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The Real Reason Employees Work: 36 Proven Ways To Motivate - Part I
By Arnold Sanow   Printer Friendly Version

Motivating employees is one of the most important challenges managers face today. With increased competition and changing attitudes, having motivated employees is crucial to increased productivity and the ultimate success of a company.

Since people are the most important asset of any company, more and more organizations are moving away from the traditional, autocratic management approach for a more "democratic" stance -- making employees responsible for their own work. Without the power to influence or control their workday lives, few employees commit or "buy in" to the organization's goals. Work becomes something that pays for the employees' avocations. Getting employees to commit their best efforts---rather than simply putting in time--- is the challenge supervisors face in keeping their employees motivated.

The key ingredient to motivating employees is "employee empowerment". Although the theory behind employee empowerment has been around for some time, more and more organizations are turning theory into reality by abandoning work situations that dictate working conditions. Organizations that add responsibility and flexibility to the workplace - the embodiment of empowerment-are finding that their productivity and profitability increase. The resulting surge of positive energy translates to the bottom line.

Supervisors who discourage empowerment, a "democratic" atmosphere and a "team" approach de-motivate their staff and are destined to failure. Some of the characteristics shared by these poor supervisors (bosses from hell) include:

  1. They're control freaks. Poor supervisors delegate tasks, never responsibility, then hang over your shoulder and criticize and second-guess every step you take.
  2. They're possessive - and what they want to possess most of all is you. Forever. Never mind your needs. Never mind your ambitions. Never mind your future. If it's inconvenient for them to replace you, you can kiss promotions good-bye.
  3. They don't believe in positive feedback. Words of praise are few and far between. When it comes to criticism, on the other hand, they're too, too generous--- and the word "constructive" isn't in their vocabularies.
  4. They're wimps. Poor managers don't confront, criticize or tell us anything we don't want to hear. They don't have the nerve for one thing, and they haven't the time, either-busy as they are sabotaging their employees in sneaky, back-stabbing ways.
  5. They're insecure. They play themselves up, put you down and take all the credit. But if something goes wrong they let you take all the blame.
  6. They're workaholics - and expect you to be, too. Because their life is out of balance they resent the fact that their employees have a personal life at all.
  7. "You don't need to know this" is often heard. Teamwork and a feeling of belonging are not part of the culture.

The characteristics above best describe a "boss". To truly motivate one must become a leader. A leader leads people; a boss directs and manages things.

According to many surveys the "bosses" idea of motivation is to give their employees more money and they'll be happy. This couldn't be further from the truth. Although they will like the money and maybe stay in the job --- if they don't like the work or how they are treated --- money will not change their level of motivation.

On the other hand, the leader realizes one of the major motivating factors to get employees to perform at their best focuses on appreciation and recognition.

While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform at high levels is the thoughtful, personal kind of recognition that signifies true appreciation for a job well done.

The best way to provide recognition and appreciation is through the use of rewards. To make our rewards work, we must first follow certain basic guidelines:

  1. Design rewards based on the individual's personal preferences. For example to reward a workaholic with a day off could be seen by the employee as, "What did I do wrong?" instead of a show of appreciation as it was meant to be. To really understand what is important to each employee it's essential to get to know each employee well and find out what they think are important rewards.
  2. Reward for achievement - Rewards should be based on what was actually done. For example, if someone has given you an idea that has saved you money, that person should get a bigger reward versus someone who just did you a small favor.
  3. Time your rewards. Rewards and recognition should be given as soon as possible after the desired behavior. Reward and recognition that come long after the achievement do little to motivate the employee.

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