6 mistakes that cause counter productivity in the workplace

By Robert Half on 22 January 2022
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

Motivation is a key responsibility that many leaders are accountable for, but sometimes the nice way to do things isn't necessarily the right way.

Often at times, it can lead to greater counter productivity in the workplace and harm motivation.

If you're trying to motivate your employees and success doesn't seem to follow, then maybe you need to take a closer look at your approach.

Here are some mistakes that even the best managers make at times, and the effective methods of motivating employees to try instead.

Mistake 1: Short-term incentives

It’s great that you’re giving your staff incentives for doing well to keep their work motivation high. However, by giving out shopping vouchers or time off to reward your employees every month, you may cause them to aim only for certain short-term rewards, derailing them from achieving major milestones.

Additionally, it makes the work environment very transactional in nature; if your employees are constantly asking what’s in it for them when you bring up a new initiative, something has gone wrong.

What to do instead: Find out what motivates each individual other than just a competitive salary and incentive perks. Some people do well because they enjoy the synergy they’ve developed with their team, others thrive on being complimented on their work ethics and having achieved results.

When you know what drives the individuals in your team, you can then act accordingly to help them love what they do.

Related: The benefits of good staff morale

Mistake 2: Work flexibility privileges

Offering employees the chance to work remotely or with flexible hours is a great thing. Remote working gets rid of commuting time, and some employees will flourish given the space to do their work in the comforts of their own home.

On the flip side, without proper management, it can lead to counter productivity.

What to do instead: Set daily or weekly targets for your employees to work towards, and consider using cloud co-working programs like Google Drive to monitor their progress if the need arises.

Related: ;How to improve workplace productivity

Mistake 3: Being overly positive

Being optimistic all the time is great, but sometimes it pays to consider the possible negatives when taking risks as well.

We all hope for the best case scenario, but it pays to have strategies in place to deal with any setbacks that may occur.

What to do instead: A positive attitude is important, but it’s better in any situation to hope for the best, and plan for the worst. Be transparent with your team about the challenges while setting out a clear roadmap of the positive steps that can be taken to address any given scenario.

Mistake 4: Cultivating a competitive work culture

Introducing some competition always gets things going, but it can also bring out the worst in people. If someone isn’t playing fair, it’s best to nip things in the bud quickly and peacefully before any conflicts occur.

What to do instead: The most effective method to motivate your team is to find ways to reward the whole team for building each other up, so everyone wins. Reward individual successes as a milestone on the wider teams progress towards a shared goal.

Related:Conflict management in the workplace

Mistake 5: Always being there for your team

Being a leader isn’t an easy job. On one hand, you have to ensure your team’s performance, so it’s tempting to jump in when things go awry. On the other hand, too much hand-holding can result in your team becoming complacent and too dependent on you.

It’s natural for your team to look in your direction for guidance and mentorship in a crisis, but sometimes, it pays to let go.

What to do instead: We’re not saying to leave them in the lurch. Instead, appoint employees whom you think will make reliable project leads, and observe from a distance to see how things play out. This forces your team to become self-sufficient, increases productivity in the long run, and allows employees to show their work motivation.

Related: Why is employee engagement so important?

Mistake 6: Showing them who’s boss

While it’s normal to set your employees straight when they’ve done something wrong, do remember to give them credit where it’s due.

A harsh boss or a toxic workplace culture will only lower morale; fear might force your employees to put their noses to the grind, but it won’t bring out much creativity and inspiration. Instead, you’ll find people doing exactly what they’re told – nothing more, nothing less, which can severely limit your team’s potential.

What to do instead: Be authoritative, not authoritarian.

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