Leadership Made E.A.S.Y. eZine: It Doesn't Take Much to Say Thanks

by Admin 19. June 2013 07:48

I again heard a group of managers raise a common problem during a training program this past week, "How are we supposed to keep our employees motivated? We don't have any money for bonuses, raises, or gifts, and we can't afford to buy them stuff out of our own pockets. Why should we have to do that anyway? How can we blame them for not wanting to work any harder than necessary when they're not going to get paid for it?"

Yikes!  In addition to showing very little imagination, there are so many things wrong with their thinking it's frightening. If that's the way they're thinking (and probably behaving), no wonder their employees don't want to "give" anymore than the bare minimum.  

Ok, let me start at the beginning of their comment and break it down piece-by-piece so you learn what I shared with them:

First - "How are we supposed to keep our employees motivated?"  This is a great question and one that every supervisor and manager should be asking him/herself on a regular basis. However, there is no one answer. The answer to what will motivate your employees is unique to your team. What do they really want, need, expect in order to do their jobs?  What would make them feel appreciated, respected, part of the team, etc? You'd be amazed that often, even though your employees complain and claim they need more money, they don't. They simply want to be appreciated. A few years ago I was training several groups of mid-level managers, as well as the senior leadership team. I asked each of the mid-level groups, "If the senior leadership team could do anything for you - other than giving your raises or bonuses - what would you like them to do to help keep you motivated?" Without exception, every group said, "Say 'Thank you' once in awhile."   When I asked the senior management team, "What do you think your mid-level managers want from you - other than raises or bonuses?" The senior team said things such as: new equipment, additional vending machines in the cafeteria, longer break times, more flexible work schedules, etc.  When I popped up the slide that said, "Say 'Thank you' once in awhile" they were stunned into silence. It doesn't take much.

Second - "We don't have any money for bonuses, raises, or gifts, and we can't afford to buy them stuff out of our own pockets. Why should we have to do that anyway?" Every thinking adult should realize the economy is still unsettled and budgets are tight. So first, have a serious conversation with your team on the realities of your organization's budget situation. If there is NO money for raises, bonuses, etc, there is NO money for these things - period. Don't hide it. However, if they want to stick around and be a part of your team when things DO turnaround - great! You'd love to have them be a part of your team. The choice is theirs. In the meantime, they need to stop grumbling about their financial situation. If they don't like it - leave. However, it also doesn't take much if ANY money to show your employees you care and you appreciate what they do for you and the organization. Buying pizza for the team once a month won't break the budget for most managers.  Creating a team "kitty jar" that everyone contributes to when someone does something cool is another way to recognize the good work of other team members.  You and any team member can toss in coins or dollars whenever you or they see someone do something special for a customer or team member. Then when the kitty is "plump,"  buy subs, pizza, or ice cream for the team.  Or, do what I've done before and just did recently, draw stupid little stars on sticky notes and give them out to team members after they've helped you meet a critical deadline or WOW a client.  These darn little stars are a testament to my poor art skills, but they make every single team member smile, laugh, and know I've noticed their extra effort. And, my team keeps them posted on their computer monitors. Are they silly? Absolutely. Are they cheap? Yep. Do they make the team smile and know I appreciate their efforts. Yep.  It doesn't take much.


Third - "How can we blame them for not wanting to work any harder than necessary when they're not going to get paid for it?"  This statement is so close to my pet peeve statement of "That's not my job" it makes my skin itch!  If you believe that any time you ask an employee to do something "extra" you need to pay them for it, you're teaching them to expect extra payment for anything they do they perceive as over and above their core duties.  That's stupid and is counterproductive to any plans you may have in creating a flexible, motivated workforce. If your organization's position descriptions don't include the line, "And any other duties as assigned to meet the vision, fulfill the mission, and abide by the values of this organization."  Add it. Then explain it and your organization's vision, mission and values to every current and new employee to your organization. If they don't want to be an active contributing member of your team in driving to your vision, fulfilling your mission, and abiding by your organization's values, fine. They need to find someplace else to work. If they do, great!  Then they need to not expect to get paid for everything they determine is "extra."  Flexible, motivated employees look for and do the "extras" to get the job done. That's how they succeed. That's how your organization succeeds. You need to let your employees know what's expected, what you appreciate, and what you will and won't tolerate. It doesn't take much. 

It doesn't take much to say thanks: It just takes you doing your job in helping them realize you appreciate it when they do theirs.

Copyright MMXIII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC –

Reposted with permission.

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