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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

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David Carpenter

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

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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