Young leaders frequently ask me to explain motivation techniques because they work with unmotivated employees or volunteers. We discuss carrots (rewards) and sticks (punishments) as motivational tools.
In addition, we discuss the power of progress and advancement opportunities as fuel for motivation. However, I’m taking a different path today.
Motivation increases as leaders stop de-motivating people.
7 Ways Leaders De-motivate others
- Actions without why’s de-motivate. Humans need higher purpose. For example, higher purpose motivates parents to work long hours in order to provide for their children. Without purpose long hours are meaningless. Furthermore, employees who don’t understand the greater significance of their job lose passion.
- Distrust de-motivates. I’ve heard people complain they were promised an opportunity that never materialized. Or, consider this complaint “The boss took credit for my work.” Unethical leaders quickly let the steam out of motivated employees.
- Moving targets de-motivate. Employees working to achieve performance objectives that unexpectedly shift may feel their motivational fire cooling.
- Ambiguous or unattainable goals de-motivate. It’s true that setting goals that are just out of reach can fan an employee’s enthusiasm. But if you set the goal too far out of reach they’ll give up.
- Favoritism de-motivates. This ugly problem can emerge in any situation. However, employees who are promoted to positions where they manage teams that include personal friends may experience the negative impact of perceived favoritism.
- Under appreciation de-motivates. Employees who don’t feel understood and appreciated for their efforts gradually lose fervor.
- One-way communication de-motivates. Receiving messages from on high without participation in the process makes people feel they don’t matter. When we don’t matter our performance doesn’t matter either.
It’s too easy to de-motivate people. Successful leaders eliminate de-motivators.
ahhh great. searched long for those comprehensive sticking points. great compilation, i will print that out and pin it to my desk ! 🙂
keep up the good work Dan ;D !
Thank you for the good word. I never get tired of being encouraged. It motivates me. 🙂
Best to you,
Hi Don, the worst thing we can do is forget someones name. 🙂
That’s an interesting mirror to pull out Dan.
I also believe rescheduling a meeting is crime of demotivation, I have a post scheduled for next week on that. Not listening sit’s not far behind. That’s 3. I predict however you are going to get hammered (in a nice way) on this one. I look forward to waking tomoorw and seeing progress. Warm regards Richard.
Hey “Fred” 😉
Do I know you? hahahaha
Thanks for adding rescheduling meetings. I “love” wasting time preparing for meetings that are postponed.
Thanks for the humor. I enjoyed your blog, “Do the right thing”
Richard blogs at: http://croadworks.com/about/
De-motivation is created by Gap.Gap is created by culture and people and it is not seeing what is visible. Gap between promised and delivery, gap between policies and practices, Gap between perception and reality. More the gap, more the dissatisfaction and de-motivation and vice versa. So, to de-motivate the de-motivators, reduce the gap and this will increase the motivation. Today, the greatest de-motivators are nepotism, favoritism, and “Yesman ship”. All other demons (blame game, politics, biasness) are outcome of these. The greatest motivators are appreciation,interaction,and accessibility. you must appreciate and interact the people on regular basis. you should be easily accessible to the people.When people see you often, they are motivated and when they see you sometimes then you have to question what is wrong with them.
Love how you explain “gap” as a root cause of de-motivation. Thanks for adding nepotism and yesman ship to the list of demotivators.
You’ve given me somethings to think about.
Best to you,
A wonderful, thought-provoking post this time. You have a neck of catching things in the right manner and no better way of taking motivation topic with factors leading to demotivation.
Probably, you have missed 2 important things i.e. procrastination and humiliation on the side of bosses. Both these can directly result in emotional disturbance and can bring down the energy/ enthusiasm level. Moreover, turning down new ideas or suggestions from the subordinates level also is a great demotivating factor.
Never ever have a habit of doubting the capabilities of your team members. Great surprises come if acted otherwise. People certainly look for a word of appreciation and good recognition in public for their achievements.
It’s always a pleasure.
I see that you’ve added four important ideas to the discussion.
3. Turning down new ideas. I see that as saying no without adequate consideration.
4. Lack of confidence in your peoples abilities.
The last two are connected to the first two but I like breaking them out. You continue to add value to the community.
