Why Good Employees Lose Motivation

In times of low unemployment, employers are especially wary of losing good employees to other opportunities. Almost as risky is facing a situation in which the best employees lose their motivation and, thus, become less productive; eventually, they may also look for other jobs.

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Here are some of the things employers do that may cause good employees to lose motivation:

  • Changing an employee’s role without asking for his or her input first. Even if you think this is a promotion, it may not be a welcome change. This goes for any decisions that impact the employee, especially major decisions like changing his or her team, projects, or goals. This could even lead to fears about job security.
  • Not giving requested raises to good employees—the same goes for requested projects, assignments, etc.
  • Giving more work without giving more compensation.
  • Not responding to queries in a timely fashion, which can make people feel that they’re not valued or respected.
  • Giving more responsibility but then undercutting or reversing employees’ decisions, thus making them feel they actually don’t have the authority to make those decisions.
  • Taking away small items or making seemingly minor changes, even those that seem inconsequential, which could have an outsized impact on morale and motivation. For example:
    • Taking away free food options previously provided, like break room snacks or drinks;
    • Changing insurance providers, resulting in higher costs for employees (and can end up being thousands of dollars when medical necessities aren’t covered by the new insurer, which then feels like a pay decrease because the value of the benefit went down);
    • Switching 401(k) providers to programs with higher fees or refusing to give lower fee options;
    • Requiring more and more hours worked from salaried employees; and
    • Continually increasing goals that must be met, especially if done without increasing pay simultaneously.
  • Doing things that make employees feel as though they’re not trusted or respected, such as making salaried exempt employees clock in and account for every minute, micromanaging everything they do, turning down seemingly simple requests, or not taking their input seriously enough to take action on it.
  • Not administering policies consistently, especially things like:
    • The ability to work from home (rules should be applied consistently);
    • Office hours required (if some come in late regularly with no consequence but others get in trouble for leaving early—even though it’s the same net issue—that can cause frustration);
    • Inconsistent disciplinary actions; and
    • Inconsistent promotion and raise schedule among similarly performing employees.
  • Denying opportunities for self-improvement or employee development, such as conferences or training sessions.
  • Giving key performance indicators (KPIs) they don’t have enough influence over to feel they have control in the outcome. For example: If an employee is judged on profitability but then must take projects for which they didn’t determine the budget—and, therefore, had no control over the lower profit level—that could cause frustration and lack of motivation.
  • Giving responsibilities that are not aligned with employees’ values or career goals or giving work assignments that are no longer challenging or interesting. When work is too easy, employees may become bored or feel like their skills are not being put to good use. This is another form of feeling like you’re not being respected or recognized.
  • Overworking employees. When employees have too much to do, burnout, overwhelm, and frustration may result, which can be problematic and kill motivation.

What would you add to this list? What has your organization done to be proactive on employee motivation levels?

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