Baseline Motivation

Classic motivating techniques that have been developed over the years only build a foundation for the most difficult challenge of all — Building your Team’s positive self-perception in order to help him or her achieve a higher level of performance.


Huge amounts of money have been spent to enhance the American worker’s enthusiasm for getting the job done while the productivity of the American worker is virtually collapsing, leaving us with a paradox. The worker demands more money for his or her labor; although the worker rarely responds with a higher productivity rate since he or she feels entitled to the increase at the present level of productivity.

Often times, Increased wages and expensive benefits programs will not improve morale, motivation or productivity by its-self.


Morale is a feeling or spirit. If the morale within the group is high, the individual members feel that they have attached themselves to a winner.

Although morale can contribute to a motivational environment, it is more likely the result rather than a cause. When morale is strong, it is probably evidence of excellent motivation whereas you cannot establish a motivational environment by merely working on morale.

There are four possible Situations that exist:

  1. High Motivation/High Morale,
  2. High Motivation/Low Morale,
  3. Low Motivation/High Morale, and
  4. Low Motivation/Low Morale.

#1 is the best.

A: High motivation / High Morale

This is the place every business should strive for. Employees have clear-cut short and long-term goals relative to their job functions. When major projects are successfully completed, “management” recognizes the “personal attributes” of the employee that helped them accomplish the task (example: “Bob’s ability to take control of the situation, make good decisions and get results is why Bob was able to accomplish XYZ” instead of “ Good job Bob”).

Employees are completely empowered to do whatever it takes to accomplish the goal. The “empowerment” or entrusted “accountability” awarded to the employee increases proportionally with their comprehensive understanding of how the successful execution of each task inherent in their position effects the business. Base pay and benefits are supportive of the lifestyle they desire and the work environment is professional, clean and orderly. The management style is perceived as fun, fair, firm, supportive, consistent and predictable.

B: High Motivation / Low morale

This is typical of a group that may be “goal-oriented” with a poor understanding of how the results of their accomplishments affect the rest of the business or the lives of fellow teammates. An example may be a sales force driven to “hit the numbers” without a good understanding of how the results affect their customers, fellow employees, the company’s profitability and/or the stability of their own livelihood.

Another example of this syndrome may be a large company where the employee may feel good about working for a winning team but at the same time feels like a “number” or “worker bee”. In this scenario, little effort is put into recognizing the individual attributes of the “worker bee” that makes it possible for them to be successful at what they do.

In a desperate attempt for personal recognition, the employee may “demand a raise”. When this happens, the manager has to make a decision: throw money at the situation in the form of a pay increase that has nothing to do with individual performance or enter into a debate with the employee explaining why he or she is not deserving of a pay increase resulting in a de-motivating experience for both the manager and employee.

When the manager musters up the courage to enter into a debate, the employee either quits or begins pointing out perceived “problems” from within the company. The “problems” in this scenario typically have nothing to do with the individual position. It is simply a desperate attempt for recognition that unfortunately progresses into a cynical demeanor “I can’t be successful because”. And then the manager will justify the situation in his or her own mind by saying things like “You just can’t find good people anymore”.

If the manager submits to the employee’s demand for recognition and “gives” the pay increase in a desperate attempt to “work on morale” or “keep the employee” the situation will spiral into the third scenario.

C: Low Motivation / High Morale

This is a direct result of slothful leadership. People enjoy the work environment but have no motivation to accomplish goals. Management “style” is typically focused on popularity rather than goals, objectives and career development.

Employee challenges are typically resolved by throwing money at the situation “Let’s give Bob a raise because he’s a good guy and we don’t want to lose him” instead of “Bob’s ability to make decisions and get things done is why Bob accomplished XYZ. Bob’s accomplishment brought this value to the company, which resulted in this benefit. As a result of Bob’s accomplishments, Bob has earned an X bonus. Well done Bob, keep up the good work.”

The employees working in this environment have no sense of direction or goals and in some cases, no understanding of cause and effect relative to their efforts.

With a lack of motivation modifiers, the manager attempts to “work on morale” by throwing around expensive fundamental motivators to the point where the company simply can’t afford to spend any more money. Eventually, the situation will develop into the fourth disastrous scenario.

D: Low Motivation / Low Morale

In a word, DISASTER. A direct result of the leadership’s inability to execute and maintain an effective motivation modification strategy. Why? They either don’t know how or they don’t care. The difference between ignorance and indifference is “ I don’t know and I don’t care”. (Think about it)

When a company reached the D level, serious decisions need to be made. In this scenario, fundamental motivators were used in the past in a fruitless attempt to motivate the behavior of the employees to produce more. More money is spent on expensive endeavors i.e. pay increases or costly additional benefits until the company simply can’t afford to spend any more money.

The employee tends to adopt a mentality that he or she “deserves” those benefits for producing the same amount of work. When reality hits, and the company is forced to control expenses or continue to lose money, and simply increasing the retail price of the product is not feasible because it has risen way beyond what the market will bear, Leadership style is forced to change. If not, the company will fail and the security of every employee will be in jeopardy.

Motivation modifiers are difficult to implement in D status companies because the culture of the people is one of “the company owes me a living” rather than “My standard of living is in direct proportion to what I produce for the company”. When modifiers are implemented in a workplace where the underlying perspective of the employees is that the “world owes them a living”, modifiers can be perceived as a threat instead of a motivator.

The only resolve at this point is to modify and change the perception of the people in the workplace or change the people in the workplace. Which do you do?

That depends upon how much time you are afforded to implement change. The important thing to do is to establish the “by when” and hold yourself accountable to the plan no matter how difficult it may seem. Give your people the opportunity to change “by when” if you are afforded the time to do so.

