Motivating employees
Luigi Sille
122 Posts

In his book: Quality without Tears (Philip B. Crosby), Crosby was talking about: Managers getting employees turned on: Motivating employees.

Philip Crosby had two very important questions about this particular topic.

  • “Why do we need a special program to motivate our people?”
  • “Didn’t we hire motivated employees?”


  • Why do you think employees become demotivated, and
  • How can we keep employees MOTIVATED?

12 Replies
Kelly Gau
10 Posts

This is a great topic to ponder! It is one I have spent time thinking about, having worked in companies that measure what they consider "engaged" vs. "unengaged" employees, which I believe could align with motivated and demotivated. 

I have not read Quality without Tears. In my experience, a special program has not been needed (or necessarily useful in the long run). It's like a drug, and people get used to it, and always want more. What keeps employees motivated is giving them a "why". I have worked in healthcare; pharmaceuticals, medical device and biotech. So, finding the why can be fairly easy. It was my responsibility as a manager to keep the why present for my employees. For example, when I was managing QC checkers, I could explain how important ensuring the correct product arriving to the end user is. When I am managing those writing investigations, I can explain how important finding root cause and appropriate corrective actions is to ensuring a positive outcome for patient safety or for availability of product (which ultimately ensures patient safety for critical drugs).

I will caveat my response by saying a program can be used to re-engage disengaged employees. I have found "praise-based" programs to be especially beneficial. The most useful program in our small team was giving out a "Quality Star". It was cheesy and fun, and non-QA employees posted them in their work space when they got them. It didn't cost anything, and it reinforced positive behaviors. 

It is important to know your team, work with your team, and support them. If they understand the "mission" and see they are supported, they will be motivated to perform.
Trust and transparency are very important in order to establish and maintain an engaged and motivated workforce.

Would you be motivated and inspired to support an organization that suddenly "goes dark" and withholds regular updates or reports?  

Janet Lentz
63 Posts
Daniel Zrymiak:
Trust and transparency are very important in order to establish and maintain an engaged and motivated workforce.

Would you be motivated and inspired to support an organization that suddenly "goes dark" and withholds regular updates or reports?  


Of course not. No one would. That is a sign that there is something seriously wrong with the business. 

Hi Janet Lentz‍ 

This was a good topic raised by Luigi Sille‍ 

In Canada, there is a prominent public investigation, involving senior elected officials.

To quote Rex Murphy in his editorial. "The refusal to answer was an answer".

Employees (and members) lose motivation when they are disengaged.  
Luigi Sille
122 Posts
Daniel Zrymiak‍ :

The funny thing is that everybody, including managers, owners of companies, etc, know why employees can become demotivated, disengaged. But till today it is still happening all over the world. We got so smart with technology, everybody can google stuff, and read about the why employees become disengaged/ demotivated.............. AND THEY make the SAME MISTAKES with their employees. 

There is no improvement in the way the majority of managers think, and or manage their organizations.  
It may seem insignificant, but the first step in motivating people is being motivate as a leader. Because leaders lead by example.
Secondly, studies show that people are more and sustainably motivated by internal factors (humanity welfare ...) than by external factors (money ...). Therefore, to motivate people, a leader must share a clear mission/vision of the company, constantly remind people to act in a way that achieves the mission and celebrate them when they do. But beware, people adhere to the leader before they adhere to the vision. This means that leaders must be trustworthy, helpful and caring.
Thirdly, a team charter can improve engagement of a team. It is a living document that is written by all team members and has three ingredients: objectives, responsibilities and norms. 
Understanding what can cause employees to become demotivated and what can be done to help motivate them is not a topic that can be answered by a single cause or solution. Many things factor into both of these topics. We all (ourselves, our teams, our organizations) come from diverse backgrounds and are all wired differently. As such, things that I find demotivating might not be given a second thought by one of my peers. I also believe it is important that we separate single-occurrence causes of demotivation from a broader level of demotivation from the perspective of an individual (or many) who are exhibiting a lack of organizational commitment.

In Organizational Behavior: Improving Performance and Commitment in the Workplace (Colquitt, et al., 2019), the topics of demotivation and motivation are addressed as elements of organizational behavior from the perspective that they are related to the "... attitudes and behaviors of individuals and groups in organizations." In this text, the authors discuss how organizational and group mechanisms combine with individual characteristics to affect a set of individual mechanisms. It is these individual mechanisms that ultimately correlate to individual outcomes from a job performance and organizational commitment perspective.

