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Motivating Employees: Common Myths and Principles

by on February 25, 2010

Reading about employee motivation, I discovered that their are several myths that are associated with motivation:

1. I can motivate people: Most of the high level managers have this myth,  that they can motivate people. Motivation starts from yourself. You can set an environment which can motivate people. The key is knowing how to set up the environment for each of your employee.

2. Money is a good motivator: As we discussed in the class, that rewards do not motivate people much. Rewarding someone would obviously make employees self-interested. And as Robert explained, if individual interests of employees do not converge , then it wouldn’t be beneficial for the organization. Therefore, things like nice office or job security doesn’t help. There are several other issues that Robert explained very nicely.

3.  I know what motivates me, so I know what motivates my employees: Not really. Different people are motivated by different things. I may be greatly motivated by earning time away from my job to spend more time with my family. You might be motivated much more by recognition of a job well done. People are not motivated by the same things. Again, a key goal is to understand what motivates each of your employees.

4. Increased job satisfaction = Increased job performance: Managers feel that if my employees are satisfied with their jobs, they are performing well. This might not be true. Because, someone satisfied with his job might just be performing at the same level from past few years. Is he motivated? Definitely not!

5. Employee Motivation is Science/Art: This topic is arguable. Is it an art or science? My perspective on this is it’s an art as well as science, just like management. There are simple principles of motivation that can be followed, simple myths that can be avoided and requires critical thinking and innovative motivation ideas for employee motivation.

6. Fear is a Motivator: Fear is a great motivator — for a very short time. That’s why a lot of yelling from the boss won’t seem to “light a spark under employees” for a very long time.

The basic principles that can be followed for employee motivation are:

1. The first and foremost is: Alignment of organizational goals with employee goals. Make each of their interest as organization’s interest.

2. It might be difficult to understand how each and every employee get’s motivated, but effectively motivating each one of them can definitely increase their performane.

3.  Compensation systems, employee performance systems, effective employee recognition strategies etc. can help in motivating employeees.

4. And last but not the least, employee motivation is a process, and not a task. It is an iterative process where you keep analysing what motivates them and implement the best motivation strategy to make them perform better.


Shirish Munshi


From → Good to Know

  1. deeptishah permalink

    I strongly agree with the second point Money is a good motivator) mentioned here is a myth.

    It is true that money was the most powerful incentive to motivate employees, but ages ago. In past years, every other top employee got attracted by big banners mainly because large companies provided commendable benefits as compared to small ones. As a matter of fact, big companies could be counted on fingers at that time but the scenario had changed drastically now.

    Today, one has to think way beyond monetary incentives to keep employees motivated and I think it is an art.

  2. I would say there are many things that money can and cannot do, and these would be applicable now and even in the future too.

    Things that money would do are:

    Make employees compete to raise productivity or standards
    It is not always possible to promote people, so money is a simple way to reward workers
    Money is acceptable for all workers – some may not appreciate a particular present, or some gifts may be insulting.

    But at the same time, things money cannot do are:

    If employees are highly paid, money may not be sufficient. They may prefer other benefits, such as an award ceremony or dinner, a club membership, a travel ticket, a car, a window office, etc.
    Finally, It may be difficult to determine the standard or basis for the decision to award the employee – this is the major problems faced while awarding executive bonuses. The amount may not bear relation to what the employee does

  3. I would say that to some extent, money is motivator, especially for those who has a low-level income. If you are a sales person, you work for the commission. You know that the more products sold, the more you will earn. When you are in the high position, you will be more ambitious and money can’t satisfy you anymore. You will be eager to get into the upper-class. In this situation, high reputation and social status become the motivators.

    I never think that Fear is motivator. If employees work in the atmosphere which is full of fear, the efficiency and effectiveness will definitely decreased. Employees will have high pressures, and they will become too cautious to do their work. Eventually, the underground resistance will arise from the employees.

  4. I do agree with Ajay that there are things money can and cannot do. That is the reason why money as an incentive cannot be eliminated completely. To add to that money is something that will never be sufficient, whether it is essential or not. I guess that is another reason why it is so difficult to eliminate it.

  5. gauravee permalink

    I agree that money motivates employees. But after some extent, I feel what employees yearn for is job satisfaction. In my point of view, if employees are trusted and given challenging work they feel motivated to do it. Doing same kind of work becomes monotonous after a while. So companies keep shifting their employees from one project to other. Knowing that your management trusts you and finds you capable for doing challenging tasks also tends to act as a motivator to some extent.

  6. Christian permalink

    I especially love your new site on Motivating Employees:
    Common Myths and Principles | Managing Information for Innovation and
    also and look forward to more…

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  1. Motivating Employees « Meet John Song

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