Seven of the worst ways to motivate employees

It’s January, and everyone seems a little more down than usual. You are trying your hardest to boost staff motivation but nothing seems to be working, so why are they so miserable? If you find yourself using any of the techniques below, it is a surefire way to crush their motivation.

  1. Scaremongering techniques
  2. Pointing out ‘wrongs’ to make a right
  3. “I’ll do it myself”
  4. Condemning staff in public
  5. Treating everyone equally
  6. Setting unrealistic deadlines
  7. ‘Star employee’ culture

Bad #1 Using scaremongering techniques – Some bosses think a great way to motivate staff is to tell them how bad the company is performing. This will make them feel useless at their job, and feel like they are going down with a sinking ship.                                                             

Good – Instead, tell them areas where the company is performing well and then add in where the company needs improvement. This will make them feel like they are doing their job well and spur them on to do even better to improve other areas.


Bad #2 Pointing out ‘wrongs’ to make a right – When you continuously point out mistakes or ‘wrong ways’ of doing things you make staff feel inadequate. This chips away at their confidence and makes them less productive in the long run.                                                                                       

Good – Sometimes the ‘wrong’ way of doing something is just a different way, so assess if it achieves the same or better result before you call them up on it. If they are making genuine mistakes discuss this with them but always balance your conversation with what they are doing well.


Bad #3 Saying “I’ll do it myself” – You think this will motivate employees to do the job better next time, instead it insults their intelligence and tells them you think they are incapable.               

Good – If a job isn’t done the way you wanted it, it is usually because you didn’t give enough guidance in the first place. Simply tell them what you were expecting and ask them to try again.


Bad #4 Condemning staff members in public – You embarrass staff members by making an example of them. You think it will motivate them and the team not to make the same mistakes again. Not only will the staff member lose respect for you, but so will their co-workers.           

Good – Simply ask to speak with them in private to discuss why they did what they did and discuss how they can stop making the same mistake in the future.


Bad #5 Treating everyone equally – You assume that to treat employees fairly you must treat everyone the same. This results in your top performing employees becoming annoyed and demotivates them to perform at their best.                                                                                                   

Good – If there is a problem among some of your staff then bring it up with those individuals, don’t just address the whole team. Always remember to give praise where it is due to those performing well.


Bad #6 Having a ‘star employee’ culture – As mentioned above, you should give praise where it is due, however constantly highlighting and praising the same ‘star’ employees in front of others is discouraging. Staff will become resentful and annoyed that their achievements and efforts aren’t recognised just because they didn’t match the exact criteria for employee of the month. 

Good – Be flexible with what constitutes a ‘star employee’ to ensure staff are recognised for their efforts in various different areas. Praise the deserving employees in one to one conversations as opposed to publicly in front of all workers.


Bad #7 Setting unrealistic deadlines – You think the harder the deadline the more your staff will achieve, in fact this does the opposite. They realise that the goal is unattainable anyway so are discouraged to try and achieve it. 

Good – Be incredibly specific with the goals you set and break them down into manageable time frames. Have long term goals such as hit x amount of sales by end of the 1st quarter, and have smaller goals such as hit x amount of sales daily.

Written by Hayley Lloyd

Published 10th January 2018