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Motivating People - Understanding Behaviour

Actual behaviour is very important, but so are the reasons behind it. In most cases, the only way to know how motivated your staff members are is through the ways in which they behave. This includes what they say, their gestures, expressions and stance.

When trying to read behaviour, recognise that while body language can give clues to motivation levels, it can also be misread. More concrete signals will be provided by the ways in which individuals perform their tasks: this is likely to give you the clearest indication of their motivation. Someone who works cheerfully and efficiently is unlikely to be hiding anything if they greet you with a smile. Likewise, a dour facial expression should only be interpreted adversely if combined with a grumpy "That's-not-my-job" attitude to work.

Positive motivation is often signalled by positive gestures: a smile, an eager pose, and a relaxed manner. When people carry out a task in which they are interested or enthusiastic, they may have a "sparkle" in the eyes, since their pupils actually enlarge. Confident eye contact is also important as a measure of motivation: demotivated people are less likely to look you straight in the eye. Blushing can indicate pleasure, while an increased rate of breathing can indicate enthusiasm - both of these are good signs of motivation.

Motivation can be recognised in a number of ways - look particularly for signs that your staff feel useful, optimistic, or able to take opportunities. A team in which each member looks after the others' interests is likely to be a good source of motivation. Look for evidence that your staff are satisfied in their jobs rather than anxious or frustrated. If you find no such signs, ask them whether they are satisfied. You can also establish a good idea of an individual's level of motivation by their attitude towards work. The statements below are all indicative of motivated staff members:

  • They freely volunteer effort and ideas, as well as other contributions;
  • They always react well to requests and new assignments;
  • They work to achieve, not "to rule";
  • They seem to be happy at work;
  • They always respond frankly to questions.

    Reducing Demotivation:

    Workplace demotivation for many people tends to be caused by poor systems or work overload. Very clear signs of demotivation include high levels of absenteeism and quick turnover of staff. Recognising demotivation is pointless unless you intend to eradicate its causes. Remember, too, that poor behaviour and underperformance are not necessarily signs of workplace demotivation. If demotivation remains even when the situation is improved, it may be due to personal problems.

    Demotivation may not always be signposted, but look out for defensive, protective actions, such as folding the arms when seated or clenching fists involuntarily. Inattention, the first sign of demotivation, may be seen in facial expressions, though tapping fingers and restlessness are also negative indicators. A sloppy, "couldn't-care-less" attitude and a lack of enthusiasm for work may be observed. A monotonous tone of voice may tell of boredom, but be aware also of signs of aggression, such as chopping motions of the hand or pointing a finger in an accusatory manner.

    Measuring Morale

    It is important to measure workplace morale on a regular basis to discover of any why staff are experiencing problems. However, if you experience a rise in departures, suspect that motivation is low, or find that absenteeism is increasing, do not wait to take the workplace "temperature": do it now. You may wish to try using employee attitude surveys; these give a broad indication of morale but can be lengthy and costly. Read the signs from your own talks with people, such as annual appraisals, or set up focus groups or one-to-one interviews. Another way to measure morale is to take a random opinion poll. Remember, however, that if you investigate staff attitudes you must act on the findings, or risk causing further demotivation.

    Points to Remember

  • Measuring the workplace morale of your staff should be a continuous process
  • Lack of motivation may have many causes - do not jump to conclusions about these
  • Enquiring into attitudes carries with it an implicit promise of reformFree Web Content, which must be kept
  • You may not always get honest responses when questioning demotivated staff about their motivation levels
  • Exit interviews with departing staff can give valuable clues as to what is right or wrong with your motivational management.
  • Source: Free Articles from


    Daniel Gibbins is an experienced business professional who has worked within Retail, Customer Service, Audit and Operations Management. He is the Managing Director of Cortina Web Solutions, a Website Design and SEO Consultation business that provides advanced internet business solutions.

    Daniel is also the Operations Manager and Senior Project Leader of The Church Website Design Project, a Christian based not-for-profit online communications service that offer church website design for Christian churches throughout the world. Daniel is also a member of the General Teaching Council of England and holds Qualified Teacher Status in the UK.

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