The basic component of a motivational environment is co-operation, which you must give to your staff, as well as expect from them. It is still essential to be in control and to support your staff while doing so, but be sure not to damage workplace motivation.

Helping Staff

Two key motivational questions to ask your staffs are: “What do I do that stops you from doing a better job? and “What should I do to help you perform better?” If you co-operate by acting on the answers, for example by investing in new tools or training if requested, you can bring about major improvements in motivation.  Not acting on such feedback will demotivate. The prime objective is to help staff themselves.

Moving Control Levels

Levels of control vary from an insistence on checking and approving every action, to laissez-faire, in which people are free to perform as they wish and be judged only by the results. Increase motivation by moving towards less rather than more control. To do this, discuss and agree tasks, objectives, and methods beforehand, then allow the implementation to proceed independently, subject only to reports on progress and major deviations. In case of problems, do not rebuke, but consider potential remedies.

Being Genuine

Feigning a cheerful manner to help you to win co-operation can backfire. For example, you may feel that you are successfully hiding the fact that you are tense, but those around you can tell – by your body language and voice tones – that you are faking. A forced smile is often easily recognizable. Try to be open in your appearance and behavior.

Using Voice Tone

Always match your tone of voice to the message you are delivering. A genuine smile is audible in the voice, and staff will be more willing to co-operate with a friendly manager. Do not drop your voice at the end of a sentence: it can be dispiriting. Try not to sound worried, or every one listening will worry. Before an encounter, ask another person to listen as you rehearse, and give you advice, if necessary, on how to sound positive.

Supporting Your Staff

If your staff believes that you are standing in their career path, they will rapidly become demotivated. Part of your job is to foster their careers, so you must repress the urge to keep very good people for yourself. Support and encourage your staff, and make the case for them to your seniors if necessary. Remember, though, not to agree to anything that you cannot deliver, and never make promises and then renege. Actions such as this can undermine your authority, and inflict a level of motivational damage that cannot be recouped.

Taking an Overview

When analyzing staff motivation, stand back and look at the overall situation. Do not concentrate solely on one set of needs – whether they be team, individual, or task needs. Think about atmosphere, complaints, and results achieved. Above all, ask lots of questions – you will then form a picture of how the system operates and how well it works.

Using Free Incentives to Win Co-operation

Free or easy-to-supply incentives are a simple and essential way to win and maintain co-operation. Start by thanking people for a job well done, and follow this up with a written acknowledgement. It comes hard to many managers, but is an essential counterweight to criticism.

Other ways to increase co-operation include acknowledging staff achievements publicly and holding specific meetings for the purpose of boosting morale.  Be friendly and polite at all times – bad manners demotivate – and deal sympathetically with personal requests, such as time off for a special purpose. Play the helpful friend, not demanding employer, in these circumstances.



  • Do follow up on suggestions, requests and comments made by others.
  • Do get feedback to ensure that what you say has been fully understood.
  • Do ask a critic to judge your voice and body language and their impact on audiences. 
  • Do remember that the best discipline is self-discipline.


  • Don’t ask for advice unless you respect the potential adviser.
  • Don’t neglect to provide the right resources if you want the right results.
  • Do not try to do somebody else’s job for them – even if you are better at it.
  • Don’t leave people without clear instructions and guidelines to follow.


  • Find the root cause of repeated complaints.
  • Always check that your wishes have been understood.
  • Inform staff of the use of their ideas – and success rates.
  • Have a good reason and an explanation for refusing a request.
  • Never offer to finance anything unless you can raise the funds.
  • Consider ideas from staff at all levels of seniority.
  • Make use of the positive elements of each person.

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Bernard Taiwo

I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.

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