Factors That Affect Team Motivation (Without You Even Noticing)

There’s no getting past the truth that economies are cyclical. While there has been a lot of economic growth in recent years, we should all remember the wisdom on King Solomon’s ring, which says,

“This too shall pass.”

In fact, many who entered the job in the last decade have never seen a recession or economic depression. The most recent one began in 2007 and ended in 2009. [1]

As a result, it’s safe to predict that many employees and managers will be coping with the pressures of mandatory layoffs, budget cuts, and reorganization for the first time during the next economic downturn.

It’s never simple to keep a team motivated; even in good times, it’s difficult to keep a team motivated. Simply look through Amazon’s library of books on how to encourage employees; there are thousands available.

When you add in challenging circumstances for business, industry, or the economy, you’ve got a whole new set of issues.

Previously, your employees felt pretty comfortable in the knowledge that if they performed well, they would have a job tomorrow. They can’t now, and this lack of security adds to the stress, affecting morale and performance.

While it may be tempting to assume that individuals should be fortunate just to have a job in these difficult circumstances, this is a mistake. Fear, on the other hand, is a demotivating element.

Sure, everyone wants to keep their job, especially in these difficult times, but uncertainty and worry are debilitating distractions that detract from effectiveness and productivity.

Maintaining team motivation during difficult times can be difficult for a leader. Issues that may have been minor annoyances in the past can now be magnified into problems that affect your entire team’s motivation and productivity.

What causes employees to lose motivation?

A lack of motivation can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Boredom
  • Lack of confidence in management decisions
  • Unmanageable workload
  • Unsuitable working environment
  • Lack of career progression
  • Feeling under-appreciated
  • Issues outside of work such as family illness, bereavement or financial worries

How do you recognise demotivation?

Look out for any changes in behavior or attitude – as a manager, building a strong relationship with your employees will help you to spot when something isn’t quite right.

Some tell-tale signs that an employee has become demotivated include:

  • Lack of punctuality – arriving late to work, or an increased time to start work after arriving at the office
  • Change in mood towards colleagues
  • Increased absence from work
  • Lack of focus, and a distantness from colleagues
  • Inappropriate or negative comments
  • Lack of input into team meetings
  • Increasing reluctance to take on more responsibility than the ‘bare minimum’

What is the impact of demotivation?

As well as the impact on an individual’s productivity, a demotivated employee can also affect the overall team, creating a negative atmosphere.

Additionally, with increased absenteeism or lateness at work and a lack of focus on daily tasks, other employees can become stressed when trying to pick up the slack.

Over time, this can lead to further demotivation in the team, as colleagues feel overworked and under-appreciated.

How to increase employee motivation

Here’re 7 factors that demotivate employees and 7 ways to tackle them:

1. Fear

Uncertainty and dread go hand in hand, as we discussed previously. Fear is a completely natural and, for the most part, beneficial human emotion. Its purpose is to keep us safe in potentially perilous situations. Only when fear hinders us from making good decisions does it become a problem.

We can imagine our forefathers facing a saber tooth tiger and being immobilized by dread to the point of being eaten. Internal anxieties are far more likely to paralyze you in today’s environment than exterior phobias like the tiger, but they are no less crippling.

These internal fears begin as reasonable concerns. Others are being laid off or fired because of the economic downturn; you could be next.

What You Can Do

As a leader, you must recognize that the majority of your employees’ inflated anxieties stem from an incorrect appraisal of the situation.

Decisions about who is fired can appear random and illogical from their perspective. The worry and fear that I could be next are fueled by the apparent randomness of these decisions.

As a result, as a manager, it’s critical that you keep your staff informed about the company’s position and their role within it. Even if it means informing them that they are on the shortlist for the next round of layoffs.

It’s better for motivation if you let your staff know exactly where they stand, even if it’s not good. It can also be a great way to motivate your team into action. Especially if you can give them concrete goals to achieve that will help their prospects of staying employed.

2. Unclear Goals

Employees may be content to simply sit back and do their work during good times, with little regard to how their actions affect the organization as a whole.

It’s critical that your staff understand how each member contributes to the team’s success during challenging times when you’re asking them to do more with less.

What You Can Do

It’s your role as a leader to set clear, attainable goals for both the group and the individuals inside it. This is especially critical during difficult times when an organization’s priorities are likely to shift.

New business endeavors and expansions are frequently scaled back or canceled during difficult economic times in order to focus on the “core” business.

When this happens, you may need to completely change the emphasis of your team in order to save your and everyone else’s jobs.

However, communication with your team members is essential here as well. Keep them informed about any modifications to the goals and how they will influence their specific positions on the team.
As a leader, you can really boost your team’s motivation by ensuring that everyone understands the objectives and their role in accomplishing them.

3. Lack of Autonomy

When things get rough, it may seem logical to take more control or supervise your teams more closely. After all, there’s a lot of pressure to produce strong results.

Individual and team motivation are both killed by a lack of autonomy, according to study after study. [2] Giving your employees more autonomy is one of the most effective methods to boost enthusiasm and productivity.

What You Can Do

To acquire control, go against your inclinations. Micromanaging is a certain way to demotivate your crew. With that being said, offering autonomy to your team or staff does not imply that they are free to do whatever they want.