One thing I’ve seen be a demotivator is a leader who lacks:
1. The self-awareness to realize that he/she is doing one or more of these things
2. The “people intelligence” to know how much it matters
Glad you’re back. Thanks for adding value! I appreciate it.
I notice that I constantly see where things can be improved. I’ve had to learn to be sensitive to others by not always suggesting improvements. Usually, a good word goes further than a suggestion on how to make minor improvements.
Best to you,
Dan, these are very true points. One of my avocations is helping with our local Film School Productions. Acting, being an extra, emptying the trash cans…..whatever. One of the reasons I love being involved in that particular world is that so many of the “de-motivators” are absent. Eventually, every film student rotates through every single job there is to do (gaffer, cinematographer, director, producer) so everyone understands to some degree the particular stresses that their peers are facing in their roles. It is easier to communicate what is needed, what has been done well, what needs to change when every party knows that the other DOES understand what needs to be done, having “been there.”
Many of our “day job” environments could use a little more “job sharing knowledge.” That would more completely put the “why” behind the “action”.
Thanks for your comment. Reading it made me think about the motivating power of predictable equality. People are set free when the path before them is clear and equitable.
Your real life story helps the LF community see another component of de-motivation/motivation.
Paula’s blog: http://www.waytenmom.blogspot.com/
Great sequence of demotivators, looks to become a list of the top 20 or worst 20 and I want to be like Ajay. I appreciated your drill down Ajay!
Implementing leadership tools/flavors o’ the month. There are some great methods and techniques, they need to be done sincerely (and probably more than a month). Done willy-nilly (great phrase) without a plan is demotivating.
Variation on moving targets are knee-jerk targets, targets de jour perhaps. Waste of time, energy, resources. Leaders demonstrate that they cannot prioritize and filter and ultimately lose respect .
Variation on under-appreciation is false appreciation. Thanking someone for work or an effort and not meaning it. Intent reads louder than words.
And variation on the above variation: Incorrect appreciation. As MBWA rolled into the organization, I was meeting with the far too absent leader who asked which staff had done well. I shared information about a long time employee (male) one of two male staff (out of 15 total staff) on the floor that had done a great job with a project. The leader immediately went out and grabbed the first male staff in front of many others and thanked him for the project and dedicated service. After a quizzical minute or two, the male employee pointed down the hall at the male staff person the leader was supposed to thank. The person the leader thanked was a ‘float’ person who was just there for his first time. And that was the pretty much the end of MBWA.
Your comments continue to add value and become more entertaining every day. You are cracking me up with your great writing style.
Absent leaders who decide to connect better do it slowly lest they get foot-in-mouth disease. Frankly, if you see a boss you haven’t seen in weeks or months it’s not motivating, its unnerving.
Best to you,
I appreciate your candidness and infact this is your strength. If we
analyse deeply, we will see that the greaterst de-motivator is our
selfishness, rest all follows.
Here are some book recommendations, these all top my reading list. “Whale Done” by Ken Blanchard, “Drive, The Surprising Truth about what motivates us”, by Daniel Pink and “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni.
Wonderful…thanks for adding these resources.
Dan, I love this post and find that it fits perfectly for the classroom environment and working with children. I’d love for teachers to read your words here. One of my children experienced most of these factors increasingly as the school year drew to a close.
An additional demotivational thought fits in with “action without why’s,” but is never getting to see that you (and what you do) make a difference. Everyone needs little successes in life and to see/experience the fruits of their labor and choices somehow. Fields that involve “maintenance” seem to struggle with this the most, since the work is never complete, it’s on-going. There’s no final product to stand back and look at and know/remember – hey, I really did that! So it relies on feedback and other elements that can get lost.
Good one! I don’t like leaving the office after a busy day wondering what I accomplished.
I’m a farm boy originally from Maine and there’s nothing like the sight, smell and feeling of freshly mowed hay. You can look across the field and see the results of your work. Frankly, just watching the hay fall as it’s being cut is motivation to keep cutting.
Thanks for adding to the conversation,
Best to you,
Stop over to Julia’s website: http://aberrantcrochet.wordpress.com/
Hey Julie, thanks for the interesting play on words…we all could benefit from more ‘whys actions’!
