How to Motivate Employees Without any Carrots or Sticks

by Rae Steinbach

In a business environment, you have to be able to rely on your staff. The biggest question then becomes: How do you keep your staff motivated without having to constantly look over their shoulders? As a company always trying to be mindful of budget and spending, you might not be able to throw around extravagant rewards. Also, if you are too hard on people, it can have a demoralizing effect.

If you want to get the most out of people in these circumstances, the best approach is to build a workplace culture that values accountability, employee feedback, and respect.

Demonstrate the Right Qualities

You have to be the first to show that you value these qualities if you want your staff to buy in. Employees will follow suit if they see their leaders holding themselves accountable. You can’t expect true accountability if you are unwilling to exhibit it yourself.

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If you want to hold people accountable, you have to take it upon yourself to make sure employees understand their obligations and responsibilities. It is unfair to hold a person to account when the goals and expectations were unclear. Employees will get frustrated if they feel like they do not have clear goals, and they won’t want to work for you if you are constantly coming down on them for missing a target that was not properly defined.

You can achieve this level of clarity by having regular meetings with the team. Get the team together once a week to make sure everyone understands their responsibilities. Give people a chance to ask questions and provide updates about the projects they are working on. This can help to clear up any confusion and ensure that everyone is on track.

It’s About Trust, Not Fear

Too many managers try to enforce accountability through fear of punishments. However, this does not breed true accountability. An employee is only going to be as accountable as far as she or he have to be to avoid the consequences.

Instead of using fear to motivate, you should build trust. When accountability is built on a trusting relationship, employees will accept their responsibilities on a much more personal level. With trust as the foundation for accountability, employees work because they are truly invested in achieving the company goals. They do not work simply because they want to avoid punishment.

Communication is the key to building this kind of trust in the workplace. You want to encourage your staff to talk to you about their successes and their concerns. Your staff needs to feel like they are actually being heard, and that you are there to offer support when they need it.

Stay Positive

You should try to avoid negative interactions as much as possible. To reiterate, negative reinforcement only motivates people as far as they can avoid consequences. If you really want to get the best from your team, you need to focus on the positive.

When your team has done a good job or reached a major goal, let them know that you appreciate their work. You could also consider offering small employee incentives for meeting or exceeding expectations.

Reinforce accountability and responsibility through positive feedback and employee recognition. You can create an environment where your team feels like it’s working together toward a goal, instead of feeling like they are working to avoid a consequence.

If your management style is based on fear and intimidation, you won’t get the most from your employees, and they will always be looking for an opportunity to leave your organization. By developing a healthy workplace culture that is built on the right values, you can get more from your team. It will also help to ensure that your top performers want to stay with the company. Finally, this strategy requires little in terms of tangible rewards; it’s the attitude that motivates employees instead of the incentives.

Have you witnessed a manager undergo this kind of evolution from sticks to trust? How did it go? Share your story below!

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