How We Motivate People
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010
been thinking about how we motivate people lately, be it in the work
place or in a volunteer organization and I'm of the opinion there is no
single approach that is universally applicable. It's a matter of finding
each person's hot button and knowing how to push it. I think the reason
for this is because people today are more ruggedly independent and
competitive, rather than cooperative and working as a team.
Unfortunately, this complicates the life of the manager who must somehow
get a group of people working towards common objectives.
I've classified the various motivational techniques
into "Soft" and "Hard." Soft motivation techniques are used to encourage
people to think and act in certain ways primarily using the art of
suggestion. Some techniques in this category are direct, but most are
subliminal as we appeal to the worker's intellect, that it would be in
their best interest to work or act in a certain manner. Managers may use
one or more of the following techniques depending on the person and
* Salesmanship - if the business problem or objective
is properly stated and the benefits clearly defined, most people will
respond accordingly, but a lot depends on how the message is presented.
A word out of place or spoken without conviction and your message may be
misinterpreted. It's very important to solicit understanding and get
your audience shaking their heads in agreement with you thereby
confirming they comprehend your message.
* Brainwashing - do not underestimate the power of
repetitive messages, be it on the computer, on printed signs, audio
sound bites or whatever. Repetition represents a subliminal way to
motivate people. Keep your message short and sweet; also make it iconic
so it triggers certain responses from your workers.
* Rewards - financial compensation, benefits, time
off and even a simple luncheon represents a carrot and stick approach to
motivating people. To me, this approach was more effective 20-30 years
ago than it is today where employees fully expect to enjoy all of the
perks a company has to offer regardless if they earned it or not.
* Elitism - creating an esprit de corps among workers
has at times proven very effective. Over the years there have been
several reports describing how workers who are given special
preferential treatment respond enthusiastically. Giving such treatment
implies promoting a worker's social standing in the company (it's a
"class" thing). Elitism can take many forms, be it new facilities, use
of special technology, more freedom in the workplace, more participation
in project decisions, etc. If workers believe they are working on a
"state of the art" project or are given star status, they tend to
develop a swagger and work more earnestly as they wish to maintain their
perception of self-worth. Occasionally workers abuse their stardom, at
which time it is necessary for the manager to burst their bubble and
bring them back to Earth.
* Interpersonal Relations - This is much more than
salesmanship as it requires the use of all of a manager's rhetorical
powers being applied spontaneously. Here, the manager must interact with
each worker individually and thereby must know each person's hot
buttons. Consequently, a manager must be able to quickly shift from
being friendly and kind one moment, to satirical in the next, to
consoling, to some friendly bullying, to kidding and friendly teasing,
* Inspiration - this can be a very handy technique
for motivating people who can be inspired through a talk or an article.
If workers truly believe in their leaders, they can move heaven and
earth. This of course means the development of positive role models for
others to emulate. It can also be through some act a person has
performed, such as some special achievement or award received. People
tend to respect others they know to possess special qualities.
* Mentoring - here, the older workers offer wise
counsel to younger workers and guides them through their professional
development. Although mentoring was at one time a popular technique used
in business, it fell into disuse for several years in the late 20th
century. Only now is it beginning to make a comeback.
* Teaching - simple education through classes or
seminars can inculcate important lessons and leave an indelible
impression on workers.
Aside from these "Soft" motivational techniques,
there are some workers who are just plain "thick" and do not take hints
well. Consequently, a manager must make use of "Hard" techniques, such
* Criticism - sharp criticisms and insults regarding
workmanship can sting, particularly if coworkers learn of it.
Unfortunately, the only way to get some workers' attention is by
questioning their professional integrity. Sometimes bullying can produce
remarkable results, but I do not recommend it as a regular diet. Beware
of embarrassing employees who may respond by subverting your plans. It
is also a good way to create enemies. Then again, do you really care?
* Ranting and raving - loud and obnoxious outbursts
demonstrate your displeasure with something and acts as a warning to all
in earshot that you mean business. Most people like to avoid losing
their cool, but sometimes it can really rattle the cages of workers.
Think of it as an occasional stick of dynamite to move a stubborn
problem out of the way.
* Threats - nobody likes to be threatened but
regrettably sometimes it is necessary and certain people respond
positively to it, be it a threat to employment, a cut in pay, or
whatever. By putting the fear of God into someone, it's amazing what
they can produce. One caveat though, check the person's work carefully
as they may have cut corners or even sabotaged their work.
* Placebos - represents simple trickery, be it
offering a magical pill, changing the clock, or whatever. Through simple
misdirection you can induce people to produce the results you want in
spite of their inclinations.
* Micromanagement - representing close supervision of
the worker activities. This is primarily used in situations where the
boss does not trust the judgment of the workers and finds it necessary
to direct all of their activities personally. The only problem here is
the manager spends more time supervising and less time managing.
Further, workers no longer feel responsible for workmanship and
rightfully blame the manager for any errors made.
It bothers me that we have to use "Hard" motivational
techniques to produce the results we want as managers. I am the type who
just needs to believe in what I am doing in order to tackle an
assignment (just a little "Salesmanship"). However, not everyone is the
same and it is necessary for a manager, regardless of the organizational
entity, to use whatever techniques are available to get the job done. It
is not surprising to see some people take on a chameleon approach to
management where their disposition can change from kind and gentle to
harsh and tyrannical in order to suit the moment. In fact, a good
manager must possess the ability to change his/her deportment. If a
manager is nothing more than a simple easygoing person, workers may be
inclined to abuse him as they do not take him seriously. In contrast, if
a person is a tyrant, he runs the risk of mutiny or abandonment. The
manager must be willing to change his disposition to suit the situation
and get the results desired. In the end, it's a matter of knowing how
and when to push the hot buttons of our workers.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their
Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of
M. Bryce & Associates
(MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the
management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-10-01 15:47:56 in Employee Articles