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The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement

The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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More by this author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara

Senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions

The 10 Leadership Lessons We Can all Learn from Giraffes The 6 Best Practices to Kill Employee Motivation and Engagement 7 Critical Statements Every Manager Should Avoid To Be More Respectable 12 Ways to Identify a High-Maintenance Employee 8 Deadly Traps that Cause Our Failures to Accomplish Everyday Work

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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