As a leader, you must provide the basic framework or conditions under which they must function. Timeframes, financial limits, and the ultimate product’s functionality should all be known to your team.

Allow your team to select how to approach the problem once those prerequisites have been established. This enables creativity to bloom while also instilling a strong sense of pride and ownership in the finished work.

4. Change

Humans are creatures of habit; we get into a routine and keep to it, even if it isn’t beneficial. Routines create a sense of comfort and stability that is important for our mental health. As a result, psychologists point out that all change causes stress.

Even positive transitions, such as being married, divorced, having children, or being promoted, can be extremely stressful. There’s no avoiding the fact that change is both disruptive and stressful.

Put yourself in a situation where your industry is experiencing a slump and you need to make changes to stay afloat. The old ways of doing things are now outmoded for the industry veteran, and a completely new skill set must be taught.

The new employee’s job may not look anything like the one for which they were hired. In summary, old, comfy habits have been disrupted, and team motivation is tough to maintain on these shifting sands.

What You Can Do

Keep an eye out for warning signals. Everyone finds change difficult, but some people are more adaptable than others.

It’s critical to intervene if you realize one of your employees is having a particularly difficult time. There are often obstacles in a person’s personal life that add to the stress they are experiencing.

In these circumstances, temporarily lowering their task or providing them with an extra afternoon off can help them feel less stressed and more motivated.

“The more knowledge you can share, the better,” is a good rule of thumb for everyone else. A lack of understanding zaps motivation and fuels insecurity like nothing else.

5. Ambiguity in Short Term Goals

Ambiguity suffocates motivation. Each member of any team must have a clear knowledge of the team’s ultimate or long-term aim in order for it to work effectively. Following that, each team member is given tasks to complete that contribute to the achievement of the goal.

Each member can then break down their task into specific phases or short-term goals, which are then contributed to the overall task.

But what happens if we modify our long-term objective? Even if everyone understands and supports the new aim, they need to know what their new role is in attaining it. It’d be like starting a new job without any training or direction from a boss.

What You Can Do

It is critical for a leader to assign each member of the team a clear role inside the group whenever a mission or aim is modified. This should cover their obligations as well as their expectations for the jobs they’ve been given.

You may also need to assist the individual in breaking down their tasks into short-term goals on a timeframe, depending on the situation.

There should be no ambiguity as long as your team understands their new goal and the members have a clear understanding of their individual responsibilities in achieving the goal.

6. Burnout

In challenging circumstances, requiring our employees to accomplish more with less is unavoidable. However, burnout can occur as a result of this.

According to the World Health Organization, work-related burnout is defined as [3]

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Burnout will sap your team’s motivation, morale, and production over time. Among the signs and symptoms of burnout are:

  • At employment, becoming cynical or critical.
  • Arriving at work and having difficulty getting started.
  • Impatience or irritability with coworkers, customers, or clients.
  • Lacking the energy to be productive on a regular basis.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Achievements do not provide satisfaction.
  • They are disillusioned with their job.
  • Using food, drugs, or drink to make oneself feel better or not feel at all.
  • Unexplained headaches, stomach or intestinal problems, or other physical complaints are bothering you.

What You Can Do

Leaders must be aware of these symptoms and take immediate corrective action. There are a few things you can take to aid with burnout:

  • Consult your coworkers about their workload and stress levels. Do they have any suggestions for how to improve or streamline the process? Maybe instead of a weekly report, they should do a bi-weekly report.
  • Increase the use of non-monetary incentives like praise (both public and private). Employee of the week, month, and year are examples of recognition programmes. Even instituting “Casual Fridays” can help enhance morale.
  • Increase the use of low-cost monetary incentives like as morning donuts, purchasing lunch for the staff, and taking a Friday afternoon off on occasion.
  • Another excellent strategy to avoid burnout is to use flextime. It allows the employee to spend more time with their family while also giving them greater control over their schedule.

7. Feeling Under-appreciated

Upper management frequently tightens the reins on staff during difficult times. While they see it as a method to cut costs and focus on the most important issues, it can be discouraging for the typical employee.

Previously, management was open to comments and ideas from individuals in the “trenches,” but now, more and more decisions are taken unilaterally from the top. This stifles innovation and reduces employees to “cogs in a machine.”

What You Can Do

Changes in management’s criteria and scope of work should be communicated as soon as possible. Then delegate as much decision-making authority as possible to them.

They may not like the fact that their budget was slashed by 20%, but having a role in how that money is spent makes it a lot easier to take.

Bottom Line

Motivation is a difficult concept to grasp since what motivates one individual may not motivate another. However, as a manager or leader, it is your responsibility to lead and manage your staff to achieve the greatest potential results.

Being able to excite your staff during bad circumstances, whether they are driven by the broader economy or management mistakes, is crucial for survival.

We’ve discussed the difficulties of team motivation during difficult circumstances, as well as some strategies for dealing with them. But when it comes down to it, it all boils down to one word: communication.
Maintaining open lines of communication with your team explains job descriptions and roles within the organization. It alleviates the dread and anxiety that accompany the unavoidable changes that occur during these periods. Finally, it enables your staff to have a clear grasp of the company’s problems and how to solve them.


[1] Economic: The Recession Has (Officially) Ended

[2] Facile Things: The Three Pillars of Motivation

[3] World Health Organization: ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics

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