Why Employees Are Not Highly Motivated & Committed

Doesn’t every executive and manager want highly motivated and committed employees?

The answer has to be yes. Most certainly, because everyone knows that highly motivated people are continually striving to do their very best. In fact, these employees use 100% of their brainpower on their work when on the job and often when not on the job and that makes them extremely valuable employees.

According to Stephen Covey, the difference between poorly motivated and highly motivated employees is about 500% in productivity. I would not want to appear to disagree with Mr. Covey, but I have personally only proven the difference to be at least 300%. Either way, that is huge!

Everyone’s creativity, innovation and productivity come from their brain. Their brain is also the source of motivation and commitment.

Being highly motivated about ‘something’ also unleashes all of one’s brainpower and thus all of one’s creativity, innovation and productivity on that ‘something.’ Every person has the ability to become highly motivated about something, but whether or not that something includes their work is mostly a function of the work environment their bosses create.

So why are employees not highly motivated and committed? Because most bosses use top-down, command and control management techniques. These techniques demean, disrespect and demotivate employees. Employees thus become highly frustrated and highly stressed. In order to protect themselves often become apathetic toward the workplace. In this state, their brains are consumed by “oh, poor me” and other entirely negative thoughts. In this state, bosses are lucky the person shows up for work much less applies their brainpower to the work or is highly motivated.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

You know how that old saying goes – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.

The same goes for motivation and commitment. Think about how you, as a boss, can cause an employee to apply 100% of his or her brainpower on their work and achieve excellence?

You can’t ordered someone to be motivated or committed and you can’t give motivation or commitment to employees. This means you can’t motivate someone, no matter how much you want to believe that to be true. This is because motivation is created by the brain from a great number of considerations.

Increasing financial rewards may motivate a few employees to produce more, but rarely can these rewards be significant enough to cause more than a very few to become “highly motivated and committed.” Carrots and sticks constitute influences that provide consequences for employees to evaluate, but they are not effective in creating a “highly motivated” workforce.

Then what is effective?

The answer is to allow employees to develop a strong sense of ownership of their work. To understand this, look at the lifespan difference between rental cars that drivers don’t own and the cars they do own.

Rental cars rarely last much beyond 2 years while cars individually owned last for 10, 20 and even more years. Have you ever seen anyone washing a rental car? And don’t ignore the difference in treatment received by an expensive sports car as compared to very inexpensive clunker.

Everyone is willing to apply themselves most diligently to something which they own, but far less so if that something is owned by someone else. They will take great pride in making it “shine” if they own it, but not so if they don’t. This is human nature.

Therefore, if employees feel a strong sense of ownership of their work, they will become highly motivated to do the very best work they can and will be up to 5 times more productive than if poorly motivated.

But will employees ever get to “feel” that strong sense of ownership in today’s workplace?

Employees do feel a strong sense of ownership in organizations where the bosses:

  • Have stopped dictating to their employees – orders, goals and policies designed by the command and control system to direct the employee’s every action.
  • Regularly listen to what their employees say they need in order to do a better job and then give it to them.
  • Have stopped shooting the messenger.
  • Allow employees to control their own workplace while assisting them in any way they can to make the work easier and safer to accomplish.
  • Consider their employees more important than themselves and treat employees accordingly, because you know who does the real work, delivering the products and services…it’s not managers.
  • Prevent bureaucracy from frustrating their employees and actually force bureaucrats to serve employees.

If you operate like this and get all of your subordinate managers operating like this, then you will be on your way to achieving a highly motivated and committed workforce.

If you do the opposite or only deliver part of what employees need, then you demoralized and demean people, disable ownership and drive motivation and commitment down.

So, then why is it that most employees are not highly motivated and committed? The answer is leadership, because rest assured they are highly motivated and committed about something, just not their work and for good reasons.

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