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Leaders, Get Ahead of the Motivation Slump

Anna Bramlette | 09/07/2023

Leaders, Get Ahead of the Motivation Slump

In today’s world, employee motivation has taken a hit.

Economic uncertainty, the specter of layoffs, the great resignation, inflation, and global events have cast a shadow of gloom and anxiety over workplaces. As a leader, you’ve probably observed this sense of demoralization among your team members and wondered how to reignite their motivation. While it’s tempting to reach for inspirational words, it’s crucial to take a more nuanced approach. In this article, we’ll explore effective strategies to help employees rediscover their motivation during challenging times.

Understanding Motivation: It’s a Choice, Not a Command

First and foremost, it’s essential to recognize that motivation isn’t something you can impose on others; it’s a personal choice. As a leader, your role is to create the conditions that inspire your team members to choose motivation. Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, as individuals may be grappling with various emotions and challenges.

Navigating Difficult Conversations

When you’re tasked with delivering unwelcome news or making tough decisions, it’s essential to handle these situations with empathy and finesse.

1. Avoid Sugarcoating: While it’s natural to want to soften the blow, offering false reassurances or highlighting the bright side can backfire. Instead, allow employees to express their emotions without judgment.

2. Don’t Defend Yourself: Making challenging decisions is part of your role as a leader. When faced with disappointment or resentment, graciously accept the emotions and avoid defending your choices. Playing the victim only erodes trust and further demotivates your team.

3. Dealing with Survivor Guilt: If layoffs have occurred, survivors may experience guilt, while others might feel envious of those who departed. Encourage open communication and transparency to create a safe space for employees to express their feelings.

Involving Your Team in Tough Decisions

In times of financial strain, involving your team in decision-making can be incredibly effective. Engaging them in identifying cost-cutting measures can lead to creative solutions that may not have been visible to you alone.

Support and Appreciation for Struggling Employees

It’s easy to feel exasperated when trying to demonstrate your genuine care for your team. However, what employees need is often simpler and more practical than extravagant gestures.

1. Help Them Reprioritize Work: Acknowledge that reduced capacity means less output. Encourage team members to reassess their workload and identify tasks that can be postponed or eliminated.

2. Stay Available: Despite potential feelings of guilt or resentment, it’s crucial to remain accessible to your team. Regular check-ins and a willingness to listen can go a long way.

3. Show Appreciation: Recognize the toll that tough conditions have taken on your employees and express your appreciation for their perseverance. Make the praise specific and, when possible, public.

Fostering Community and Open Dialogue

During challenging times, people tend to withdraw and grapple with emotions like fear, anxiety, and bitterness. As a leader, you can foster a sense of community and support within your team.

1. Encourage Open Conversations: Create a safe environment for team members to share their challenges and feelings. This doesn’t have to be a gripe session; instead, facilitate open dialogue about the team’s struggles.

2. Share Experiences: When team members realize they aren’t alone in their difficulties, it generates hope and optimism. Sharing experiences and challenges can foster a sense of camaraderie.

Setting the Example: Leading Through Tough Times

Your behavior sets the tone for your team’s response to adversity. It’s crucial to manage yourself effectively during challenging periods.

1. Manage Emotions Productively: Balancing vulnerability with leadership capacity is essential. You can acknowledge your own feelings of angst or sadness while also sharing constructive ways you’ve worked through these emotions.

2. Model Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care, including exercise, rest, a healthy diet, and good mental health practices, is crucial. Your team will take cues from your behavior, and seeing you prioritize self-care encourages them to do the same.

3. Demonstrate Resilience: Dealing with uncertainty often prompts people to seek certainty where none exists. By openly discussing how you navigate the unknown, you can help your team discover their resilience.

In conclusion, effective leadership during challenging times hinges on understanding, validating, and supporting your team members. By creating an environment of trust and empathy, you can empower your employees to choose higher levels of motivation, even in the face of adversity. Remember, it’s not about inspiring words; it’s about fostering a culture of resilience and support.