The 10 biggest employee motivation killers

An oppressive workplace, a few Debbie Downers and micromanaging bosses could be among the reasons your employees aren’t motivated at work.

Think of the last time you were happy at work.

Let’s imagine it was two days ago. You finally finished a long-term project that had been keeping you up at night.

Now think of the motivation this happiness gave you. At that moment, you probably felt you could conquer any challenge. Your productivity was probably at its peak.

It’s no wonder; a happy employee is also a productive one.

Then something happened that killed your motivation. Unfortunately (and usually sooner rather than later), something negative will take you back to the starting point.

One of these 10 motivation killers will usually find a way to sneak up on your employees’ happiness and kick it to the floor:

1. Inadequate rewards: Does your salary reflect your worth? If not, that sucks.

Sure, the perception of what you’re worth might vary between you and your manager, but you still deserve a fair reward system. Twenty-six percent of highly engaged employees would jump ship for a 5 percent pay increase. One solution is to define an open rewards system so each party knows what to expect.

2. Awful office space: Have you ever seen pictures of Google’s offices and dreamed about working there? You’re one of millions.

Office environments have a huge impact on productivity and well-being. Did you know workers in open offices (a rapidly spreading trend) report 62 percent more sick days? Perhaps it’s time to bring back traditional offices, or rearrange current ones.

3. No self-development: You need the opportunity to grow. If you’re not learning, you’re falling behind. Therefore, managers need to offer inspirational and educational training, and stop considering it a business expense.

4. Inefficient collaboration: On average, 39 percent of people feel their input isn’t appreciated. If you feel no one cares about your input, how long are you motivated to give your best? Chances are your performance will suffer. Improving internal communication and collaboration should top your manager’s priority list.

5. Negative people: It’s unfortunate that negativity spreads so much quicker than positivity. What’s more, 24 percent of actively disengaged employees spread their negativity to co-workers. You might be able to avoid grouchy people on the street, but you have to collaborate with them at work.

6. Fear of failure: Did you know that Harvard rejected Warren Buffett? No one has a straight road to success. It’s how you recover and learn from your failures that makes you stronger and more successful. Staying in the comfort zone might be comfortable, but it’s not sustainable.

7. Lack of clear goals: It’s hard to give your best if you don’t understand the objective. How do you know what to focus on, which project needs more attention or which tasks you should handle first?

To avoid getting stuck, try Google’s method: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Make the objectives public.

8. Micromanaging bosses: Here’s a fun fact: 38 percent of people would rather do unpleasant activities (like opt for more work or sit next to a noisy eater) than sit next to a micromanaging boss. Today’s workforce demands more autonomy, empowerment and inspiration to keep motivation and performance high.

9. Useless meetings: On average, office workers around the globe waste 3.8 hours a week on unproductive meetings. Although you may not be able to avoid meetings, it is reasonable to try to make them more productive. A team meeting checklist might come in handy when preparing for another meeting.

10. Wasted time: Chances are you’d be willing to put in more hours if you felt your manager appreciated your time and input. But when your manager sends another email, makes a new appointment or shares another piece of irrelevant information, the motivation quickly falls. Time is such a scarce resource that wasting it should be illegal.

What kills your motivation at work? How do you handle it?

Külli Koort works at Weekdone, a startup that builds progress report software for managers who wish to gain more insights into their teams. Connect with her on Twitter. A version of this article originally appeared on

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