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Why Some Employee Motivation Efforts Fail

Why Some Employee Motivation Efforts Fail

Do you have motivation problems at work? Have you ever wondered why some of your employees respond positively to the  rewards that you provide while others seem unimpressed or worse ungrateful for your efforts? What’s the matter with these unimpressed team members? Do they not understand how hard you are working to create an environment that fosters employee motivation and improves morale?

The problem may not be these team members, however. Though your intentions are the best, the problem may be your approach. Your approach to providing incentives may be an Alfred Hitchcock Rewards Program that is in need of a Mattell Hotwheels™ upgrade!

You are probably wondering, What in the world am I talking about? To understand what I mean, I must take you back to my childhood and a certain Christmas holiday.  Imagine a young boy who was a Hot Wheels™ car fanatic (that was me) who dreamed of getting the latest “loop-the-loop” (double loop) car track for his collection of little cars. I let everyone know that I wanted the “loop-the-loop” Hot Wheels™ car track in the hope that my constant asking (nagging) would get me this gift along with the customary sweaters and socks that came on Christmas.  I was very happy when it seemed that my aunts were on board with my request. My excitement grew as Christmas neared. I imagined myself spending many hours playing with my new car track.

Christmas came and I quickly opened my gifts trying to locate my present from my aunts.  It was to be my best gift for that Christmas.  My aunts looked down at me smiling as I opened their present.  I could barely contain my excitement as I tore through the wrapping.  When I opened it, my excitement quickly turned to disappointment, however. I did not get my Hot Wheels™ car track.

Instead, they gave me Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Board Game, Why.  Sensing my disappointment, my aunts told me that they decided to buy the Alfred Hitchcock game instead because it was more educational. I thought to myself that I got enough education at school; I wanted to play Hot Wheels™ for Christmas.  I gave them the required thank you (Mom and Dad were watching) but I was very disappointed.

I tried to play the game once.  But at that age, it was a complicated game to me that had multiple characters and involved capturing a ghost, a weapon, and a motive card. The game soon was at the bottom of my closet with some old shoes.  Over the next year, my aunts would criticize me for not appreciating the game that they bought for me.  My response was always the same: I wanted Hot Wheels™ and you gave me an Alfred Hitchcock game.

The problem was that my aunts did not give me a reward that I valued.  They gave me a reward that they valued.  It is not surprising that I still do not know what happened to the game.

What’s the management take away from this story? It is this: for a rewards program to be effective, you have to give your employees something that they value–not what you value.  For example, while you may like opportunities to make high profile presentations to others in your organization, one of your team members may hate being the center of attention.  S/he will not view these presentation opportunities as rewarding.

There is no substitute for knowing your team members, understanding what they value, and finding ways within your existing rewards structure and position authority to give them what is important to them. When you take these steps, you have a much better chance of creating an environment that motivates all of your employees instead of just some of them.  If you do otherwise, some of your team members may find your rewards program to be more scary than motivating.

These individuals may be wishing for a Hot Wheels™ upgrade to your Alfred Hitchcock Rewards Program!

Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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