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The 10 Commandments of
Workplace Motivation

Roxanne Emmerich, CSP, CMC

Contrary to popular belief, if you want to lose weight, all you need to do is exercise more and eat fewer calories. Those struggling with weight will often insist they eat very little but just sit across the table from them at a buffet and you realize they are "breaking the rules" of diet.

The same applies to workplace motivation. When the rules are followed, morale improves. When we break the rules, motivation deteriorates. Managers spend too much time in denial by insisting that they are building a motivating workplace when, in fact, they are often sabotaging it. A motivating work environment is the responsibility of everyone. Gone are the days when we look to managers to motivate. Here are Ten Commandments that must be adhered to by everyone in your organization if you want to build the kind workplace where everyone thrives.

I. Build self-respect

Positive reinforcement allows people to understand that their performance adds value to the organization. Receiving positive strokes gives employees a sense of satisfaction that creates the initiative to try new ideas and take bigger risks. We can never have enough self-respect. It seems that the office 'egomaniac' is usually the one who has the lowest self-respect. The more obnoxious and toxic they become in their bragging, the less we feel like feeding their egos with strokes. No matter how confident or comfortable we are with who we are, we all have moments of insecurity where our performance drops. We all need strokes.

Roxanne Emmerich
Roxanne Emmerich
II. Don't Be Neurotic (or disguise it well)

Employees deserve to have a clear understanding of what behaviors and outcomes are expected. Many managers are so unclear that they create the perception that they are they are intentionally hiding the target. Management teams seclude themselves for a strategic planning session, an archaic and bankrupt management practice, only to place the book on the shelf with maybe a short review with employees. If everyone in the organization isn't involved in "the plan" at some level, they're not committed, period.

III. Show Respect

Managers often treat employees like a child in an adult-child relationship. An adult-adult transaction requires that we allow employees the latitude to solve problems. Provide guidance with a clear picture of expected outcomes and allow people to think.

IV. Live Integrity

In the Dr. Seuss book, "Horton Hatches the Egg", Horton, the elephant gives his word to a lazy bird named Mayzie that he will sit on her egg until she comes back. Mayzie doesn't come back and Horton perseveres through ice storms, safari hunters, and even a trip to the zoo. Through challenges, he continues to repeat, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!" It is unquestionably true that most people would say that they keep their word. In any day, however, those same people will break their word repeatedly in small ways. Employees spot all the ways that managers miss obligations by small things like not sending out reports that were promised delaying meetings, etc. Employees are quick to spot slips in integrity in peers and managers. Instead of confronting the problem directly, they too often fall out of integrity by blaming, gossiping and whining. Living in integrity means keeping our word and speaking a deeper truth.

V. Be Fair

In a world where there isn't much that is fair, we need to find ways be as fair as possible. Fair doesn't mean equal. Paying for performance isn't fair if you cap the incentives that a star performer can receive. If you reward employees for cost savings or an increase in revenue, the additional money is always there to share, because the extra money wouldn't have been there without help from that employee.

VI. Value and Reinforce Ideas

According to an Employee Involvement Association study, the average employee in Japan submits 32 ideas for improvement per year, compared to the average employee in the United States who submits 0.17 - a ratio of 188-1. The root of this problem stems from the fact that only 33 percent of U.S. employees' ideas are adopted - compared to 87 percent from Japanese workers. If we expect people to give us ideas their ideas for improving the organization, we need to have a serious system for evaluating and implementing all ideas. People who submit ideas are entitled to a quick decision and reason about the idea they had.

VII. Give Them What They Want

My mother loves crafts. I love books. Every year for Christmas, my mother has given me crafts. I give my mother books. What's wrong with this picture? We love to give what we actually love to receive, however sometimes we forget who we are doing it for.

Each of your employees has a different idea of how they prefer to be rewarded. Money, trips, educational opportunities, promotions, verbal recognition - everyone prefers it their way. If you don't know what they want, ask them.

VIII. Give Immediate Feedback

Who ever created the yearly performance review anyway? By itself there is really nothing wrong with it, but somewhere along the path, we assumed that all feedback gets stuck in a file and delivered yearly. The problem with this approach is that inappropriate behavior becomes habit by the time the employee hears about it. Worse yet, you lose the benefit of reenergizing your people with the substantial immediate impact of positive reinforcement for a project well done.

IX. Reinforce the Right Things

One of the companies I have done work for believed that good employees come to work early and stay late. Not surprisingly, the CEO came to work early and stayed late. When a new CEO came, he placed the emphasis on performance and productivity went up miraculously. Those same employees did more work in less time. Watch what you reinforce because you will undoubtedly get more of it. X. Serve Others We've all seen it in our mission statements. "To be a leading provider of blah, blah services in our service area providing quality service and a good return to our stakeholders." Gag me with a shovel! To say we are in business to profit is like saying we are alive to breathe. Every thriving organization is passionate about serving their customers. When we focus on our customers' success, we enroll our hearts, minds, and souls as opposed to simply working from our job descriptions. So, it's easy. If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. If you want to improve the motivation of your workplace, follow these Ten Commandments.

 


Roxanne Emmerich challenges conventional business wisdom and offers her own proven and unique blend of practical workplace management ideas.
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