Category Archives: Employee Attitudes

Involvement: Path to Increased Ownership

Countless leaders seek to strengthen ownership and personal responsibility for organizational initiatives in their workplace. What many don’t realize is that involving employees  in decision-making processes can be a powerful way to build such support.

We once worked with a fire chief who had been budgeted money to buy a new truck. He was looking through a catalogue one day, trying to decide what to order f0r the station, when one of his men dropped by and asked what he was doing.

When the chief explained the purchase, the man dropped what he was doing and immediately called the rest of the station to come take a look. Within moments the small office was crowded with men flipping through the catalogue and enthusiastically discussing the merits and drawbacks of various options.

When the truck arrived, it was the pride of the station. The men cleaned it, cared for it, and talked it up to anyone who would listen.

The chief’s counterparts at the city’s three other stations, however, told a very different story.

Their men, they said, roundly disliked the recent purchases. They showed little if any gratitude for the new vehicles and grumbled incessantly about everything that was “wrong” with them. One of the chiefs went so far as to say he sometimes wished he had never bought a new truck at all.

The chief was surprised and somewhat puzzled by the great difference in response and reaction.  But the kicker, he later told us, was that the four vehicles were so comparable in features as to be almost indistinguishable from one another.

The four stations had, in effect, purchased the same truck. But where the chief’s men had been involved in the decision-making process, the others had simply been informed of a decision made by a superior who had not bothered to seek their input or opinions.

That simple act of involvement turned out to be the difference between employees who were proud and excited and employees who were disgruntled and resentful. And in this, the chief experienced firsthand what research has shown time and again: that the act of involving people in the decision-making process builds ownership of decisions and motivation to support them.

Leaders often say people resist change, but this is not quite true. As a general rule human beings do not resist change, we resist being changed. And the ownership that results from involvement can be a key difference between the two.

Habits That Inhibit Effective Recognition

Some leaders rarely, if ever, recognize the efforts of their employees. Others sincerely believe they give sufficient recognition, but in fact do not. Of the two scenarios, the latter is the more challenging by far. When our hearts are in right place, it is difficult for us to realize that our desired outcomes are not… Continue Reading

Appreciating What Employees Do and *Can* Do

Recognizing employees’ efforts is critical to building workplace morale  and motivation. But it can also play an important role in building new skills and capacities. We once surveyed a software development firm in Nebraska. Meeting with a cross section of staff members, we asked a range of open-ended questions, one of which was, “How do… Continue Reading

Workplace Vision in Action: One Example

Employees can bring many things to the office, but workplace vision is not one of them. Vision is an element of organizational culture, and culture derives most directly from the actions and choices of leaders at all levels. But what does it mean for a leader to instill vision in to a workplace? What does… Continue Reading

Job Description vs. Vision

Why do people work? Or, put differently, towards what do people work? Most employees, if asked about their job, will describe the tasks they perform. “I keep the president’s calendar and make her travel arrangements,” they might say, or “I oversee maintenance and repair of the company’s network servers.” If you press further, asking what… Continue Reading

Creating Motivation? Or Creating Conditions Conducive to Motivation?

Countless leaders have wrestled with the issues of motivation. How do I motivate this or that employee? How do I increase collective motivation throughout my office, department, or organization? These questions address important workplace realities. But are the foundations of such inquiry sound? Do leaders actually motivate employees at all? Research has suggested that a… Continue Reading

What Motivates People? (3 of 3)

Previously this series examined those environmental factors that most led to motivation and inhibited it. These might seem like two sides of the same coin, but there are indications that the two are less intertwined than one might guess. Research conducted by Frederick Herzberg suggested that, rather than opposing ends of the same spectrum, they… Continue Reading

What Motivates People? (2 of 3)

We previously explored research that Frederick Herzberg did on primary sources of workplace motivation —  things like achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, and growth and development. These findings are valuable in themselves, but Herzberg didn’t stop there. He also asked employees to describe times they had been particularly dissatisfied, uninterested, and unengaged in their work.… Continue Reading

What Motivates People? (1 of 3)

Motivation is a central workplace concern. Countless leaders ponder what stimulates it, how can it be sustained, how is it destroyed. Luckily such questions caught the attention of Frederick Herzberg, an American psychologist who became one of the foremost authorities on business management. Herzberg explored the issue of motivation through hundreds of in-depth, open-ended interviews.… Continue Reading

Motivation, Culture and “Bad Attitude” Employees

Almost nothing is more frequently lamented in management circles than “bad attitude” employees, those people it seems nothing can be done with. It’s true that few workplace dynamics are harder to address than antagonism, apathy and hostility. But rarely mentioned is the role that sincere and well-meaning leaders can play in creating such “bad attitude”… Continue Reading

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