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Annoying Employee Motivation Gimmicks: Part One

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Today’s post, highlighting motivational gimmicks in the workplace, is part one of this two-part series by Cali Ressler, Founder of CultureRx and co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).

Employee motivation is more than about making your employees happy. Oh yes, yes it is.

A happy employee who doesn’t know what her results should be or how her job is tied to bigger organizational goals, is not going to be a truly productive and motivated employee. She won’t be intrinsically motivated to do her best work. In fact, she’s probably looking for another job.

Motivation has to be grounded in getting individual employee goals aligned with the big picture of how those goals relate to customer service or business growth. But this post isn’t about goal-setting; it’s about what not to do when you want to motivate people…

  • Everyone loves office parties!
  • No…they don’t. Pizza parties, corporate barbecues, and awkward birthday celebrations around a store-bought cake in the conference room… do these things sound like fun to you? Because I remember those forced social gatherings and I distinctly remember them being very weird. If you have a small team that genuinely enjoys one another’s company, let them figure out how they want to hang out…don’t figure it out for them.

    80% of teams we work with say they are thinking this when they get invited to one of these cheesy events: “I’d rather get my work done and spend time with my real friends/my family.” So stop wasting their time.

    Try instead: Just say no to throwing office parties and barbecues. If your team wants those things to happen, tell them it’s in their hands.

  • Same rules, different location (working from home)
  • Working from home is not a motivational perk if a) you still have mandatory check-ins with the boss, b) strict or even stricter rules about time tracking and face time, or c) you have spying software installed on your computer so your boss can know exactly what you were working on during “work hours.”

    In other words, same traditional office rules but just a different location. I get to work from home, but I can’t even get up from my computer to let my dog out or my manager will think I’m slacking.

    Try instead:
    Focus on your employees’ measurable results and make sure those things are getting done. If your employees work from home, don’t chain them to their computers, instant messangers, and email so you can feel assured that they’re “really working.” Focus on the results and you’ll know if the work is getting done or not.

Dog at office

© Flickr user Jonathon Leung

  • Pets at work
  • Please, no hate mail on this one. I love animals as much as the next person, and I have pets. But even bringing one of my pets to work isn’t going to motivate me if I’m being treated like a child and told how I have to get things done.

    Try instead:
    When you work in a Results-Only Work Environment, you get to decide how, when and where work gets done, which will make Fido and you happy…and based on the results of the hundreds of teams we’ve worked with, more productive, too. See this ROWE testimonial we recently received from Glenn the dog.

  • Walking around to “show how much you care”
  • Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices, on the clock and looking busy. Checking in on employees by lurking in the hallways and popping your head into cubes doesn’t show how involved of a manager you are – it’s creepy. And it’s not motivating anyone to work harder in case you might pop in. It’s more likely to make them paranoid…and angry.

    Try instead: Provide your team with clearly communicated goals and deadlines. Then manage their performance.

[Editors note: Love Cali’s post? Check out part two which highlights more annoying employee motivation gimmicks to avoid.]

Cali ResslerCali Ressler’s first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week. She has been featured on the covers of BusinessWeek, Workforce Management Magazine, HR Magazine, Hybrid Mom Magazine, as well as in the New York Times, TIME Magazine, USA Today, and on Good Morning America, CNBC and CNN. Cali and her partner created ROWE based on the belief that the traditional solution of flexible schedules is not the answer to managing life’s many twists and turns.

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