Employee Motivators That Kill Your Business

It’s January, which means you’re probably in the “new year, new me” mentality common to many business owners. You’ve likely set goals for yourself to meet in the next 12 months. Maybe you want to reach a certain number of customers, or have a certain amount in the bank. But you’re not oblivious; you know that you’re only as good as your team.

It’s not always easy to get your staff as fired up as you are.

After all, your business is your baby, not theirs. So you have to come up with employee motivators to bribe everyone into giving a crap and pitching in. You announce competitions between your employees or departments to get everyone pumped about making money. You think you’re doing the right thing. After all, you’re managing, right? You’re delegating tasks and finding ways to ensure their success.

Not so fast.

Turns out those little “contests” can be killing your business.

“Us vs. Them” instead of “We”

A lot of businesses feed on their employees’ natural sense of competition and have contests between individuals or departments. Whoever has the most sales or closes the most files or reaches a certain goal “wins.”

But take a second to think about what this really tells your staff. It tells them that they don’t work in a “team,” but with “the competition.” Contests create divisiveness between your employees and inhibit cooperation.

It takes a “we” mentality and turns it into an “us v. them” mentality.


Why Should They Bother?

At a previous job, my bosses told the entire company that we would get two weeks off for Christmas AND a hefty bonus…if we could move a certain number of files by a certain date. As soon as we saw the number, our hearts sank and our tempers rose.

The goal was just too high.

Yeah, some of the new hires buckled down and got all excited, but the rest of us knew how many files we could close in a month. We knew how hard we all worked (or how hard some of us didn’t work, no matter how many weeks of vacation were being offered).

So what did we do? Absolutely nothing.

Now, if we had all buckled down and worked extra hard, could we have met that goal? Anything’s possible. But the bar was set so high that the “motivator” our bosses came up with ended up having the opposite effect. We were so demotivated that (with all our kvetching about the ridiculous contest) the company probably got less done than if our bosses had just said nothing.

Offering a reward for achieving an important goal can be a good way to motivate your staff, provided you do it the right way. Set an unattainable goal (or one that seems unattainable) and your staff won’t even try.


Check Your Numbers

Now, throwing a contests in the right way means basing your goals on factors that have a valuable return on investment. But if your contests are based on the wrong numbers, you (and your hardworking employees) are just wasting a lot of time.

The same company I mentioned above spent years drumming “move more files!” into our heads. People started focusing so hard on quantity that quality suffered. Drastically. We were pushing out a lot of numbers, but so many were being rejected that we almost couldn’t keep up with the corrections.

Ultimately, moving all those files meant nothing, because nothing was getting done.

Make sure your contests are based on valuable parameters that contribute to your business’ success…not ones that just make you look busy. Contests based on how much work is done only teaches your staff to cut corners to meet a goal. Contests based on “sell, sell, sell” may result in higher sales one month, but higher cancellations and lower customer satisfaction.


What To Do Instead

So what does work? Engaging your employees.

No, this doesn’t mean getting down on one knee (not literally, anyway), but it does mean bringing your employees into your life in a more intimate way.

Keep them informed about your plans for the company’s continued success and where they fit into that plan. Thank them individually for the hard work they’re putting in. Let them make decisions about how they work (within reason, of course). Hire and build a team that’s excited about what they do and give them the tools to do it. Your staff will be motivated, no “contest” necessary.


Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. Our employees are pretty much self-motivated. We love doing the work we do!




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