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Last Updated on March 17, 2020

7 Things That Decrease Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing)

7 Things That Decrease Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing)

Economies are cyclical, there’s just no getting around this fact. And while these last several years have seen an abundance of economic growth, we should all remember the wisdom found on King Solomon’s ring that said,

“This too shall pass.”

In fact, for those who joined the workforce only in the last decade, they have never experienced an economic downturn or recession. The last one started in 2007 and lasted until 2009.[1] So, it’s safe to assume that for a significant number of employees and managers, the next economic downturn will be their first time dealing with the stressors of mandatory layoffs, budget cuts and reorganization.

Motivating teams is never easy; even in good times, team motivation can be difficult to maintain. Just checkout amazon’s collection of books on how to motivate employees, you’ll find thousands on the subject.

But, now add in difficult times for the business, industry or economy and you’ve got a whole new set of problems. Whereas before your employees felt reasonably secure that if they performed well, they could count on having a job tomorrow. Now they can’t, and this lack of security is an added layer of stress that will affect morale and performance.

And while it may be tempting to take the attitude that they should just be grateful just to have a job in these times, that would be a mistake. Fear is actually a demotivating factor. Sure, everyone wants to keep their job, especially in tough times, but uncertainty and fear are distractions that damage effectiveness and hurt productivity.

As a leader, maintaining team motivation during difficult times can be challenging. Issues that might have been a minor annoyance in good times can become magnified into problems that affect the motivation and productivity of your entire team.

Here’re 7 factors that demotivate employees and 7 ways to tackle them:

1. Fear

We touched on this earlier, uncertainty and fear go hand in hand. Fear is a perfectly natural, and most of the time good human emotion. It is designed to keep us safe in the face of dangerous situations. Fear only becomes a problem when it prevents us from making beneficial decisions.

We can imagine our ancestors confronting a sabre tooth tiger and becoming so paralyzed by fear that they get eaten. In today’s world, you are much more likely to becoming paralyzed by internal fears than external ones like the tiger, but it is no less debilitating.

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These internal fears start out as legitimate concerns. Times are tough, others are being laid off or fired, you could be next. But, as often happens with fears, they grow and become exaggerated in the mind. This is when fear can disrupt team motivation and impact productivity.

What You Can Do

From a leader’s standpoint, you need to understand that most of your employee’s exaggerated fears come from an inaccurate assessment of the conditions. From their point of view, the decisions on who gets let go can seem arbitrary and inexplicable. It’s the seemingly randomness of these decisions that fuels the anxiety and fear of I could be next.

So, as a manager, it’s very important that you are constantly communicating with your team on the status of the company and their place within it. Even if that means letting them know that they are being considered for the next round of layoffs.

Letting your employees know exactly where they stand, even if it’s not good, is better for motivation than the uncertainty of not knowing. It can also be a great way to motivate your team into action. Especially if you can give them concrete goals to achieve that will help their prospects of staying employed.

2. Unclear Goals

During good times, employees may be happy to just sit back and do their jobs with little thought of how they are impacting the company as a whole. During difficult times, when you are asking your employees to do more with less, it’s important that they understand how each member contributes to the success of the team.

What You Can Do

As a leader, it’s your job to set clear, obtainable goals for the group as well as the individuals within that group. This is especially important during difficult times, as often the priorities of an organization will change.

During tough economic times, new business ventures and expansions are often cut back or eliminated in order to focus on the “core” business. When this happens, you may need to switch your teams focus entirely to save your and everyone else’s jobs.

But here again, communication with your team members is key. Keep them apprised of any changes to the goals and how it affects their individual roles within the team.

As a leader, you can actually increase your team’s motivation if everyone has a clear understanding of the goals and their role in achieving those goals.

3. Lack of Autonomy

It may seem logical that when times get tough, you should take more control or supervise your teams more closely. After all, the pressure is on to turn out good results.

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But study after study show us that a lack of autonomy kills both individual and team motivation.[2] In fact, giving your team more autonomy is one of the best ways to improve motivation and results.

What You Can Do

Go against your instincts to control. Micromanaging it guaranteed to reduce team motivation.

Now, with that being said, granting your team or employees autonomy does NOT mean that they can do whatever they want.

As a leader, you need to set the basic framework or conditions that they need to work under. Things like timeframe, budget constraints and the functionality of the final product should all be known conditions for your team. But once those conditions are set, let your team decide how to attack the problem. This allows for creativity to flourish and provides a sense of pride and ownership over the finished product that is highly motivating.

4. Change

Humans are creatures of habit, we get used to a routine and stick with it even if what we’re doing isn’t helpful. Having a routine provides a sense of comfort and security critical to our mental health. This is why psychologist note that all change produces stress.