To dig into these topics and their relationships, the authors work backward starting from the individual outcomes. While this might seem a bit odd at first, it makes sense when we consider that it is through monitoring job performance and employee behavior that we can measure or assess whether employees might be exhibiting signs that they are becoming demotivated or worse (e.g. counterproductive).

Similarly, it is important to set the foundation early on regarding the three types of organizational commitment, including affective (emotion-based), continuance (cost-based), and normative (obligation-based). For me personally, it is through the lens of behavior and performance  combined with commitment types that I can already begin to see the bigger picture and understand that not everyone responds to all inputs the same and thus we cannot fix motivation through a single solution.

The authors detail five categories that can positively or negatively affect an individual's performance and commitment. I propose that it is through the combination and interaction of these elements that employees derive long-term motivation or lack thereof. These include:
  • Job Satisfaction: Job satisfaction is further broken down into the categories of pay satisfaction, promotion satisfaction, supervision satisfaction, coworker satisfaction, and satisfaction with the work itself. Some of these points are more extrinsic in nature while others are more intrinsic. Interestingly, the authors point out that research suggests a strong positive correlation on organizational commitment. Employees who experience higher levels of job satisfaction also feel higher levels of both affective and normative organizational commitment.
  • Stress: Stress is further broken down into four types of work stressors, including work hindrance, work challenge, nonwork hindrance, and nonwork challenge. When left unaddressed for too long, stress can manifest itself as a type of strain, including physiological (e.g. high blood pressure, back pain, etc.), psychological (e.g. depression, burnout, irritability, etc.), or behavioral (e.g. substance abuse, compulsive behaviors, etc.). The authors go on to show that research suggests a strong negative correlation between these hindrance stressors and organizational commitment. People who experience high levels of hindrance stressors are also more likely to experience lower levels of affective and normative commitment.
  • Motivation: This is not from the perspective of whether or not we believe an employee is motivated or unmotivated. Rather, it addresses the topic of what motivates people. Motivation is a topic that delves into expectancy theory: How much effort will be required, what outcomes are possible given the effort, and will those outcomes be satisfying to that individual. This topic also addresses the aforementioned intrinsic (e.g. enjoyment, knowledge gain, lack of boredom, etc.) vs. extrinsic (e.g. pay, promotions, praise, etc.). Motivation also delves into the topic of equity theory and underreward vs. overreward inequities. The authors highlight that is not well-known how motivation factors affect organizational commitment. Equity factors however, are moderately positively correlated with organizational commitment. In general ... the more an individual perceives their effort and outcomes to be on par with others' effort and outcomes, the better.
  • Trust, Justice, and Ethics: Trust can be further broken down into disposition-based (i.e. a person's propensity to naturally trust others), cognition-based (i.e. rooted in one's rational belief in the authority's trustworthiness), and affect-based (i.e. rooted in one's feelings toward the authority beyond rational assessment ... such as it's my best friend, etc.). Justice is further broken down into distributive justice (i.e. the perceived fairness of decision-making outcomes), procedural justice (i.e. perceived fairness of the decision-making process), interpersonal justice (i.e. the perceived fairness of employees' treatment from authorities), and informational justice (i.e. the perceived fairness of authorities' perceived communications toward employees). Ethics is further broken down into moral awareness (i.e. the authority recognizes a moral issue exists and that it is relevant to the situation), moral judgment (i.e. whether or not the determined course of action to address the moral issue is ethical or unethical), and moral intent (i.e. the authority's level of commitment to the moral course of action). The authors highlight research that suggests a strong positive correlation between trust/justice/ethics and organizational commitment.
  • Learning & Decision Making: Learning is separated into reinforcement (both positive and negative) and observational while decision-making is broken down into the types of decision-making processes, and more importantly, the types of problems that might affect decision-making negatively. Surprisingly for me, the authors highlight that research suggests only a weak positive correlation between learning and organizational commitment, wherein employees who gain more knowledge tend to exhibit higher levels of affective commitment.

Tying this all back to what demotivates employees and how do we keep them motivated, the answer is "many things." We need to first understand whether or not an employee is demotivated or motivated by observing their job performance and behaviors as it pertains to organizational commitment. If we determine there is a lack of commitment, we can further assess the five categories to determine whether it is a limited example or whether it is a wider-spread issue affecting a larger percentage of employees.

