So, what can be done when we realize that employee motivation has deteriorated – or is even completely gone? Is there any way to rekindle or revive it?
Let me put it this way: There certainly isn’t a magic pill that we can just hand out to make everything hunky-dory again. At the same time, we shouldn’t give up or look the other way, either.
Are you, too, familiar with this particular scenario? I sometimes see companies’ corporate values spelled out on their website, where it says things like “Our employees are our main focus” or “our biggest asset.” Yet, when I talk to the employees, I find out that it’s precisely these same employees who often don’t feel seen at all, and sometimes even laugh at those proclaimed values and shrug them off. Don’t get me wrong – this is of course far from the truth for all companies and fortunately, things are getting better all the time. But it still does happen. And unfortunately, it isn’t all that rare, either.
When asked about this, managers often reply that it’s up to their employees to roll up their sleeves with intrinsic motivation and get to work. After all, these employees chose the job and knew what they were getting into.
In principle, this may be correct. However, from my personal point of view, employee motivation is not a one-way street. It’s precisely the managers whose job it is to show leadership to their employees – and that includes motivating them. Wouldn’t you agree?
Now you may be asking yourself: “True enough. But how exactly do you go about doing that?”
Well, before I go into specific methods, let me ask you one more thought-provoking question:
“Where is this lack of motivation coming from? What caused the employees’ motivation to dip so low like this? What part does the company, the team, the manager or even the circumstances play in this?”
You’ll get your answers – if you haven’t already experienced something similar yourself in your own role as an employee in the company, remember that managers are employees, too – wait for it … in a personal and confidential conversation with your employees. This may sound banal, but it’s true.
Often, employees actually started out highly motivated, but were then disappointed again and again. Promises made by your predecessors were not kept or were put off endlessly. As a result, employees no longer take spoken words and promises seriously. Walk your talk. If you promise something, keep your promise – always!
Here’s an example: If confidentiality is promised, but the employee repeatedly hears that confidential information has been passed on, then trust devolves into mistrust. Building trust takes a long time; destroying it can take no time at all.
Here’s another example: If employees are promised a promotion if they perform their tasks conscientiously, and they do exactly that, but then don’t get the promised promotion for reasons such as, “I can’t get it approved right now,” or “We’ll have to wait another year,” well, what effect do you think this will have on employee motivation?!
With these particular examples, you may think: “Obviously! We would never do that!” But Iet me ask you this: When did you last take a serious interest in your employees? When did you last have an appreciative, open conversation with them seeking to find out what, exactly, they need? What do you know about your employees? What moves them? Where are their pressure points?
I want to be clear here: I’m not looking for a scapegoat, nor am I passing the buck on to you. Often, managers are tasked with cleaning up the interpersonal debris left behind by their predecessor in that role. This can be exhausting and require a great deal of energy. But it is so much more than just work – it’s the process of building interpersonal relationships grounded in trust. And those kinds of relationships pay off – with employee motivation.
This is also confirmed by employee surveys. A trusting relationship with a manager is one of the strongest motivators – it’s the feeling of being seen that creates loyalty and identification with the manager.
I encourage you to engage in fruitful discussions about this issue.
Go for it,
Your crisis manager