Even good changes can be highly stressful, think getting married, divorced, having kids or getting promoted. There’s no way around it, change is disruptive and stressful.

Now, put yourself in a position where your industry is in a downturn and things need to change in order to survive. For the industry veteran, the old ways of doing things are now obsolete and an entire new skill set must be learned. For the new employee, the job they do may look nothing like the job they were hired for.

In short, the old comfortable routines have been interrupted and keeping up team motivation on these shifting sands is difficult.

What You Can Do

Be alert and watch for signs. Change is tough for everyone, but some people are more resilient than others.

If you notice one of your employees having an especially hard time, it’s important to address the situation. Often, there are challenges in the person’s personal life that are adding to the stress they feel. In those cases, temporarily reducing their workload or giving them an extra afternoon off can help reduce stress and increase motivation.

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For everyone else, a good rule of thumb is “The more information you can share, the better”. Nothing zaps motivation and fuels insecurity more than a lack of knowledge.

5. Ambiguity in Short Term Goals

Ambiguity is a motivation killer. In order for any team to function well, each member must have a clear understanding of the ultimate or long-term goal of the team. From there, each team member is assigned tasks that contribute to the completion of that goal. In turn, each member can break down their task into individual steps or short-term goals that, when completed get added to the whole.

But what happens when we change the original long-term goal? Even if everyone understands and accepts the new goal, they need to have a clear understanding of their new role in achieving it. It would be similar to starting a new job without any training or guidance from a superior.

What You Can Do

Anytime a mission or goal is changed, it is important for a leader to assign each member of the team a clear role within the group. This should include responsibilities as well as expectations for their assigned tasks.

Depending on the individual, you may also need to help them breakdown their tasks into short term goals on a timeline. As long as your team understands their new goal and the members have a clear understanding of their individual responsibilities in achieving the goal, there should be no problem with ambiguity.

6. Burnout

During difficult times, asking our workforce to do more with less just comes with the territory. But the consequence of this can be burnout. According to the World Health Organization, work related burnout is defined as:[3]

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Over time, burnout will zap your team’s motivation, morale and productivity. The symptoms of burnout include:

  • Becoming cynical or critical at work.
  • Coming to work and have trouble getting started.
  • Becoming irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients.
  • Lacking the energy to be consistently productive.
  • Being unable to concentrate.
  • Lack satisfaction from achievements.
  • Feeling disillusioned about their job.
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel.
  • Being troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints.
What You Can Do

Leaders need to be aware of these symptoms and take corrective action as soon as possible. Some things you can do to help with burnout include:

  • Talk to your team members about their workload and stress. Do they have any thoughts on how to do things better or more efficiently? Maybe that weekly report they do can be a bi-weekly report instead.
  • Increase the use of non-monetary rewards such as praise (both public and private). Recognition programs such as employee of the week, month, year. And even instituting “Casual Fridays” can be a morale booster.
  • Increase the use of low-cost monetary rewards like, morning donuts, buying lunch for the team and taking the occasional Friday afternoon off.
  • Flextime is another great way to combat burnout. It gives the employee a chance to spend more time with their family and also gives them a sense of control over their time.

7. Feeling Under-appreciated

During difficult times, upper management will often tighten the reins on employees. And while they see it as a way to control costs and focus on core issues, it can be disheartening to the average employee.

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Whereas management used to be open to ideas and suggestions from those in the “trenches” now, more and more decisions are being made unilaterally from the top. This stifles creativity and turns the employees into “cogs in a machine”.

What You Can Do

Communicate the changing parameters and scope of work coming from management as soon as possible. Then, give them as much decision-making authority as you can.

They may not be happy that their budget got cut by 20%, but if they have a say in how that money is allocated it’s a much easier pill to swallow.

Bottom Line

Motivation is a tricky thing, what motivates one person may not motivate another. But, as a manager or leader, it’s your job to manage your teams in a way that produces the best result possible.

During difficult times, whether they are caused by the broader economy or management missteps, being able to motivate your team is critical for survival.

We’ve talked about the challenges of team motivation during difficult times and some of the ways you can handle it. But, when you boil it all down it can be summed up in one word, communication.

Having open communication with your team clarifies their job descriptions and role within the company. It reduces the fear and anxiety associated with the inevitable changes that occur during these times. And finally, it allows your team to have a clear understanding of the issues facing the company and the plan to overcome them.

More Tips for Team Management

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

12 Bad Leadership Qualities to Be Aware of 10 Essential Skills to Become a Successful Team Leader 7 Things That Decrease Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing) How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success What Is Delegation and How Does It Enhance Team Management?

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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