I’ve decided to take a 2 part stab at answering Jurgen’s question about what motivates me in the work place.
To start with, I decided to meditate on a few things that tend to grab my motivation by the metaphorical gonads and squeeze.
In no particular order…
- Sunshine-Up-the-Arse Speeches – Luckily these are most decidedly not part of the culture where I currently work, but I received enough of them at my prior job to hold me over for the rest of my career. I find impromptu homilies by CIO’s that are ripe with football analogies and dramatic pauses to be particularly loathsome. There are only so many happy mental places a developer can go to during these trying times before nervous ticks start developing and homicidal tendencies start to go unchecked.
- Paper Certificates – At the successful conclusion of a 3 year project, I actually received a paper certificate of appreciation that my manager downloaded from the internet. Despite being laminated with great care by the secretary, these certificates were not received with quite the enthusiasm hoped for my management. I think I did actually hang mine on the wall for a little bit, but only because it made me giggle every time I looked at it.
- Inappropriate Praise – I would rather have a boss that gives out too little praise than one that doles out too much. With the emotionally stingy boss, at least you know that the praise is honest on the rare occasions that it does come. With an overly effusive boss, however, even the truly genuine compliments will get lost in all the sickeningly positive noise.
- Random Public Recognition\Rewards – Publicly praising a person in front of their peers during a meeting and then handing them a $50 gift certificate for some random bit of overtime or good work they recently did is one of those ideas that sounds good in theory but only leads to trouble. The chances are that one person left that meeting feeling awkward, while the rest left feeling bitter.
- High Friction Environments – I can’t remember how many times I wasted the day in an inane HR, audit, or department meeting and thought to myself…’I just want to do my job…if only they would let me do my job I would be so happy’. I had similar experiences of feeling that my company was one of the major roadblocks to getting work done while chasing down forms and signatures for piles of paperwork that were required to do the simplest of tasks. It’s amazing how much of an affect that just canceling unnecessary meetings and streamlining inefficient processes can have on morale.
- Cancerous Team Members – Nothing saps motivation faster than a team-member who is allowed by management to consistently be abusive, arrogant, lazy, or incompetent without any repercussions. If you are a boss and want to motivate workers, then get a back-bone and deal decisively with the department’s resident problem child. Remember, we just want to be allowed to work in peace and sometimes people are the biggest roadblock of all.
- Habitual Forced Overtime – As I argued here, I think overtime is rarely a good idea and is almost always preventable. However, if you are backed into a corner but still don’t want to incur the motivational penalty that inevitably goes along with overtime, then make sure it is infrequent, as flexible as possible, and compensated in some way (preferably with extra time off after the goal is met).
Feel free to chime in if I left any major gonad-squeezing anti-patterns out…
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