Why You Can’t Motivate An Employee

I get it. You want a dream team, a devoted group of employees who would move mountains, face their fears, and work tirelessly to help you meet your entrepreneurial goals. I hate to break it to you buck-o, but they ain’t you. They may love you and their job, but nobody will ever be as determined as you to make your business a success. And if you think money will make the difference, you are fatally wrong.

Money does not motivate. In fact, money is the world’s greatest anti-motivator. If you pay people too little, they will right that wrong by under performing, coming in late, or even engaging in a little sabotage. If you pay people too much, they will work hard, but they will not work harder. No one can put in more than 100% effort, even if they try.

Pay people enough so that they feel good about coming to work, so that they don’t feel cheated. You want your employees to feel secure, comfortable, and valued.

Another common motivator misstep is scaring the shit out of your employees. Fear works, but only for about ten minutes. They may speed up while you’re in earshot, but they’ll be making voodoo dolls of you by lunchtime. And once they hate you, they will always behave that way. Resentment toward meanie employers never dies.

You can’t motivate people. They motivate themselves. They have it in their blood, or they don’t. Some people will kick it up a notch to earn a promotion, or a reward, or for recognition. But ultimately, it’s up to them. The surest way to improve performance is to create a secure, calm environment where your employees know they are important members of your team.

Just remember that your team is not on The Amazing Race. They’ll do their job, but don’t expect them to leap over canyons or eat a bowl of live spiders. Only you would be crazy enough to do that for your business.


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