Blog Article

Employee Motivation: 5 Things That Kill Motivation at Work

Find out about the 5 things that kill your employees’ motivation. Lost enthusiasm at work directly affects how long they will stay with a company.

October 11, 2022
March 8, 2023

An employee’s motivation level directly affects how hard they will work and how long they will stay with a company.

Overall, the benefits of a motivated workforce include lower levels of absenteeism, lower turnover rates, increased productivity, improved relations between management and workers, and – last but not least – improved product quality and customer service.

Employee motivation tends to fluctuate in response to many factors, and can also be determined by which stage of the employee lifecycle someone is at. In general, most new hires are enthusiastic to join their new team and motivated to prove their expertise and worth. This is the good news. The bad news is that this situation could easily be reversed. According to some experts, as many as one in five new employees leave within the first 45 days.

Why Lost Employee Motivation at Work Occurs?

The short answer: companies are still ignoring the importance of onboarding. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their company has a great onboarding process. This means that the remaining 88 percent of workers are hardly impressed by current onboarding practices.

Here are the five main reasons why new employees lose motivation and may even choose to leave:

1. The discrepancy between the employer’s promises and the actual role

Finding skilled job candidates is a challenge, so it is no surprise that HR and hiring managers will go above and beyond to present a highly attractive offer to a desirable candidate. In such circumstances, it could be tempting to paint an overly optimistic picture of the employer or create unrealistic expectations about the role. Such an approach, however, will very likely backfire. According to the State of the American Workforce report, employees who feel a company has not lived up to its promises may start searching for new opportunities, or “they may become actively disengaged employees, meaning they develop such a distaste for their organization that they take deliberate steps to undermine its progress”. In terms of outcomes for the employer, both alternatives are equally unappealing. The first one could contribute to high turnover rates, and the second one – to quiet quitting. Both are serious issues with tangible financial implications. This is why being realistic and managing expectations is critical right from the start. Open and honest communication is always the best approach, and this includes the times when interviewing potential candidates and when interacting with any candidate who has accepted a formal job offer. 

The discrepancy between the employer’s promises and the actual role

2. New hires do not feel welcome 

With something so basic, it is unbelievable so many оrganizations still get it wrong. Imagine it is your first day in a new company. You are briefly greeted by your line manager who has to dash off to a meeting and leaves you a bunch of HR forms to fill in. Once you are done, you sit around wondering what to do. You don’t know where your desk is, you have no corporate email account and no way to access any internal communications platforms or specialized software. You step out to buy a cup of coffee only to find out later there is free coffee in the employee room. At lunchtime, most people around you head out in small groups and those who are left eat sandwiches at their desks while staring into computer screens. After lunch, your manager appears out of the blue, brings you to your desk, calls a technical support associate to set up the necessary accounts, and while this is being done leaves again. OK, maybe this is a little exaggerated, but you get the idea, right? Chaotic, poorly executed orientation and failure to show new hires they are appreciated by the team and the organization will create a bad first impression. This is how a vital opportunity to start cultivating a sense of belonging is missed.

New hires do not feel welcome 

3. Tasks and goals are not clearly defined

Surely, no one expects new team members to start pulling their full weight from day one. However, assigning them tasks ad-hoc or asking them to do the simplest (and usually most boring) tasks during their first days on the job can quickly kill their motivation. Another unproductive approach is to drown a new employee with work very early on and without offering any training and introducing them properly to their colleagues and the company processes. Here again, the importance of onboarding is underscored. A well-planned and executed onboarding program (check out this post if you want to find out what this entails) will ensure a new team member is fully equipped to handle the tasks they are assigned. In addition, their manager will have decided in advance and will communicate clearly the goals that should be achieved. Ideally, tasks and goals should be decided together as this approach is proven to increase employee motivation. Research shows that employees whose managers involve them in goal setting are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged, compared to counterparts who are just informed what the goals that they should achieve are. Obviously, joint goal setting is a good idea not only when onboarding new hires but for the entire duration of their tenure with a company.  

Tasks and goals are not clearly defined

4. Poor interactions with management

Along with all our great accomplishments and personality traits, we all have our quirks, anxieties, and insecurities. Great managers know how to bring out the best in each employee. Different approaches work with different people and in different situations. Most employees who get on well with their direct manager feel well-disposed towards the company, too. The opposite is also true. As the saying goes, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers''. According to a report by Gallup, based on research in 195 countries, managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement levels. What are the common mistakes that can seriously impact employee motivation? Dr. Travis Bradberry, the co-author of the bestseller Emotional Intelligence, has listed seven behaviors that demotivate staff. At least three of these can be witnessed and experienced as early as a new hire’s first few days in the office: making many unnecessary rules, failing to uphold commitments, and lack of ability to empathize. Add the other four and watch the enthusiastic and highly motivated newcomer run for the door.

Poor interactions with management

5. Toxic corporate culture

A survey by US recruiting company Jobvite looked into the reasons why new hires leave within the first three months on a job. In 32 percent of the cases, company culture was mentioned as the reason. These results are supported by more recent data on the factors driving The Great Resignation. An analysis of 34 million online employee profiles carried out in 2021 identified toxic work culture as the main predictor of high turnover rates. It was 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting turnover rates across a range of industries. An earlier analysis of Glassdoor reviews had helped the same research team identify the five key features of toxic workplaces. Employees defined toxic workplaces as disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive. Toxic work culture has a direct correlation to employee well-being and factors such as high stress, burnout, and health problems. But besides the considerable human suffering, there are tangible financial implications: lower productivity, high absenteeism, high turnover rates, and increased hiring costs. 

Toxic corporate culture

The points above underscore the importance of good onboarding and its direct correlation with high levels of employee motivation. We have also touched upon the key role of managers and the fact that more and more employees are selecting their places of work on the basis of how they perceive an employer’s corporate culture. 

Mentessa is a software platform that helps organizations unite employees around the common goal of knowledge and skills sharing, building communities based on collaboration rather than competition. To find out more about how we can help you streamline onboarding, improve relationships between employees and management, and support openness, fairness, and inclusion as pillars of your corporate culture:

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