Bryan Paul Sullo

The Fastest Way to Kill Motivation

In Character Development, Family, Life in General on 22 November 2013 at 1:10 pm

Most of us want to be praised for doing a good job. Praise is a big motivator. Whether it’s a child cleaning his room, or an employee compiling a report, praise for a job well done will help get them to do it again.

You might think that means people all just looking for praise, and that not getting it will demotivate them. That’s not necessarily true. There are plenty of other ways to be motivated, but the best way to kill motivation is to ask, remind, or tell someone to do the very thing they just did.

Wait. No one would do that. Right? Wrong. People do it all the time.

Parents do this constantly with their kids. Children sometimes need reminding to clean their room, or put away their toys, or feed the dog. Once they complete the action, however, many parents use this time as an object lesson: “Next time, don’t wait so long.” “Remember, it’s your job to feed Sparky every Tuesday.” While these things need to be conveyed, now is not the time.

Spouses do this too. Have you ever spent a few hours cleaning the house, only to have your spouse comment that they wish it could look that way all the time? That might be a valid desire, and maybe there are things the two of you could do so that cleaning isn’t a major undertaking, but now is not the time.

Bosses are notorious for this, in big and little ways. Your employee sends an e-mail: “I just wanted to let you know the status of this project . . .” You reply: “Thanks. Keep me posted.” What do you think your employee was doing. He was keeping you posted. Asking him to keep you posted is like saying you think this was just a fluke, and without your reminder, he won’t do it again.

Should we all be a little less sensitive about the things people say to us? Probably, but we should all be a little more sensitive to the messages we’re sending, and try to avoid telling people to do what they’ve just done.

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