In general terms, striving to ensure employees are satisfied with their job, helping them manage stress, ensuring rewards are commensurate with the effort required, treating all employees equitably, avoiding the violation of trust/justice/ethics topics, and equipping them with opportunities to learn and continually improve their decision-making abilities is a recipe for success in this regard. And we must remain aware that everyone is different. What motivates one may not motivate another. I disagree with the notion that all employees will be motivated by intrinsic factors alone. As diversity in the workplace increases, so too does the importance on recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution to helping keep people committed to the organization.

Thanks for sharing James - some really good information to consider and share.  
Hi James, Many thanks for sharing. I think very useful and helpful for people to understand why the motivation is important for employees to do good job and get excellent achievement I think you have covered all areas/factors need to pay attention in your message. I want to one thing which is regarding Y manager, if he/she will provide the required support to employees, just need to change yourself and focus areas. 
I like the 5 categories. One way my son put it most simply was there there are three areas that need to be satisfied to a person to stay at a job: liking the work itself, liking the people you work with, and decent pay. You may lack on any one of these, but if two are missing, then you will leave. Dan Pink has his three elements as well: challenge, autonomy, and purpose. The 5 categories combine to hurt or help these areas. 

Any given situation will have so many particulars that failure is common. Dan Zyrmiak's comment about 'how is it that leaders still fail at this' is profound. There must be some common human roadblock that prevents many leaders from seeing the failure coming, and preventing their success. 
Luigi Sille
122 Posts
Douglas Wood‍ , I agree. Humans are very smart, and I know everything is a Learning process, but this is NOT something new. You can read, learn from others so you do not make the same mistakes. The OLD way of managing (short term thinking) is still present in 2020; let's make money that is important, people, employees they can be replaced. In my opinion that is the common human roadblock. 

Douglas Wood‍ ... yes, from your son's simple explanation, I believe those are closely aligned with the three types of organizational commitment that Colquitt et al. refer to prior to delving into the details that are the 5 categories.

Affective commitment, as described in the text, is what your son referred to as "liking the people you work with." This type of emotion-based commitment can be the result of enjoying the relationships and interactions one has with co-workers, bosses, customers, suppliers, and more. One wishes to remain with the organization due to feeling a social connection.

Continuance commitment is aligned with your son's reference toward "decent pay." Whether it be good pay, excellent benefits, or other forms of reward, this type of cost-based commitment is the result of one feeling they are doing pretty well and potentially might not even do as well for themselves if they were to leave the organization.

Normative commitment is well-aligned with your son's reference to "liking the work itself" (and also to some degree with affective commitment). This type of obligation-based commitment can come as the result of feeling a deep connection with the intangible aspects of the work or what one has received from the organization. It could be that the individual is very passionate about the environment and their job allows them to help preserve the environment ... or people, animals, etc. It can also come about as the result of feeling an obligation to the organization for other reasons. A common such reason is that they might have started out at the most entry-level position there is within the organization and have been given the opportunity to ascend into positions of higher responsibility and/or leadership. 

As you stated, the 5 categories are areas in which we can either build an employee's organizational commitment, or tear it down.

Many things can contribute to the profound topic of why leaders still fail. Some examples include: legitimate ignorance, greed (in many forms), basing decisions on incorrect or incomplete data or assumptions, and so much more. A big contributor, I believe, is both conscious and unconscious bias. To be certain, cultural differences alone can account for significant disparity in beliefs and acceptance of what is normal ... a type of unconscious bias.

One example is the difference in "power-distance" among cultures. In Asian cultures, for example, a great amount of power-distance is considered normal. The leader is the leader, very tall hierarchy within an organization is the norm, and someone at the individual contributor level would rarely consider making a decision on anything of importance at their level ... that is to be left for those up the chain of command. Throughout North America (especially within the U.S.) and some portions of Europe, we are culturally averse to strong power-distance and strive to flatten our organizations and embrace a "freedom to act" mentality.

Another example is gender roles. There are cultures where strong separation of roles based on gender are the norm. Again, here in the U.S., this is not the case and we are continually striving to find ways of removing any residual gender-based separation of roles leftover from days gone by.

Through these cultural differences, we can lose employees' organizational commitment without any malicious intent... I believe this is a form of unconscious bias that could potentially be a significant contributor to the "human roadblock" you refer to.