How To Motivate Employees – Newsflash: It’s Not a Manager’s Job

By Michelle Malay Carter on October 2, 2009 

Can You Spot the Red Herring?Red Herrings
Motivation is a side effect, not the goal.? Because we operate under faulty assumptions about work and human nature, well-intentioned managers, organizational development consultants, and human resource professionals spend a lot of time chasing red herrings.? I wrote an entire poem on this subject, Organization Design – Seek and Ye Shall Find.

What is a Manager’s Job?
So if it is not a manager’s job to motivate, what is a manager’s job??

  1. To effectively match people to roles (use a science based model to hire well),
  2. To practice effective managerial?leadership,?(click here for a list) and
  3. To create work enabling conditions.

When you do this, motivation will be a natural outflow of the conditions you have created.? Your job is to create the conditions.

Newsflash: Humans Are Wired to Work!? They Need Not Be Coerced and Bribed
Humans are wired to work!? If they are not motivated to work in the job they are currently holding, then that was a poor hiring decision.? If they are thwarted and frustrated when they try to work because they are working within faulty systems, fix the system rather than bribing them to push through the pain and craziness of working within a broken system!

Don’t Believe It?
I came across this video yesterday of some college students working quite diligently, not on their coursework, but working nevertheless.??My 11-year-old son is very bright but?is not much for?academics. This is the kind of activity I fear my college tuition check will eventually fund.


I’m OK.? You’re OK.? Let’s fix the system.

Filed Under High Potential, Managerial Leadership, Organization Design, Requisite Organization, Talent Management, Work Levels


3 Responses to “How To Motivate Employees – Newsflash: It’s Not a Manager’s Job”

  1. Dave on June 5th, 2011 5:50 pm

    Yes, most employees don’t get motivated by their managers. They get intimidated instead. I think organizations need a major revamp through this simple way–“If I change, everything changes.” We can’t expect that only the employees change their attitude towards work. Even managers and other superiors, have to. Well, let’s include the owners or proprietors also. Motivation is easy when we are surrounded by inspiring people who walk their talk.

  2. Graham McAndrew on June 14th, 2011 8:54 am

    We find that sometimes when employees are not well suited to their roles that this is when the problems start.

    The “Its only a job” mentality is something that pervades the modern working environment.

    And I agree with Dave above, that often managers don’t help the problem.

    What is the old cliche: “Redundancies will continue until moral improves”

    Graham McAndrew

  3. Randal on June 16th, 2011 8:33 am

    This is an interesting approach. One that I’m not necessarily inclined to believe. But, I’ll give it a spin…see what happens.

    What seems unbelievable is the ping pong video. Amazing! The retakes must have ran into the hundreds or thousands!