Motivation vs. Manipulation
One of the biggest questions that managers, supervisors, and business owners are faced with is, “How do I keep my employees focused and working efficiently?” This age old question is not easily answered, though, and you could literally spend years learning various methods, tactics, and tips that have worked for some people. While specific strategies will vary widely, they all fall into one of two categories… motivation or manipulation.
Motivation and manipulation not only sound very similar, but they are often confused as the same thing. In reality, though, they really are polar opposites of one another.
The key point to remember when it comes to motivation is “self-interest”. Basically, motivation means that someone is driven to succeed or work hard by a desire to improve their life or their condition. For example, many parents offer their children an incentive program for having good grades in school. The child, in turn, is motivated to study and perform well in class so that they can receive the reward of the incentive.
In corporate America, motivation shows up in a variety of ways. For some people, the motivation that drives them is the opportunity for promotion, pay increases, bonuses, commissions, or even employee recognition awards. These are all set up with the end goal of bettering the life or condition of the employee as a reward for their hard work and superior results.
The second thing, as a manager, to realize about motivation is that there is a true underlying desire to see your employees succeed. Those who excel at motivation tend to get excited when those under and around them reach a career goal, make a major sale, or land a big client. Motivation isn’t just about making sure that work is done or that money is made, but about the company… and its employees …becoming successful together.
Manipulation, on the other hand, is all about “self-preservation.” Instead of working hard to achieve a better place in life or career, those who are manipulated tend to be working out of a fearful desire to simply hold on to what they have currently. An example of this would be a child who is threatened with losing extra curricular activity privileges if they do not make good grades at school. While the child’s grades may improve with this method, there has likely been no change in their motivation.
In the workplace, manipulation is used regularly, though it is not always called that. Many employees experience threats of demotion, layoff, pay cuts, or disciplinary action if they are not performing at a certain level. In the sales world, manipulation often shows up in the form of minimum quotas and deep commission cuts when certain sales numbers are not met or maintained for the period.
Manipulation, at its core, is a selfish desire to see a company, department, or manager succeed, while those employees that are of a lower level continue to struggle. It is the proverbial “shit runs downhill” slogan that insinuates that those of a higher pay scale have the right to live large while their employees do the dirty work for them. While this strategy may work for a short term, companies who use it typically have high turnover rates, low employee morale, and very little teamwork and cooperation within their ranks.
To Motivate or to Manipulate
Generally speaking, motivation always should be a top priority. Employees that are truly motivated work harder, provide better results, foster stronger loyalties, and will do it all with a much more positive attitude. Highly motivated workers will go above and beyond on a regular basis, will promote and talk up their company to everyone, and will usually be extremely willing to grow, expand, and stretch their limits when asked. These employees don’t just “do their job” but they truly enjoy the work that they do.
Manipulation, however, does have a place in corporate America and may need to be used as a last resort for some individuals. For managers who are faced with individuals that do the bare minimum for their paycheck, manipulation may need to be used in order to focus their work and force growth until a better, more motivated employee can be found to replace them. It is vital to remember that manipulation will always be a short-term fix, and not ever a long term solution.
So, are you ready to motivate? Start by taking a long look at your reasons for implementing any program and the outcomes of those programs. If you cannot genuinely say that the employees and the company benefit together from the work, then you are likely employing manipulation. Motivation always provides a confident win-win scenario that sells itself to those involved.
The bottom line? Be a motivator, not a manipulator!
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