Are Your Workers Inspired—or Indifferent?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about how to inspire your team. This all started with a fascinating article I read in Forbes. Its key point is that you can’t motivate others; that comes from within. The best you can do is inspire them in a way that helps them motivate themselves.

After doing a little more research on the subject, I offered a few suggestions on corporate behaviors and company activities that have been shown to help engage employees. And my most recent post was a collection of wise thoughts on teamwork from historical figures and contemporary thought leaders.

Incentives and Rewards May Not Be Rewarding

The Forbes article points out that despite your best efforts, you might actually demotivate your team. If an employee is enjoying a task and doing it well, he or she likely feels a strong sense of accomplishment—an internal reward. If you add an incentive for those accomplishments, you may actually reduce the employee’s motivation to continue them.

There may be a couple of reasons for this.

  1. The introduction of a bonus or financial incentive may almost devalue the work, making it seem less the result of skills and pride. The performance was merely purchased.
  2. If the rewards cause others to increase their productivity, the naturally motivated achievers may feel cheated, as others who haven’t excelled previously steal the thunder.

For this reason, the article suggests it is critical to know what personal satisfactions motivate your employees and factor those core values into your relationships with them. Communication is key.

Coincidentally, your interactions with employees are central to another demotivating factor I discovered in my investigation.

It Could Be You

A tough one, but an important one to face and address. An article in the Harvard Business Review reinforces the notion that money is a poor driver of employee engagement. The article suggests that the personalities of employees are better predictors than money of the degree to which they will become engaged with their jobs.

But the thing that really caught my attention was how the article ended. Its final point was indeed the sharpest:

 “In fact, the biggest organizational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership.”


Certainly food for thought. Before introducing an elaborate incentive program or reward mechanism, put a mirror on your own leadership style. Are there ways that you, as a manager, could ratchet up your own job performance? Would more frequent and accurate communication help the workflow and increase your employees’ satisfaction with their work environment?

 Our Unique Incentives

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