Employee motivation is an essential component of a productive and successful workplace, and managers play a critical role in promoting or thwarting this motivation at work. Successful managers strive to establish an environment where employees feel secure in their position, and frequent engagement with coworkers is encouraged. Conversely, employees can feel disengaged in their job when managers do not support their core motivational needs – autonomy, mastery and relatedness. In fact, according to recent research conducted by Gallup, 75% of the reasons people quit comes down to their managers.
Therefore, managers who support their employee’s core motivational needs is one of the most critical ingredients behind successful people and in turn, long-term company success.
As mentioned, one of the core needs that feed overall motivation is defined as mastery or competency. The need for mastery refers to the desire to feel capable and competent in one’s environment – at home, at work and in relationships. Simply put, the activities that people enjoy the most and with which they feel the most profound engagement are those in which mastery is experienced. And, according to Self-Determination Theory, mastery is broken down into two components:
Mastery fulfillment is when employees personally feel success in their work and are clear about the paths for growth and upskilling. When mastery is fulfilled, it can boost employees’ overall motivational quality and performance.
Mastery support is when employees feel that their managers and organization nurture their competency, and clear opportunities for growth and development are defined.
Read on to discover four ways managers may kill performance and motivation in their employees by providing inadequate mastery support.
Not Providing Regular Feedback
According to Forbes, 65% of employees want more feedback from their managers. At the same time, about 37% of managers remain uncomfortable with giving direct feedback to their employees. Moreover, when a manager fails to provide input, it can set up a trajectory for poor growth and accomplishment. Employees need regular feedback to learn how they can improve at their jobs and to feel good about their career path.
Managers can directly boost their employees’ sense of mastery by providing feedback that is focused on increasing efficiency rather than just strictly performance – which may come across as judgmental or divisive amongst their comrades.
For a practical example on facilitating and offering feedback, in a 1:1 meeting try asking the individual to identify which tasks they find the most challenging and any specific barriers they are facing which may be slowing down the task from getting completed.
Additionally, try to not be overly critical of the employee’s work. Instead, focus on finding a solution to overcoming barriers. As a manager, you can appreciate, evaluate and guide through the medium of feedback.
Not Encouraging Employees To Support Each Other
As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one.” When we bring up work productivity, we often think about things management can do to improve morale and inspire more collaborative thinking. However, one thing managers may forget, is the power of employee interactions and feedback coming directly from their peers.
According to one Sociometric Solution’s study, employees who sat at larger lunch tables with more of their peers were 36% more productive throughout the work week and had 30% lower stress levels than those individuals who interacted with little to no one during lunch.
As a manager or business leader, consider the following two ways to encourage positive peer interactions to foster mastery support:
- Encourage employees to give each other praise
By motivating this kind of feedback, employees gain a deeper understanding of their strengths (and perceived strengths) and will use and develop these skills over time.
- Role swapping
Not only does this provide an opportunity for mastery and skill development in a different area of your business, but it also promotes empathy among your employees when they can better understand some of the day-to-day challenges of their peers.
Not Conveying Confidence In Your Employees
A key thing to remember here is that humans often become what they believe themselves to be – or not to be. Why is this important for managers to be mindful of? Quite simply, it is easy (maybe tempting at times) to observe employees and focus primarily on the errors or shortcomings of their performance. While this may be done in an attempt to provide guidance or constructive feedback, the result may be the destruction of that individual’s confidence in their abilities and a feeling that they are inadequate to complete a task.
To properly support mastery in the workplace, a manager must convey confidence in their team members and their abilities. To do this, consider treating all of your team members as if they are potential high-performers (even if they aren’t quite there yet). If they believe it, they might just become it.
You can also try communicating confidence in your team’s abilities even when the results aren’t where you want them to be. This isn’t to say you should reward poor performance, but instead, properly convey that you believe in your team and their skills to complete the task at hand. Remind them of the processes and practices that have led to success previously. And, remember that a true leader doesn’t break from the stress of underperformance. The characteristics of a great manager are having the ability to sustain motivation amongst their team even in the face of adversity.
Not Providing Crystal Clear Guidelines
As a manager, it may be challenging to consistently set expectations in a clear, specific and detailed manner – after all, you have objectives too! However, when employees have clarity in their tasks, they see a pathway for reliable results, and results are likely what you care about most.
When individual goals are not clear and well-defined, how can employees strive to achieve their objectives and how can you as a manager hope that those goals are going to be reached? Without specific goals to work toward, employees may feel disengaged, overwhelmed and have difficulty prioritizing and performing duties. How can you take action in ensuring your expectations for team members are clear? Set up a time to talk with your employee and ask questions about the tasks at hand to ensure you’re both aligned on expectations – and have them repeat those expectations back to you to triple check alignment.
Across many different work environments, research has demonstrated that experiencing mastery at work facilitates high-quality motivation, performance, creativity and well-being. As business leaders, it’s your role to ensure you are properly supporting mastery in the workplace.