Fighting bah humbug: Driving employee motivation in stressful times

This is a guest article by Sharon Daniels.

While we all love the cheer and joy of the holidays, let’s be honest—the holidays can be downright stressful with holiday travel, shopping and parties. In addition to personal seasonal plans, many executives are also consumed with end-of-year reporting and planning for the next year.

With so much activity and pressure occurring in the fourth quarter, the holidays are a time of year when employee motivation may wane due to stress and anticipation of a vacation. However, with end-of-year results on the line, leaders and managers must ensure their workforce stays focused and productive by encouraging employee motivation and providing appropriate rewards and recognitions.

Understanding sources of motivation

Motivation is essential to any successful workforce. And while managers cannot force their employees to be motivated, they can create an environment that encourages it. More than 40 years of research has uncovered that all people share three psychological needs that, when fulfilled, result in intrinsic motivation. The psychological needs are:

  • Competence: the need to feel valued as knowledgeable, skilled and experienced.
  • Relatedness: the need to collaborate with colleagues and co-workers.
  • Autonomy: the need to exercise self-regulation, within guidelines, to achieve business goals.

Keeping these needs top of mind and identifying ways for employees to tap into them is key to ensuring people are motivated during hectic times. For example, by engaging the team in strategy planning for the next year, leaders can help them tap into their need of competence. To support relatedness, encourage team assignments or incorporate team-building projects as part of end-of-year celebrations. Lastly, establishing a policy on teleworking is an extremely impactful way to promote autonomy.

Proper rewards and recognition

In addition to creating opportunities for employees to meet their internal motivational needs, leaders and managers can also help mitigate the impact of stressful times by giving proper recognition and rewards. While money and gifts are on top of everyone’s wish lists during the holidays, it’s important that leaders understand which rewards drive and discourage motivation long term. Extrinsic rewards, such as cash and extra vacation time, may motivate employees in the short term; however, research indicates that their overall effectiveness can quickly wear thin.

It’s important to realize that there is no one path to employee motivation. Extrinsic rewards do not always undermine intrinsic motivation and are, at times, appropriate. However, great care should be given so these rewards are not used to control behavior, which can achieve an unintentional negative effect. It is vital to employee motivation and productivity that employees do not become dependent on rewards.

To effectively reward and recognize employees, managers should focus on identifying new opportunities that allow them to engage employees’ intrinsic needs. Additionally, managers should not forget the impact of a kind word. Providing verbal recognition is a great way to promote competence and relatedness in the employee. Effective recognition is:

  • Genuine.
  • Timely.
  • Short.
  • Interactive.
  • Specific.
  • Frequent.

With the close of the fourth quarter and growing wish lists from family and friends, the holidays can be overwhelming for many, causing a drop in productivity at work. However, by understanding the sources of motivation and providing effective recognition, managers can ensure their employees avoid becoming unproductive and bah-humbug employees.

Sharon DanielsSharon Daniels is the president and CEO of AchieveGlobal. Highly regarded as a leader in the field of training and organizational development, Daniels has over 25 years of experience in general management and leadership.

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One Response to Fighting bah humbug: Driving employee motivation in stressful times

  1. Pingback: The Training Nation Weekly Round-Up | Training Nation

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