Regarding only seeing the ‘maintenance’, yes that is a tough one. In the moment, it can be demotivating, draining, etc.
I worked in acute care psychiatry and from time to time tended to believe that most people getting older would get dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. (cause that was who I saw everyday) and that people with mental health challenges always seemed to be back in the hospital over the years.
We need new frames of reference when we experience those stereotypic thoughts that are demotivating. It often was just my bias and own unrealistic expectations that were ‘un-whys’.
That I was given the opportunity to work with someone who is struggling (same as a person struggles with cancer, asthma, diabetes, etc) was an honor and an amazing obligation. That was a daily ‘why’ that I needed to attend to.
That I was sometimes able to see that person out and about and doing well and loving life, that was a cache to cherish and remind myself on tougher days when my ‘un-whys’ crept back in and tried to demotivate me.
And we never know when when we will be given a gift back from a student or person we have worked with. 7 years after working with a young man, who was 10 year old, in the hospital, I saw him 8 years later and he thanked me…thanked me! No, I am the one that should be thanking him and still do almost every day.
Beautiful post Doc. thank you too. Richard
Doc, I totally missed the unwhys thing. So glad you pointed it out for us slower folks. Dan
Thanks Doc and Dan!
Doc, along the same vein, it’s a perspective that mothers know all too well too. The laundry is never truly done, nor the dishes. Nor the floor sparkling for long, or the litter box empty and pet dishes full. Sometimes, just sometimes, we ourselves start to doubt our worth. No matter how much we all believe that parenthood is so important and vital. We all know the truth of it. But there are times you look back on the week and wonder if anything you “finished” made a difference since everything often looks the same. Yeah…. So we have to shift our thinking, because in parenthood, we are the leaders whether we like it or not. For me, I write a check list of things I do. Just for me to see. Just for proof for the days I feel exasperated and wonder if I actually accomplished anything. But also, what my kids and family do help motivate me with their hugs, their help, their own growth and thanks, to keep me going too. To keep me putting myself out there and dealing with things I’d rather not have to deal with.
Not too unlike how an employee can be the difference for a boss.
Great post, so good! Really. I am definitely not reschduling my meetings ever!
If I add one more- holding information when it is not required. When leaders are transparent, candid and honest, you see people below them motivated. When people see leaders holding onto information unncessarily from them, they wonder why they re probably not in their circle of trust. It starts the gap, favoritisim and ugly head of fakeness in everyone attitude. They say if you have to be fake at work to get liked , you will be not liked anyways.
Wow! The list keeps growing.
I love the quote: “if you have to be fake at work to get liked , you will be not liked anyways.”
Thanks for coming back and adding value,
Neeta I would like to ask you a few questions.
One no one has mentioned and in many companies is against corporate policy punishable by termination – Unfounded threats made by high-level executives to a subordinate.
Good one. I think threats have the opposite effect as intended. Oh, thats your point.
Another nice post, Dan. If nothing else, it should make us all stop for a moment and think, not how we’re treated but how we treat others. I appreciate the comment from Ajay about the gap between policy and practice. What’s the use for a policy if the consequence of non-compliance is not consistently followed? As leaders, we need to be very mindful to be consistent, otherwise, in creeps your other de-motivator – favoritism.
I’d like to add two more de-motivators: 1) the ‘but’ word as in that’s good, but… and 2) the lack of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, two simple but much appreciated words.
Thank you for your kinds words.
You’re experience is shining through. I think being consistent may be one of the most difficult qualities to exhibit.
Thanks for adding value to LF readers.
Thank you for your appreciation. It boosts my confidence.
yeah.Simple and powerful words 🙂
Dan, Excellent list of what de-motivates. Would be a great list for new managers and leaders to learn and then review frequently.
Leaders who avoid these pitfalls and mistakes from the beginning, see teamwork materialize much more quickly. Forming, storming, and norming — doesn’t get sidetracked by withdrawn baggage laden behavior that takes loads of effort to overcome.
I appreciate you stopping in and leaving your comment.
I was just reading your great post on inspiration:
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Dan – great, succinct list. One more from personal experience: Not knowing when to let up on the gas.
