Motivation to get a job done instead of dawdling or persisting in the face of distraction accounts for roughly 40 percent of the team project success. But motivating employees, sometimes, turns out to be a real pain for managers. It is important for managers to find the real reason for an employee's lack of motivation. Only then applying a targeted strategy would be successful.
So, there are four categories of motivational traps. Namely, they are 1) values mismatch, 2) lack of self-efficacy, 3) disruptive emotions, and 4) attribution errors. Each of these four traps has distinct causes and comes with specific strategies to release an employee from its clutches.
Here are the four motivation traps and each targeted strategy to help your employees escape them:
Values mismatch: I don't care enough to do this
When an employee cannot connect with the task or it does not contribute to something workers value, they won't be motivated to do it.
To help an employee out of this trap, find out what the employee cares about and connect it to the task. Too often, managers think about what motivates themselves and assume the same is true of their employees. Engage in probing conversation and perspective-taking to identify what your employee cares about and how that value links with the task.
When an employee doesn't value a task at the outset and the values mismatch may not be apparent, a manager's best bet is to try to appeal to multiple values. One or more of them may resonate with the employee.
Lack of self-efficacy: I don't think I'm able to do this
When workers believe they lack the capacity to carry out a task, they won't be motivated to do it.
To help an employee out of this trap, build the employee's sense of confidence and competence. This can be done in several ways. One is to point out times in the past when they've surmounted similar challenges. Perhaps share examples of others just like them who overcame the same challenges in a way the employee can do, too. Build their sense of self-efficacy with progressively more difficult challenges, or by breaking down the current task into manageable chunks.
On the other hand, they may lack motivation because they feel, in a sense, overqualified. While dealing with such employees it's important to avoid challenging their ability or expertise. Instead, demonstrate to them that they have misjudged the requirements of the task, and convince them that it requires a different approach.
Disruptive emotions: I'm too upset to do this
When workers are consumed with negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, or depression, they won't be motivated to carry out a task.
To help an employee out of this trap, begin in a setting where you cannot be overheard. Tell them you want to understand why they are upset and engage in active listening. Do not agree or disagree. Be non-judgmental by asking what the employee believes is causing them to be upset. Then, briefly summarize what they said back to them and ask if you have understood. If they say "no," apologize and tell them you are listening carefully and to "please try again." When people feel they have been understood, their negative emotions soften a bit. It may be useful to tell them that you want to consider what they told you and schedule a time the next day to discuss. This often helps the person get more control over their emotions.
If the emotions do not soften with time and effort or if they spring from outside the workplace, for example, it may be advisable to help the employee access counselling.
Attribution Errors: I don't know what went wrong with this
When employees can't accurately identify the reason for their struggles with a task, or when they attribute their struggles to a reason beyond their control, they won't be motivated to do it.
To help an employee out of this trap, help the employee think clearly about the cause of their struggles with a task. Attribution errors are often to blame when employees seem to be finding excuses not to carry out a task (calling in sick, pleading over-commitment or "not enough time," trying to foist the task on colleagues). Helping the employee identify exactly why the task seems insurmountable can help them move past such avoidance. If they identify a cause that's out of their control (blaming other people, for example, or a flaw in themselves that can't be fixed), suggest other causes that are under their control, such as the need to adopt a new strategy or to apply a greater level of planning.
All these four motivational traps show you a better way to think more comprehensively about what stops employees from initiating, persisting, and putting in mental effort. The managers can do more to diagnose the motivation problems of employees. When motivation goes off the rails, identifying exactly which trap has ensnared your employees — and applying just the right targeted intervention — can get things moving again.