Best Practices in HR

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Aaron Carr
  May 22, 2020

6 Mistakes That Can Kill Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is an incredibly powerful driver of performance in any organization. Whether you’re focused on improving productivity, boosting performance, or increasing retention, employee motivation will no doubt be central to your considerations. And yet, it’s tough to effectively manage and most days can feel equal parts art and science.

Management training usually provides helpful frameworks for areas such as effective communication, performance management, and how to manage different types of people. But all too often, the actions and behaviors that deflate employees the most result from simple oversight or a lack of consideration.


With that in mind, here are 6 mistakes that can kill your employees’ motivation:

Unrealistic goal setting

Do you work in a high-pressure environment that promotes tough goal setting? If so, it can be tempting to set unrealistically difficult goals for employees. While goals should be challenging to achieve, employees won’t buy into them if they’re not realistic. If left unchecked, a lack of buy-in can easily transform into demotivation and active disengagement. Similarly, this type of goal setting can impact a person’s physical and emotional health causing deeper issues within your team long term.


Tolerating poor performance

There’s nothing more demotivating for your hard-working staff than to see the poor performance of someone else being tolerated. In fact, poor performance often has a double whammy for managers. When one team member doesn’t pull his weight, other team members often have to step up and do more than their share. This causes resentment but can equally leave those stronger contributors questioning their manager’s competence. A bad situation, no doubt about it.


Letting accomplishments go unrecognized

Recognition is a powerful motivational tool. And yet, it’s an unfortunate reality that so many employee achievements and contributions go unrecognized. All too often, the fast-paced nature of our work has us forget to communicate our appreciation to a team member or a co-worker for a job well done. This can leave employees feeling under-appreciated and taken for granted. This is a horrible feeling and a very powerful demotivator for those affected by it. 


Lack of trust 

Trust is built over time. But generally, when a new employee joins the team that period is the first 3 to 6 months on the job. As trust is built between the new employee and her manager and teammates, she should be given progressively more responsibility.

In theory, at least.

Sometimes a mistake occurs that puts that trust into question, and sometimes the manager is simply overbearing and not willing to delegate tasks that the employee is clearly ready to handle. Either way, a lack of trust is a very visible signal to the employee that her manager is not comfortable giving her more responsibility. This can be incredibly frustrating and deflating for individuals in this position. Moreover, if the manager handles tasks that should be done by the employee, then additional tension is created and serious demotivation ensues.


No team bonding or workplace fun

While a lack of workplace fun is not considered an egregious managerial oversight in our books, we feel strongly that opportunities for team bonding should be encouraged.

Not only does team building bring people together outside of their regular work context, but it also opens the door for better communication and collaboration. Organizations that rigidly ignore these practices often have siloed structures where poor communication and a lack of collaboration stifle innovation. Not very motivating.



Micromanaging is a symptom of a lack of trust. The manager is simply not comfortable letting the employee execute the task himself and involves herself overwhelmingly in the process to ensure it’s completed to her satisfaction. The short-term result may be a higher-quality deliverable, but longer-term, the employee won’t feel trusted and valued. As with any lack of trust, tension can also build between the employee and his manager leading to a deteriorating relationship and disastrously poor motivation.


While some of these motivation-killers can be due to a lack of managerial training, often it’s more of a question of open communication between managers and their employees.

Actively communicating with staff and inviting their feedback is a great place to start. Most direct reports won’t be shy to let you know if something’s bothering them. By openly and actively listening to them, you’ll learn what steps may be required to address the situation and stave off a larger motivational issue.


Don’t let these 6 common mistakes kill your employee motivation: book a demo of Qarrot to see how we can help you engage and motivate your workforce to go “above and beyond”!

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