For many years, I worked for a type-A, single-minded, talented HR-VP who built a high-performing team. That part was great. The part that wasn’t great was she never knew when to take her foot off the gas and downshift for a short while to just “regular” (read: 100%, instead of 150%) effort. Case in point: we worked down the street from a beautiful spring training ballpark. Every year for 5 or 6 years I tried to convince her to give the team the afternoon off and take in a game as a group — sun, fellowship, relaxation. It would have meant a lot to everyone. She would never agree to do it … never the time. My greatest failure — not being able to get her to see the value in this.
Left people feeling she just cared about achievement, not about them personally. Very unfortunate.
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Thanks for this great list of pointers for anyone who wants to be a more effective leader. The wisdom of this post can be helpful for individual contributors as well. It inspired me to give thought to how I relate to colleagues on the teams I work with. For example:
Actions without whys — Do I understand the reasons for my own actions, and can I communicate those clearly to my teammates?
Distrust — Am I communicating in any way that I don’t trust my team?
Moving targets/ambiguous goals — Do I understand my own goals, and are they consistent with what I am communicating to my teammates? (In other words, am I saying one thing and doing another?)
Favoritism — Am I, perhaps without even realizing it, communicating more effectively with, or expressing more respect for, some teammates over others?
Underappreciation — Am I taking my team for granted? Do I thank my teammates when they help me through difficult tasks? Do I express appreciation for my teammates’ talents and hard work?
Once again, thanks!
Wonderful application. You’ve taken my comments to a new level with your personal application.
I love blogging!
I want to thank you for all your empowering thoughts on leadership. I learn so much from you and eacn person who commentted.
Over a long period of time, I have noticed the large percentage of insecure leaders on various levels and in many countries. It saddens me, because they have no idea who they are or where they going, yet they lead, because somewhere along the line someone thought they had leadership qualities.
I believe people should be moulded and empowered to lead. I look around me and see the heaps of shattered lives left behind by insecure leaders who tries to find their identity by stepping on people to get to a position where they will be acknowledged and applauded.
It doesn’t matter who I am or on which level I lead, but I need to remember that there is a very fine balance between leading and following. Every leader should also be a follower of someone. If I cannot follow (submit to authority) I should not lead, because as a leader I hold the precious lives and future of real people in my hand.
As a leader, we should motivate and create an opportunity for people to grow and become the very best they can be. Holding the lives of others in our hands is such a privilege and huge responsibility, but there is no way I can be an empowering leader if I have no idea who I am or what my purpose is!
May we be empowering leaders.
Anita Du Plessis
In my last position I found that dialogue falling on deaf ears was de-motivating. In other words, I presented my work and opinions, and I got a “I don’t care. I think this way so this is what we are going to do.” Maybe that correlates to the one-way and why items you’ve listed.
I can see how that would definitely be demotivating. When one finally gets the courage to speak up, yet nothing is done about it, it really discourages one from putting forth any extra effort. I hope that your new job encourages you to express your opinion, because an opinion of a valued employee is one worth hearing!
demotivation is a highly debating topic, it is a one of the strongest demotivating technique that to say your employe before others that what ever you are doing worth nothing before other employes and continuosly cliking na whatever you do is not the same what ever i needs and dont let that person complete his task and continuosly change his task and you will observe after one month employe will lose his confidence.
Very intriguing list here, especially the way it has grown! I am struck by the broad application of de-motivation into teaching and parenting, and also by Michael B’s story of the the Exec unable to see the value in letting employees watch a ballgame. And struck Michael, by how you consider this to be your failure. I would add something that has been implied in the thread, but not stated, and that is – encouraging employees to set professional boundaries around their time. I’ve worked in a variety of non-profits in cultures that were largely about putting out weekly, daily, hourly fires…with little awareness of the employee burn-out building around them.
Love all these comments. It is all so true…I need to sub them all into a document and make it required reading for our senior leadership team.
Then I am going to pass it down through the organsiation
Great topic Dan and the slant you’ve taken has certainly brought out some interesting comments, there’s some real food for thought in all of this! For me I would add lack of accountability and follow through. Having worked in teams with clear expectations with commitment and disapline, experiencing the opposite certainly drains my energy.