Lack of motivation must be one of the most used phrases by managers

Lack of Motivation must be one of the most used phrases by managers.  It is the root cause of everything from dirty toilets to bad service. If a guard dog sleeps on duty we say that it is overfed, underfed or old. We never say it is unmotivated. The reason is simple; you will look smarter if you blame the handler instead of the dog.

Whenever the big “M” word is mentioned focus always turns to the supervisee; lethargic, inexperience, lazy, unqualified – amongst a few. But are those labels fair? So called lethargy or laziness could be attributed to stress, bad working conditions, overwork, lack of support and sometime even lack of nutrition.

On the other hand, only operators and technicians have this kind of problem. Why in the world would a manager waste his energy on them?  He can always find ten to replace one anyway, right? Not exactly; because of something called the learning curve. If your equipments are not so new and had been modified a few times, the original manual on how to run these may no longer fully apply. Usually, the only available option is a veteran worker’s memory of his experiences with the machine.

Insubordinate staff? It may mean that you don’t deserve to be a leader to this person. People generally will only show respect to those they think superior to themselves. That means that if the best employees leave you, you will only be left with those more mediocre than yourself. The best salespeople love selling, the best procurers love getting discounts from vendors, the best secretaries love managing their bosses. These are the people whose physical and mental health rides on the market trend graph. Time spent in long-winded meetings is time lost in selling or in negotiating.

There is another element of human need that people forget about. It is human relationship. No worker expects to be treated as an equal to his manager on a work level. Yet it is the right of every human being to expect to be treated as an equal to his fellow man. You do not motivate a person by punishing and demeaning him (unless you are running a quarry with prison labor – some country still practice that I believe). You motivate him by appealing to his proactive side. Say something like “You did great last time.” or “We need you to help us do this.” If you use force, you are saying that you expect him to rebel and you will end up talking to his defensive side.

If you use a demerit system and punish your workers for every mistake, you will not only train them to lie to you, you also train them to form the habit of looking at the clock from the moment they start work. Lying is a defensive system and people become defensive in an environment they perceive as dangerous.

Just stop and think. Who in their honest, right mind would want to make a mistake?

Human errors are usually due to lack of training or stress. The best solution is to find out what happened and to create a workable system to prevent it in the future. Some people will say, “since you forgot to put on the label, next time you must sign on the label and find someone to confirm that the label is correct”. This kind of solution only works if there is a long waiting period for the operator. But if boxes are rushing pass him you will end up with more unlabeled boxes. So be practical, ask him if the new solution will work. [However, there is the rare individual who insists on high risk behavior because it is part of his nature. If you employ a person of such unsafe habits you will be considered liable for any injury on other employees caused by him].

Building an equal human to human relationship is not that difficult. The supervisor must at all times remain the boss on the work level, but he need not be boss at the personal level. If you’re new in town, ask them where you can drink the best local coffee or where they take their families for fun. Allow them to be your teacher and your life will be the richer for it. This will help the scales even out between you.

Your interest must be sincere. Insincerity shows, if not at that point, then at some other point. People have a habit of remembering exactly what you say to them, especially if you are the boss. The trick is to find a topic that you care about, so you remember your opinions concerning it.

Secondly, try to talk to your people as a group, that way you will not be accused of favoritism. You don’t even have to put aside a special time, just join them for lunch or coffee break. Still if an individual says “hi”, don’t scuttle away just because the rest of the group is not there. If you can create an open environment where you can discuss about life and work, you would have created a home away from home for your people. After all, home is a work environment too; cleaning, cooking, laundering and handling teenagers.

Remember to always follow acceptable social and legal etiquettes. When your subordinates talk about a movie, don’t recommend buying a pirated VCD, because you are still the boss and you don’t want to get into trouble. Protect your character and you will earn their respect.

Still experiencing problems? Learn more about the people and their values, then compare it to your actions. Is your work-skirt too short to be respectable? Do you dig your nose in front of your people? Do you treat one person with respect but another harshly? Do you use your people’s ideas without acknowledging their input? You get the drift.

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