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Squirting Motivation into Employees

Creating motivation in the work environment can be a challenge. This article provides some useful insight on ways to motive employees as well what actually triggers motivation.

Most of the time I'm pretty motivated and enthusiastic about work.  What's not to be excited about?  I get to share my passion for leadership with people who truly benefit from my work.  I make my own hours and often work with two cute dogs at my feet. I realize, however, that not everyone enjoys high levels of motivation every day.

Many of you replied to our recent survey and said that employee motivation is a major challenge. You asked: "What can we do to help employees bring passion and energy to work, even if it's one of those days (or weeks) when they just don't feel like working." This month and in the months to come I'll be sharing tips and ideas for creating a motivating work environment.

An article in the March 2008 HRMagazine shared some interesting research about employee motivation and its link to brain function.  It said that if a manager shows interest in employees, supports them, and praises them genuinely, the manager is essentially "squirting" serotonin into the employee's brain.  Serotonin is the chemical that makes us feel good.  It opens our minds to new ideas and creates a desire to support others. Serotonin leads to enhanced levels of motivation.

Likewise, a manager can inadvertently "squirt" the chemical cortisol into an employee's brain by treating the employee unfairly or by diminishing the efforts of the employee.  In turn, the cortisol leads the employee to shut down any willingness to help or to be open to new ideas. It's a demotivator.

Interesting stuff, huh?

This brain research leads us to ask, "How can a manager consistently "squirt" motivation into an employee?  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Add some fun and variety into the daily routine.  When was the last time you and your staff laughed and played together? Throw around a ball, start an American Idol pool (I knew David Cook would win!), begin each staff meeting with a "fun fact."  Anything that breaks the monotony and adds energy will squirt a little serotonin around.
  2. Provide employees with input and choices.  The more we feel we can control in our world, the more satisfied we are.  As a manager, what can you let go of?  How can you give a little more independence to your staff? When they feel in control, they'll be more motivated to perform.
  3. Develop goals and challenges for all employees.  No matter the job, employees should know what they are working to achieve and what they need to do to get there. A clear path is a certain way to squirt some serotonin around. 

In the coming months we'll explore more ideas for creating a motivating work environment.  We'll also explore how to avoid squirting cortisol into employee's brains, demotivating them when we might not even realize we are doing it.  As a managerFree Web Content, it's important to know that just a little "squirt" can make a difference in another person's life. Make it a good one.

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Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:


We offer this article on a nonexclusive basis. You may reprint or repost this material as long as Marnie Green's name and contact information are included.

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