A Few Thoughts About Motivation

Motivation is one of the most common work-related issues I hear from clients (“these people are unmotivated” or “we want high scores on the climate survey to improve everyone’s motivation”).  Yet motivation, especially from a performance perspective, tends to be oversimplified by most managers and executives.

First, no-one (well, other than perhaps someone who’s dead) is completely unmotivated.  We all have motivation.  It’s simply not true that a group of employees is unmotivated.  The problem is that motivation is usually a complex issue with a range of factors playing a role.  I may want to do a good job and get praise from my supervisor.  But I also don’t want to end up doing work that some slacker didn’t do—that isn’t fair.  And while I may believe in working hard I also don’t want to have to stay late and get caught in bad rush-hour traffic.  Plus, my favorite TV series is on tonight and we’re having an early dinner so I’m preoccupied by those thoughts.  And I like dealing with the immediate project I’ve been assigned but find two members of my project team to be boring or irritating so I want to spend as little time with them as possible.  And our staff meetings run on too long.  As a result, I work hard but try to look busy as quitting time approaches and on Tuesday I’m going to come up with any excuse I can to avoid extra work or find a reason to duck out early (while on Wednesdays I’m willing to stay late) and I have a reputation for sweating the small stuff and producing good work product. Continue reading