Now, I’m sure that you’re thinking to yourself that you don’t destroy your team members’ work. And I’m sure you don’t literally do that. But maybe, just maybe, you’re creating an environment where it feels like you’re destroying their work.
The story of Sisyphus illustrates how frustrating it is for employees to continuously struggle in their work, seeing absolutely no purpose or value in it. Dan Ariely conducted a study recently with the Sisyphus myth in mind. I won’t go into the details of the study, but the upshot was that employees were totally demotivated when their leader destroyed their work right in front of them. (Does the futility of doing housework come to mind for you too?)
Think about the following scenario described to me by Jeanne, a team member of a client organization:
“Tom, my boss, came to me late on a Thursday afternoon with a project that needed to be rushed to the client by Monday morning. I stayed late on Thursday evening to work on it, continued all day Friday, and even came in over the weekend to get it done. I had the completed project sitting on Tom’s desk when he came in Monday morning. And guess what Tom said to me? Absolutely nothing! He never mentioned whether he was pleased with the results, the fact that I’d pulled out all the stops to get it done, or whether he’d even looked at it!”
Wow. I can only imagine that Jeanne must’ve felt like Tom had just destroyed her work right before her eyes! Do you think that Jeanne will likely pull out all the stops next time Tom comes to her with an urgent project? I doubt it.
Think about what kind of work environment you are creating. That’s right. You, the leader, are creating the work environment. Your actions often determine the level of employee engagement, commitment, and buy-in that you have from team members.
So, ask yourself these six questions to see if you may be accidentally demoralizing or demotivating your employees:
- Do I give ongoing feedback, or do I assume that team members know that I am pleased with their work?
- Am I, for lack of a better term, a control freak? (Be honest.) Do I redo team members’ work after they’ve completed it?
- Do I acknowledge the efforts of team members, not just the results that they achieve?
- Do I show team members the big picture? Do I connect the dots for them and show them how/where their contribution fits into the overall goals of the organization?
- Do I trust team members to do quality work without micromanaging them?
- Do I require team members to roll very large rocks uphill over and over again?
Remember Sisyphus and my friend Jeanne. The fact is, it is easy to demotivate and demoralize team members. It takes a tad more effort to get them fired up and engaged. So I guess you’ll be getting rid of that big boulder in your office, right?
Question for you: How do you get team members engaged and inspired?
About The Author
Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.