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How do I Increase Employee Motivation?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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When employee motivation is low, businesses can have a difficult time. Unhappiness on the job can lead to low production, poor behavior, frequent absences, and less than sterling customer service. Many believe that the only way to truly increase employee motivation is through financial incentive, and while this is certainly an important factor, it isn’t the only thing that can work. There are numerous ways to help employees be more excited about their work.

One way to increase employee motivation is to give employees feedback on their performances. This isn’t simply about pointing out when a worker is doing something wrong. In fact, some managers only give out feedback to correct mistakes. Instead, catching people doing something right can be intensely fulfilling. Employees do need to know that their efforts are appreciated and praise can go a long way toward making that statement.

In this vein, some companies have “worker of the week” or month contests where employees can be publicly recognized for their excellence. Source of pride in doing a job typically creates employee motivation, but this should not be the only time positive feedback is given. In general, try to make positive and appreciative comments on a regular basis.

Companies that give workers legitimate and fair means to move up have built in motivation. When there are employees who are in higher-level positions because they have been promoted to them, there is clear evidence that working hard can have rewards. Promotions should not mean extra responsibility and no extra compensation. True promotions should recognize continuing commitment to work, experience gained and greater worth to a business, and should be compensated accordingly.

When employees invest in their business or have opportunities to partly own their businesses they have an additional reason to be better at their work. When possible, allow employees to purchase company stock or to receive stock as part of a compensation package. This means that the employee is truly invested in the work he or she produces, and rewards to the company are also rewards to the worker.

Smaller things that make work fun can increase employee motivation. These include having chances to celebrate as company, offering bonuses or incentives for certain types of work, rewarding employees who recruit others to work at the company, and allowing for some relaxed or themed days at work. Some employees may truly enjoy casual Friday or getting to dress up on Halloween.

Low employee motivation can occur when management is not clear and consistent in its goals. Managers and owners of a company must keep promises because employees soon learn if they don’t and tend to resent this fact. Managers should clearly and seamlessly administer a company without contradicting each other, especially when they supervise the same employee.

Perhaps the single greatest motivator to employees is respect, no matter what the title of an employee. Companies should not allow any employee to be yelled at, belittled or in any way mistreated by a manager or a fellow employee. These behaviors are usually legal, but they do nothing for morale. When companies regularly allow poor managerial behavior, there is little incentive to succeed and workers quickly learn that they are not worthwhile.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Mar 02, 2014

As an employee, I don't really look for large employee motivation incentives and rewards. Small things make a huge difference for me.

I much prefer rewards like a small office party, or a dinner after the completion of a project. For me, the biggest motivation is when I feel like an important part of the team. I enjoy interacting with my coworkers and bosses outside of work. Feeling like I belong is very motivational and encouraging for me. It makes me aspire to do my best because my office is like a family.

By donasmrs — On Mar 01, 2014

@fBoyle-- It might be a good idea to speak to an expert about this but I think that both negative and positive feedback is important for motivation and employee performance. When I say negative feedback though, i'm talking about constructive criticism. I think that even negative feedback should be relayed through a pleasant and respectful way. Being too harsh or being disrespectful to an employee is certainly harmful to motivation.

If you provide both negative and positive feedback, I don't think that these will backfire in any way. For example, let's say that you corrected an employee about something that he did wrong. If next time the employee fixes or avoids his mistake and performs better, it's important to follow up with positive feedback. Simply saying "good job" or "well done" can mean a lot to an employee. And most employees do expect these types of encouraging comments or appreciation when they have done their work well.

For some reason, some employees are very stingy with positive feedback but can negatively criticize employees all day. This is definitely a wrong approach and will not improve employee motivation. Negative criticism only works for employees who are motivated by fear or anxiety. But there will come a point when they can't take it anymore. So feedback must be given in a very balanced and constructive way in my opinion.

By fBoyle — On Mar 01, 2014

I'm a bit confused about feedback and employee motivation. Is it better to provide negative feedback or positive feedback? I feel like both my backfire in term of motivation. Should an employer try to provide negative and positive feedback equally?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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