The year always starts with a bang. Everyone’s pumped, people have their new years’ resolutions tacked up at their desks, and the sweet taste of raw motivation still lingers in the air after the end-of-year company retreat — such a promising start.
After just a few weeks, though, the spark has already begun to fizzle out. People slip gradually into the inertia of routine and predictability; the general mentality seems to have gone from a “can-do” attitude to a “make-do” attitude.
Sound familiar? Employee motivation never follows a linear path throughout the year. Personal drive tends to start on a high, only to ebb back and forth for the rest of the year.
Encouraging your employees to stay self-motivated, though, entails knowing the source of their demotivation in the first place. To that end, here are five of the most common reasons why employees become demotivated as time passes.
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Challenge is a massive source of self-motivation, if not for its ability to push people into proving their capabilities, then for its power in necessitating hard work.
Unchallenged employees are likelier to fall into boredom, and worse, complacency. Smarter and more experienced employees, in particular, may feel especially restless from the lack of mental stimulation.
Ensuring that people receive challenges that match their respective skill levels goes a long way in hedging against demotivation.
According to Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” autonomy is one of the three main determinants of intrinsic motivation.
If you want your employees to be continually self-motivated, then be sure that they each have enough personal autonomy. Micromanagement and too much rigidity can quickly deflate one’s motivation over time.
Pink recommends ensuring that people have autonomy at work in four key areas: tasks, time, team, and technique.
Even if people aren’t suffering from full-on job burnout, being on the path towards it is detrimental enough towards employee motivation.
When you’re overloaded with work, you have less time and energy to invest in each task since you’re spread so thin. Your priority tends to shift towards getting everything done reasonably well instead of striving for excellence. If it goes on for long enough, this mindset will keep chipping away at employee drive.
Worse, when paired with underappreciation, overwork makes for one of the biggest foes of self-motivation.
Whether it’s the monotony of the daily grind or tough times at work, we’re all hit by storms of hardship in the workplace from time to time. Those who come to work with a sense of purpose to what they do, though, are better able to weather the storm. Conversely, those who don’t see any meaningfulness to their work run out of motivation much faster.
Over time, purposelessness can even devolve into cynicism. Even if an employee came onto the job with boundless enthusiasm, factors like bureaucratic interference, micromanagement, and self-serving leadership do a lot to feed disillusionment as time goes by.
According to psychologist Scott Geller, one of the components of self-motivation is self-efficacy. It’s about whether you believe you have the time, knowledge, and training to overcome challenges at work and in life.
People perform better by leaps and bounds when they can play to strengths at work. If there’s a grave employee-task mismatch, self-efficacy decreases. It may even feed into cynicism if people feel like their potential is being wasted at work.