How To-53: "How to Motivate Staff"

How to Motivate Staff

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Helping to motivate staff can be difficult at times, especially if the staff doesn’t feel motivated any longer.


  1. Make sure you’re setting a good example of productivity and cheerfulness. Don’t let your own moods distract other employees from their work.
  2. Develop your listening skills. This means using active listening to its fullest potential, not just pretending interest.
  3. Be clear about the purpose of the job, and the big picture of the company’s mission and goals. Foster pride in working at that company, whether it is designed to make the world’s best sandwich or build the world’s best bridge. Make sure everyone knows the big picture and where their department and individual jobs fit in.
  4. Don’t let your personal likes and dislikes blind you to who is actually productive on the job. Be fair.
  5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you have a good worker who is frequently 10 minutes late, let them know that you expect them to be on time, but don’t belabor the point if their work is otherwise above average. Employees are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, not worker robots.
  6. Set goals and reward the staff when the goals are achieved. The reward can be as simple as a star on the calendar and a bigger reward at the end of the month if there are enough stars for each day.
  7. Be open, friendly, and professional with the staff, they’re your hard workers and deserve to be treated with respect.
  8. Make it an atmosphere where doing a good job is recognized and appreciated.
  9. Encourage communication among people who have to work together. People may feel blocked in and unable to relate to coworkers when they’re hidden in a cubicle. Ask the staff how they would like to see the workspace organized and set up opportunities for people to work collaboratively.
  10. If you have a problem employee, do not avoid the problem. Talk to that person and make sure they know what they’re doing wrong, as well as what they’re doing right. Make a plan and a time chart to correct problem behaviors. If the employee will not or cannot improve after several performance meetings, and it is in your power to do so, terminate their employment. It is very demoralizing to the other staff members to have a fellow employee who isn’t pulling their weight.


  • Think of ways to help people bond with each other and enjoy coming to work:
  • Do something purposely silly, such as playing a kiddie accordion during lunch hour. Make it fun to come to work. Laugh at other people’s jokes.
  • Give the staff a break every once in a while. If there’s something relaxing that people enjoy, rotate that “chore” around. For instance, if somebody needs to take the mail down to the mailbox, and several people like to get outside every once in a while, let various people do it.
  • Have a staff party, play games and give out prizes. Relate the games to the job. You could do a pop quiz to see how many phone extensions people have memorized, or who can list the most company products that start with a certain letter.
  • Make an idea/suggestion box, review it occasionally, and implement the good ideas. Take all suggestions seriously. Sometimes it’s the unusual ideas that can revitalize a workplace.
  • Recognize that most people work for their living, and that encouragement goes only so far before people want raises when they are consistently productive at their jobs. If you truly cannot give raises, give perks to deserving employees, such as a better workspace, more interesting projects, or the chance to meet people who can advance that employee’s career.


  • Don’t expect to be friends with people you supervise, even if you were friends before you were their supervisor. You are now primarily their supervisor, and casual or inappropriate speech, especially suggestive comments, can lead to lawsuits.

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