Motivation: Praise vs. Fear

October 11, 2016

 

Do you run from a fight, or do you engage in it? And why? The answer to that second question can give you tremendous insight into how you are motivated. And maybe more importantly if you are a manager, into how your people are motivated.

 

There are generally two ways in which people are motivated - through praise or through fear. Understanding which of these two motivates each of your people will allow you as a manager to have your entire team motivated simultaneously.

 

Unfortunately I see many managers who just assume that everyone is motivated in the same way that they are. If as a manager you respond well to praise, and then use praise as a tool to motivate all of your team, you may actually be demotivating some of them - those who do not react positively to praise. Have you ever met someone who tends to take their "foot off the throttle" when they are praised? They may tend to think they can now "coast" as management has recognized them for past efforts. Similarly if you tend to be motivated through fear and manage all your people through fear, then you may certainly lose good people who are just not interested in feeling threatened.

 

Some people will run from a fight, whereas others will engage in a fight at all costs. Some people double up on their efforts when they feel threatened, while others would rather walk-away. And in some cases those who choose to walk away may in fact be very productive and effective members of the team.

 

The key to remember is that not everyone is motivated the exact same way. It is key for anyone in management to understand how each person on his or her team is motivated. And in my opinion the best way to know is to understand what are each of your people's dreams and aspirations. Once you identify those, you can quickly see how best to motivate them and to help them reach their goals.

 

And praise or fear does not depend on whether someone is considered to have a type-A or type-B personality. Some type-A people are motivated through praise, while others through fear. And vice versa.

 

So ask yourself these questions, and be honest:

 

1. When I am praised, how does it make me feel?

2. When I am chastised or threatened, how do I feel?

3. Do I take constructive criticism harshly, or do I embrace it?

4. After a negative review, do I get depressed or do I take it as constructive and look for ways to improve?

5. Do I see the silver lining in most things?

6. Do I tend to be more engaged in work after I am praised, or after I receive negative feedback from my management?

 

It is imperative that any manager understands which motivational style works for each of his/her people. So, just ask them! Sound ridiculous? Not at all. Most people know themselves well enough to be honest with which style truly motivates them and helps them the most. Asking will demonstrate to them that you care about their careers, happiness and fulfillment at work, and that you sincerely want them to succeed. If you don't want to ask them, then observe their interactions with other people. See how they respond to challenges, as well as being praised.

 

Just because you might respond positively to a swift kick in the backside, it does not mean that everyone will. And perhaps more importantly, it does not mean that the way you as a manager are motivated is the only - and best - way to motivate everyone else. And neither method is right or wrong. Just because someone is motivated through praise it does not make him or her a weaker employee. Similarly, someone who is motivated through fear does not make them a hardened employee.

 

So if you want to truly motivate your people into becoming a well oiled machine, understand that they are individuals with individual goals and dreams, and are motivated generally by one of these two ways. No one size fits all when it comes to motivation.

 

As an employee, also ask yourself, “What kind of environment do I thrive in? Am I looking for independent work, or to be part of a structured team? Do I need flexibility in my schedule, or does a planned day feel best for me?”

 

For bipolar employees it is imperative that these questions not only be asked, but answered properly. Success or failure in understanding what triggers your disorder will lead to either success or failure in your career.

 

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Bipolar Career Advisors (BPCA)  is a full-time telephone and/or virtual career coaching and counseling services firm. We focus solely on the career coaching needs of the bipolar community. We offer one-on-one career coaching programs, group programs, self-paced packages, resume and LinkedIn profile writing, and guidance. We help our clients define their own brand and guide them in networking and negotiating skills. We work with our clients in preparing a long-term career plan that takes into account their specific bipolar needs.

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