Motivated employees are productive employees. They are also happy employees. For these reasons, it is no wonder that good leaders are dedicated to finding ways to motivate their team members.

After all, doesn’t a leader who cares about both staff development and good results want to use motivation as a tool?

Unfortunately, not every motivational technique will have long term positive results. Here are five motivation strategies that can actually result in a loss of progress.

1. Internal Competition

You’re the supervisor of a team of mortgage processors.There’s a backlog of mortgage applications due to an incentive program that was created by the marketing team. Now, your VP is breathing down your neck to increase productivity. So, you then decide to create a contest among your team members to see who processes the highest percentage of mortgages without error in the next two weeks. They then get an extra day off with pay.

It seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? The problem with this, however, is that it turns your team into a group of competitive individuals.This can result in lack of cooperation and teamwork. And you will be accused of favoritism. There is nothing wrong with competition, but you should be keeping your own team united and be focusing on external competition instead.

2. Fear

“Get it done or else!” Does this work? In the short term, it often can. When people are given a reason to fear their employment status, loss of pleasant work conditions, or even a chewing out by their supervisor, they often have an immediate but short lasting burst of motivation.

As a boss, you might feel justified in using fear to light a fire under your team. In fact, you may not even intend to go through with the consequences you’ve threatened. However, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t causing long term issues with your team.

People who are motivated by fear are less likely to maintain feelings of loyalty towards their team leader. They are also less likely to do any more than what is required of them, or to display any problem solving skills.

3. Lavishing Praise

It seems like it would be common sense to be liberal with praise and compliments in order to develop a motivated and productive team. Unfortunately, this strategy could backfire.

Why? Because when employees realize that pats on the back and congratulations are handed out indiscriminately, the praise becomes meaningless. Even worse, the praise can begin coming off as insincere and patronizing.

Giving praise isn’t wrong. But it needs to be detailed and particular for the accomplishment. In many cases, the best place to deliver praise is in private.

4. Financial Motivation

Bonuses. They’ve been one of the main sources of employee motivation and rewards since forever. Think about it:

  • Make a sale: Earn cash
  • Meet a deadline: Earn cash
  • Stay late: Earn cash
  • Exceed productivity benchmarks: Earn cash

Who doesn’t want extra money? Even if somebody doesn’t want extra money, why would they care if others do?

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Here is the problem with financial motivation. If financial motivation is used as a more than very occasional reward, people begin asking questions. The most important of these questions is, “If this work is worth extra incentives, why not simply tie it in with my salary?” This rightfully leads into discussion of fair compensation.

For example, is it fair to give a financial bonus to a guy who comes back from vacation, totally refreshed, and ready to generate sales, but not to somebody who has tirelessly worked with the team to ensure success?


The occasional financial windfall is fine. However, that doesn’t mean that employees can be bought out of the time off, salary, and benefits that they are entitled to. Financial and other awards should be used in a sensitive way that takes into account fairness and understanding of all people involved in the progress.

If financial motivation is used all too often, it can damage morale. It is best to focus on other types of extrinsic motivation instead.

5. Stringent Deadlines

We have to make more than 500 units out before Friday! We must close 25 sales each week. Setting strict deadlines can be a great way to get employees to stop procrastinating. All too often, the idea behind these stringent deadlines isn’t to meet the deadline. It is to simply create a bit of panic and in incite workers to work as hard and quickly as possible.

Then, the boss who created that deadline passes out credit to the employees who worked hard. The motivating factor is usually intended to be happiness in working hard and meeting the deadline.

Unfortunately, the bad part of this is the pressure it creates. How can people do a good job if they are constantly freaked out about meeting some arbitrary deadline? What happens when they realize that urgent deadline really was not such an emergency?

Give deadlines when they are needed. Don’t use them to create fear or to manipulate temporary results.

Ultimately, motivation should be specific, clear, fair, and shouldn’t replace a day of pay. Motivation should not make people feel bad or pit people against one another, especially team members. Good motivation methods brings team members together, and improves results in the long term. This is why motivation is easier said than done.

Which Motivation Strategies Actually Sabotage Process?

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Rick Riddle
Rick Riddle is a successful blogger whose articles can help you with self-development, personal finance and content management. If you want to know why discipline is important and how self-sufficiency can help you in reaching your goals – follow Rick on twitter and find more his articles on this blog.