9 ways managers influence employee motivation

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Published on January 22, 2014 | Reading time: 7m

It’s so hard to have engaged employees. It’s such a delicate thing to try and get right because employees can be fragile.

As a manager, you have to do everything in your power to make sure employees are happy and engaged at all times.

Usually, the problem is the boss, and not things like the company, mission statement, or co-workers.

If you know that your boss is the biggest problem, there are ten things that they do to kill motivation. If you’re a manager and you’re reading this, make sure you avoid these mistakes to ensure that your employees are engaged during work.

The secret to good leadership is to be authentic. Be honest with your staff.

How to motivate your employees

Listen— actively

Your ability to listen is linked to your team’s ability to feel part of the team. If you want to keep long-lasting motivation, active listening will become one of your core practices as an experienced manager.

If what they have to say matters, motivation is triggered. Your team members will feel like what they have to say matters.

The logic is simple: the more your listen, the higher chances of your team skeaping up. A team that speaks up is also an engaged and motivated team. It shows they care, and if they care, that means they are motivated to do great things.

To listen actively, practice the following:

  • Ask follow-up questions
  • Ask for more context
  • Paraphrase what they said to verify you understood correctly
  • Share back your thoughts (this shows that you’re really giving thought to what they have to say)
  • Develop next steps from your discussions 

Trust— by default

Trust motivates people because it enables them to feel capable. When you implement trust by default, your team members will know that you trust them to do their job. It’s their responsibility to deliver, and you trust that they will! They feel autonomous and competent. 

On the contrary, when managers don’t trust their teams, they often micromanage, and in some cases, even take away opportunities. If you don’t trust your team and you keep on taking responsibilities away, they will lose interest in the work and rely on doing the bare minimum. Simply, they won’t feel connected to their work. 

To show that you trust your team

  • Delegate them tasks
  • Avoid micromanaging
  • Offer them more responsibilities
  • Communicate the goals, what needs to get done, and the limitations, but trust them with the how.

Recognize— the big and the small

Your team members need to know when they are doing great work. It’s a human trait! Getting recognized literally releases “feel-good” hormones (you know, those hormones that make us feel happy). If your team feels happy about the work they do, they will feel motivated to do it, and do it well.

To properly give recognition, embrace every opportunity:

  • Whenyou see a team member stepping out of their comfort zone
  • When an employee reaches one of their goals
  • When an employee is doing efforts to support team members
  • When an employee practices team values

How managers influence employee motivation

1. Micromanaging

You hire an incredibly talented employee to take care of a task that you either have no more time for or aren’t qualified enough to do, and yet you micromanage them to the point where it’s not even them doing the work.

You need to remember why you hired this person in the first place and learn to let go of that control. What you’re doing is making the employee feel useless, and this is a sure way to demotivate employees.

Even if you are 30% better at a task than someone who works for you, the time it takes for you to check on them every few hours, and demand approvals over trivial decisions, costs more in lost morale, passion for work, and destruction of self-respect among your staff than the 30% you think you’re adding.

Scott Berkun

2. Focusing on mistakes

Nobody likes to be surrounded by negativity.

Try your best to have a positive attitude and create a positive environment in the office. Humans make mistakes, it’s natural, you need to learn to be more forgiving.

Instead of focusing on mistakes, try to focus on the wins (no matter how small) your team accomplished, this will ensure that they always stay motivated.

Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.

Denis Waitley

3. Dismissing ideas

Every idea is a good one, and not every idea that an employee has will be implemented. It’s important to at least hear them out.

Make your employees feel like they have a voice and have some say in the decision-making process of the company. This process will naturally make employees feel more like they’re part of the company.

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

Albert Einstein

4. Not keeping your word

This one is just plain rude and it can quickly kill all employee motivation.

If you say you’re going to do something, or even worse, not do something, you have to keep your word. One of the biggest keys to successful employee engagement is building trust between the company and its employees.

Like any relationship, if there’s no trust, it won’t work out. The lesson here is simple — keep your word.

Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life — all areas of life.

Zig Ziglar

5. Making empty promises

This one is pretty similar to #4, but it bothers me even more.

There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up, only to have them destroyed. A promise is sacred. If you promise to do something for an employee, you better be able to keep it.

Again, this goes back to ensuring that there is trust and that there is a substantial relationship. Employees will be able to forgive one or two empty promises, because it’s not worth risking their job over, but don’t make it a habit.

Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.

Denis Waitley

6. Holding useless meetings

There’s nothing more annoying than finally getting into a good groove of working, knowing that you have a deadline to meet, and a manager will call an unannounced meeting.

Most of the time meetings are spent with managers who organized it talking. If you need to hear yourself speak just for the sake of speaking, don’t disturb everyone else’s day.

Record a video of yourself on your phone, you’ll have more fun watching it later, and you won’t upset your employees.

Meetings are toxic

Jason Fried

7. Measuring employee success wrong

I’ll give a personal example for this one to explain my point. I once had a manager that measured the productivity of software developers by the number of commits pushed to Github.

For those reading this that have no idea what that means, it’s like measuring the quality of an essay by the number of words, it’s flawed.

This totally ruined employee motivation, because they knew they were being judged on things that they shouldn’t be judged on. It’s important to understand how you’re measuring for success, and what metrics you’re using. Always look to improve the way you measure success.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

Abraham Maslow

8. Setting Unrealistic Deadlines

To properly motivate employees, they need to feel like they’re accomplishing something, or at least that their goal is attainable.[inlinetweet]If you set unrealistic deadlines, you’re most probably going to demotivate your employees, because it will feel like they’ll never cross that finish line.

It’s important to keep this in mind. You can potentially break it down into smaller, more attainable goals so that at least there is an illusion of completion.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Douglas Adams

9. Picking favorites

This will motivate employee that you’re picking as a favorite, but obviously it will demotivate the ones that are being left out.

It’s obvious if you choose a favorite, other employees will be able to tell right away, so watch out for this one. Remember that you guys are a team and are all on the same team, working towards the same goal.

With that said, there should be no favorites, everyone should be your favorite.

There are no favorites in my office. I treat them all with the same general inconsideration.

Lyndon B. Johnson

A lot of these mistakes that managers make are so easy to avoid. It’s just about treating your employees with respect.

Think about how you’d like to be treated if the roles were reversed. You would want to be trusted, you want to be asked for feedback and ideas, you would want to be left alone to do your work properly.

You would want an environment that encourages experimentation, testing, and failure (within reason). Worst comes to worst, you can always learn more about your employees with unique solutions.

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