Motivation at Work: Does It Really Work?

Column by Michael Norton


Here is an interesting email question that I have received more than once. I thought it was worth sharing my response with everyone.

The question is, "Does that motivational stuff really work at work?" (I used "stuff" instead of the word that was actually used in one version of the email question).

In almost all the cases when the question was asked, the person recognized how being positive and motivational at home was easy and impacts their family environment, but wondered whether the same positive and motivational efforts can truly change a workplace where negativity has been the culture for so long.

The answer is absolutely and unequivocally yes.

There is some truth in that any cultural shift should conceivably come from the top, meaning ownership, leadership or management. But that is not an absolute truth. I have witnessed companies where departments and even individuals have inspired a positive change at work, and in some cases their encouraging and enthused performances caught the attention of ownership or management and changed the entire dynamic within the company or organization.

If you are a business owner or manager and you feel like the only way to drive productivity is through a controlling dictatorship style of leadership, you may want to consider trying something new. Try changing things up a little bit and focusing on the good instead of the bad, looking for what drives your team instead of what drives them crazy and causes dysfunction.

Motivation can be defined as a "motive for action." And everyone's "motive for action" is not the same so we cannot expect to treat all of our employees alike when it comes to inspiring and encouraging the behaviors that will deliver the productivity and results we are looking for.

You might be saying to yourself, "Okay Norton that motivational stuff might work for others but I have been running my team or business long enough to know how to get the job done." And you just might be right. You see theory or philosophy is really only one part of the equation, results are something totally different.

Companies with positive and motivated employees have greater income per employee, less turnover of their staff, stronger customer loyalty, less sick days per employee, they make more sales, and get this ... the employees actually talk positively about their company and their ownership and management thereby building and extending the brand.

Now I know I can't tell you what to do for your business, but I am just saying that if you really want to compete in today's tough economy, consider building and nurturing a team of fired up, inspired and enthusiastic people. I would also remind you what I believe Marcus Buckingham once said, "It has been proven by large that people don't leave companies, they leave bosses."

And if you are running a department or simply an individual that loves what you do just not where you do it, start bringing your positive and energizing attitude to work, don't hide it or keep it inside any longer. Try spreading energy and enthusiasm instead of gossip and rumors, see the glass as half full instead of half empty, and as my good friend and mentor Zig Ziglar might say, "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours."

Tell me all about the "motives for action" in your workplace at and I know that when you consider that there really is only upside when making this kind of change it will be a better than good week for you, your company, and your customers.



No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment