How to Motivate Employees When Their Priorities Have Changed
- by Simon Harris
- May 12, 2023
- 2 mins
The article centres on the push to get people back into an office, but I think the general themes are more broadly applicable:
Get into a conversation with a company leader these days, and you’ll likely hear some version of “no one wants to work hard anymore.” I see my C-suite clients grasping for more control to get back to “normal” by pushing for longer hours in the office, tightening metrics, and hoping that economic headwinds will return their power.
Inspired people make inspired workers make inspired companies. Is it better to have a productive worker who leaves early to train for a marathon or a burned-out worker who’s strapped to their desk? How do you judge the person who declines a promotion because they love their job exactly as it is? Let’s not punish people who have an updated model of success that works for them.
For most of us coming up, there was a predictable cadence to professional work. You grind it out early, give up large parts of your life, and eventually gain some control over your time. Yes, you had to do it, but was it really the best way to get the best work? I know when I was working seven days a week until 11 P.M., I was not a fount of creativity. Every new shift in work necessitates an end to an existing norm. Instead of bringing people down to your experience, consider how you can bring everyone up to a new one.
People wasted a lot of time in the office right under your nose, and if they want to waste time, they’ll do it anywhere. You’re far better off measuring performance and losing the fixation with time. The more latitude managers can give in creating the right working environment for the individual, the less guilty everyone will feel and, thus, the more they can focus on doing good work.
When we sense control slipping, we tend to want to micromanage people and processes. Recessionary pressures exacerbate this effect. Fear has never been an effective motivator over the long term. Worrying about job preservation causes people to hunker down, not take risks toward excellence.