When the “by when” date arrives, and individuals have changed, practice the modifiers by recognizing their achievements and praise their commitment for personal growth and tie those personal characteristic traits into ways in which it benefited them, the company, your customers and co-workers. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life.

If the “by when” date comes and goes and an individual hasn’t changed, do your company, employees, customers, yourself, and most importantly, the individual a favor and free them up for opportunities elsewhere. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve given someone the opportunity to make a positive difference in their life and held them accountable. In the long run, that individual will probably make a better employee somewhere else as a result of this life experience.


Most Hygiene Factors share a common characteristic ~ they cost money, although it must be said that they tend to be relatively easy to implement.

Within each human being, an unconscious calculation is made. The mind commits itself to a certain lifestyle, which it realizes has to be purchased with a certain amount of money. It will seek the money AND NO MORE! Once the necessary income level is reached, a promise of additional money cannot move a person to take extraordinary action; that is until the mind commits itself to a new (i.e., even higher) lifestyle fantasy. Only then will the conscious mind begin to demand a pay increase.

Fringe Benefits

All you really need to have is a basic medical insurance program. If workers’ demands begin to exceed that, their unconscious needs will not be satisfied with additional benefits.

Physical Environment

The performance will increase or decline in response to the physical surroundings. In all cases, the environment ought to be bright, clean and orderly. Except for that tiny minority of people with emotional aberrations, such a climate inspires people to achieve.

Part of that environment is a personal dress. Any workforce which dresses better tends to perform better, even if the proper dress is not empirically necessary! For example, many telephone salespeople are terribly sloppy in their dress in the mistaken belief that appearance does not matter since they are not seen by their consumers. However, when a dress code is introduced into such an environment, the performance level increases once everyone overcomes the initial embarrassment.

Management Style

A firm but fair manager is the ideal model.


While the Hygiene Factors are generally expensive but relatively easy to implement, the Motivators are cheap but more difficult in their use.


Your subordinates have to perceive that they are being treated as something other than merely productive units and, further, that their uniqueness is noticed and respected.

Commenting favorably on someone’s new suit or new dress will contribute heavily to a motivational environment. So will expressing concern over someone’s personal well-being at a time when it is not required of you to do so (e.g., willingly inconveniencing yourself to help someone who has a flat tire). Another excellent tactic is greeting somebody who is not your subordinate by using his or her name.

It will also be in your interest to single people out for special attention when they achieve something extraordinary. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, one of which is to circulate a memorandum to everyone, praising that individual’s achievement.

Another way is to conduct periodic staff meetings with all the people in the company (or the division/department) in attendance, at which you ask someone to describe how he or she attained some recent success. Even quiet, one-on-one praise can be a strong stimulant to productivity, although public acclamation is usually much more effective.


It is vital that your subordinates feel they are achieving something. Realizing an objective will encourage someone to continue striving for the next one; failure will produce an unwillingness to try again. Here, you may be faced with a Catch 22 situation in the sense that the worker who is demotivated will not achieve; and the lack of achievement will intensify the demotivation.

The subordinate continues to spiral downward, being unable to break the circular dilemma. The circle can be broken by, of all things, Benchmarks.

By dividing all work into Benchmarks, you provide a subordinate with limited, attainable successes that he or she can achieve along the way toward the final objective.

The technique exploits the mind’s need to working from plateau to plateau (the concept of goal gradient) rather than toward a distant, single objective.

Instead, there are several smaller objectives, all of which the individual can accumulate as continuing successes, each of which propels him or her to strive for the next.

There is also something called recognition for achievement. It refers to the necessity of announcing everyone’s achievements in a public forum. The sales manager, for example, could announce a contest, with a cash prize to be awarded to the winner, then an individual wins the contest, the prize must be awarded great fanfare, perhaps at the next sales meeting. The prize itself is a matter of secondary importance to the public announcement.


The old bromide about giving someone a promotion instead of a pay increase contains more truth than myth. The progression from one level of the organization to a higher one is a vitally motivating experience, assuming the promotion is more than merely a cynical charade. Organization Charts, rather than causing people to feel pigeonholed, actually provide them with a demonstrable career path to follow as they visualize the advancement they can achieve within the company.

Therefore, it is definitely in your interest to employ that age-old technique of promoting from within, whenever possible, for witnessing a peer being promoted can have an electrifying effect on the others. Once again, however, we must point out that promotions and job titles should not be handled cynically; it is far better to deny someone a vice-presidency than to create one that is essentially fraudulent.


Many people rise to the office; that is, they tend to consider accountability a motivating experience, but only if they enjoy a commensurate degree of authority. Making someone accountable for results without giving him or her the requisite authority to make decisions relative to those objectives is, in fact, demotivating. Accountability implies trust; and, trust, in turn, implies a great deal of implicit belief in someone else’s capability and dedication. Few people are impervious to the feelings of satisfaction at being trusted.

Personal Growth

Of all Motivators, this is the least tangible, since it can mean different things to different people. In the main, the notion of personal growth relates to some kind of learning experience, but not of the type that is offered in the typical work environment. It is commonplace for workers to be taught nothing more than how to do the work for which they are accountable. On the contrary, the learning experience must extend far beyond that level.

What is of particular importance to people is learning to cope. They normally respond very favorably when they perceive they are learning to deal successfully with the basic situations of life (e.g., making decisions, motivating others, handling another person’s hostility, etc.). And, as you might guess, the keyword is perceived. What is learned and retained is as important as the perception that one is learning? Like so much else in life, the ritual is as significant as the content or the result.


Without baseline motivation, that negative self-perception is so strongly nourished that a subordinate could begin to demonstrate behavior that is usually (and incorrectly) categorized as lazy, careless and so forth.