, but is not sustainable long-term. Eventually the system, the employee, or both will break. Take this quiz to see if you are excelling at killing employee motivation and engagement. On a regular basis, do you (or your manager) provide:

1. Deficient Communication

According to a study conducted several years ago by Magna Leadership Solutions, the number-one problem recognized by both management and employees is communication. Usually, the communication is insufficient or improper. If you are a good boss, most employees enjoy more face time with you, especially when it is positive. Some employees just want some communication that can be accomplished face-to-face, on the phone, through a note, or even in a short email. A good rule of thumb is that if the communication could elicit emotion (positive or negative) from the receiver, then face-to-face (or at least a phone call) is most appropriate. For communications that are more transactional, the other, less-personal forms of communication may be sufficient.

2. Insufficient Encouragement

In his book “Breakthrough Performance,” author Bill Daniels stresses the importance of providing encouragement that is specific, pure, positive, immediate, frequent and irregular. One key thing I’ve learned as a manager is that providing insufficient encouragement is among the two top ways to ensure you’re killing your employees’ motivation and engagement. The next section outlines the other one.

3. Inappropriate Advice

These six rules also come from Bill Daniels. Advice should: address the change desired, be current (only focus on now, don’t bring in history), be pure (no “buts”), be delivered just before it can be used (not after, or it will be viewed as punishment), be limited, and ask for feedback. Breaking any one or more of these rules will lessen or negate the impact and results of the advice. In addition, advice and encouragement should always be delivered separately, or it sends a mixed message and will be viewed as punishment.

4. Inadequate Rewards

I am not telling you that all accomplishments need to be extrinsically rewarded. It is important that well-done accomplishments, which are above and beyond what is expected, do receive the appropriate level of compensation in some form. Learn what you employees want and reward them in a way that they most appreciate.

5. Too Much Team Recognition

This one may seem less intuitive. People like recognition, but when it is blanketed over a team (and individual contributions are minimized), it may be more detrimental than no recognition at all. As work has become more and more complex, getting work or projects accomplished in teams as become the norm. The increased speed of communication — thanks to computers, mobile devices and the increased bandwidth of wired and wireless communications — have made it easier than ever to get anything, from anywhere and from anyone. To combat the team recognition problem, the recognition should be appropriate for the level of individual contribution —which means do your homework up-front on defining expectations, and continuously monitor individual and team performance. If you decide to deliver team recognition and there is an additional level of individual recognition needed, you may want to deliver this privately first.

6. Rationed Resources

As we reduce our resources (people, funding, equipment, training, etc.), we need to ensure that the short-term financial change is not causing longer-term problems that often cannot be reversed. Downsizing and cost-cutting has been the modus operandi for many organizations for the past 10+ years, if not longer. Today, management continues to try to squeeze that last drop of blood out of every stone until something breaks. One of the primary functions of management is to be a resource, or provide resources, to support the employees’ and the organization’s success. How did you do on the quiz? We are caught up in our day-to-day activities and expect to have employee engagement on autopilot. One manager I coached told me “The employees know what they have to do. They are getting paid aren’t they? And I’m not their mother.” This is a very Machiavellian approach thinking about employees as disposable resources. In times with lean job opportunities, this management approach may survive. As we are seeing hundreds of thousands of new jobs being created each month and unemployment on a steady decline since 2010, it is becoming a seller’s (employee) market. Your unmotivated and disengaged employees are or will be out looking for a better environment to work in. Take the first step by quickly removing one or more of the six practices that kill motivation and engagement from your workplace. The workforce will thank you for it.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Marc Lombardi via marclombardi.zenfolio.com

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