The Motivation Sink


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Can you motivate someone?

The gurus tell me that you can’t. You can’t give your staff motivation. It is not within your gift. Motivation is intrinsic, it comes from within. It isn’t something you can hand out with a carrot or a stick. You can make somebody do something, but you can’t motivate them, not in the long-term.

Can you demotivate someone?

The gurus (and personal experience) tell me that you can.

  • You can make them feel average
  • You can forget to thank them for a job well done
  • You can give them unattainable targets
  • You can incentivise them (contentious that one)
  • You can pay people inequitably
  • You can put the ever-living fear of God into them
  • And you can be just plain rude

Demotivating people is really very easy. — Believe me, I am the master.

All of which causes a conundrum…

If you can’t give motivation but you can take it away, then surely, over time even the keenest most motivated self-starter will have their motivation slowly drained away




If you believe the surveys most people are thoroughly demotivated at work — which kind of proves the point.

So what can you do about that?

Apparently it is about creating an environment where people can motivate themselves.

Could you create an environment where the work matters?
  • Disney want to create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment
  • Google want to organize the world‘s information

What do you want to do?

Could you create an environment where the work is interesting?

Ok the job may be tightening the top of toothpaste tubes, but it is easy to make that interesting, give people the challenge of working out how to tighten the tooth paste tubes cheaper, faster or better, people love to improve their own work.

Could you create an environment where people can see how they are doing?

How many toothpaste tube tops did you fasten today? How many do you need to fasten tomorrow? What was the best day for toothpaste tub tightening?

Wouldn’t you want to know?

Could you create an environment where people work together?

We are social people we love to serve one another

Could you create an environment where people can do their best work?
  • Give people the tools to do the job
  • Remove the bureaucracy that stops people being their best

Instead of forcing people to do the work you need, force the work to fit the people you have.

You can’t give someone motivation

It has to come from within, but you can nurture it.

Or so the gurus tell me.

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Image by katiew

Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Lawther
James Lawther is a middle-aged middle manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for many organisations, from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had multiple roles from running a night shift to doing operational research. He gets upset by operations that don't work and mildly apoplectic about poor customer service.


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