7 Big Mistakes Bosses Make When Motivating Employees

Three business leaders in superhero costumes in front of New York skyline

Three business leaders in superhero costumes in front of New York skyline(And how to fix them.)

By John Degnan


Motivating employees is a key responsibility of any leadership role. Only 1 in 4 employees consider themselves motivated at work, which is a frightening statistic. Lack of employee motivation can lead to decreased productivity and creativity and, in the long run, will negatively affect your sales and turnover rates. In the life sciences industry, it is imperative to have employees motivated and working hard.


It is important to actively participate in your employees’ motivation, but many common strategies are more harmful than beneficial. Take a look to see what you are doing wrong, and how to fix it:


Mistake #1: You are rewarding the wrong behaviors.

Solution: Often easy-to-measure tasks are rewarded, when, in fact, a large portion of hard work is not quantifiable. Reassess what behaviors you would like to reinforce and find a way to keep track of these behaviors. It is also wise to individually motivate people because everyone reacts differently to motivational techniques. One motivational tactic might not energize the whole team.


Mistake #2: You offer the wrong rewards.

Solution: Most leaders try to motivate their workers with money because it’s a no brainer. However, money is not always the most effective way to motivate employees. Offer perks or benefits other than monetary rewards. Not sure what your employees want? There is no harm in asking them!


Mistake #3: You complicate communication.

Solution: Make sure your employees’ tasks are simple and clear. Often, the inner workings of a business can be so complex that an employee’s idea of their task may be vague or they might not grasp the impact their work has in relation to a project. Also, be sure to communicate what their rewards will be.


Mistake #4: You talk but don’t listen.

Solution: It is critical that managers listen to their employees’ ideas and concerns. A one-way relationship will leave them feeling like they have no voice and, ultimately, no impact on the company. Although not all ideas will be huge hits, responding positively to their initiative and creativity will encourage motivation and innovation.


Mistake #5: You focus on error but don’t address it.

Solution: Employees need and thrive on positive feedback. It is unproductive to solely focus on mistakes and errors, especially if they are small in comparison to an employee’s success. In addition to addressing a job well done, a leader must also address jobs done poorly. Employees need to examine why the project was not successful and how to improve the next time around. A healthy balance of constructive criticism and positive feedback goes a long way.


Mistake #6: You don’t trust your employees.

Solution: Your employees were hired because they are capable and knowledgeable. Making them feel like children or micromanaging them will discourage their abilities to take control and lead. Trust them. Allow them to complete projects from beginning to end while motivating them along the way. This freedom will give them confidence and motivate them further.


Mistake #7: Your employees don’t have the tools.

Solution: Employees and managers need to be given the tools to motivate themselves and those around them. Make sure to pass along supportive materials and ensure that your work environment effectively promotes enthusiasm. Also be sure to give your employees opportunities to lead projects and motivate others. In addition, providing continuous industry education for employees will keep them active and up-to-date.


Although leaders are typically very invested in their companies, your workers are less personally invested in the company than you. Therefore, their motivation to succeed may be very different from yours. Shifting the focus from the company’s success to their own success, utilizing the above solutions, will drive your employees to work harder and more efficiently.


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