De-motivation in the Workplace & Its Role on Productivity and Retention

When Jim Collins wrote Good to Great, a surprise find was that companies who have gone from good to great hire motivated people and teach management and each other how not to de-motivate one another. They do not spend time and effort motivating as it annoys the highly motivated and only has temporary effects on the un-motivated.

“Psychologist John Gottman created a landmark study on successful relationships both in marriage and in business. He found the ratio of positive to negative interactions to be best at 3 to 1 for business and 5 to 1 in a marriage. This simply means that in your work place having 1 negative interaction or de-motivating interaction to 3 motivating or positive interactions is the lowest you should be. At home, it needs to be 5 positive for every 1 negative.”

In creating an exercise for my clients to initiate the change, we started with these facts and then asked the participants to openly tell us what de-motivates them. My suggestion is that you take management as a group and you take their employees as a group, keeping them both separate. We would whiteboard these de-motivators and then we printed the compilation of all items on the whiteboard. This became an 8.5”x11” card laminated with the title: “What To Stop Doing” and in bold type De-Motivators. These went to each person in the room. The list was also assigned to one person who owned the task of keeping it alive in the organization.

We also initiated and highly encouraged the use of telling each other when someone de-motivates them. It always was a small joke at first, but quickly became part of the company’s language. Simple statements like “Hey man, you are de-motivating me!” became common during and after the exercise. Like anything, good use of internal branding to keep it alive was crucial.  Leadership keeping it in daily, weekly and monthly focus is a key to getting employees to live it and use the language.

I refer back to this often due to my own incredible ability to inspire others and accidentally de-motivate them.  It can “accidentally” happen when you talk to your children, spouse, and what I have found to easily be your employees. Below is a short list of potential de-motivators that seem to be common in groups I have worked with.  It will be easy for you to add to this list.  Do not discount the idea that this 30 minute exercise has amazing potential to increase employee productivity, happiness and inspire others.

Typical De-Motivators

  • Closed door meetings
  • Not saying good morning
  • Not returning e-mail or calls
  • Not listening
  • Making assumptions
  • Checking e-mail during a meeting
  • Not using eye contact
  • Negative talk of others
  • Rolling of eyes when things are mentioned

Ingredients Needed for a Happier Workplace:

  • 30 minutes
  • Separate the group into two rooms, one with employees, the other with leadership/management
  • Ready the half page segment of Good to Great regarding the surprise facts on de-motivation
  • Whiteboard the de-motivators
  • Combine all de-motivators on one page, print and laminate
  • Cross share the information with the all groups
  • Assign an owner to help keep this language alive in the organization
  • Market it or brand it internally

Copyright 2008 by Sales by 5

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