top of page

5 Motivational Killers

I often hear other leaders ask me questions like “How can I get my teams to care more?” or “I’ve provided all these opportunities for training; how can I get my employees to do it?”. These questions are all too common and recently, I stumbled upon some motivational gold in the Handbook of Human Performance Technology: Principles, Practices, and Potential by Pershing, Stolovitch, and Keeps that explains it perfectly. They lay out five main motivational killers and three strategies that can help avoid the dreaded unmotivated team. These points can be best utilized if you are able to take a step back and be conscious about the actions you take as you lead.

Motivational Killers

1. Act in a way that is Perceived as Dishonest, Hypocritical, or Unfair.

As a colleague of mine Mark Cantanzaro always says “Honesty is the key to happiness”. Ask yourself, have you purposefully been dishonest? Do you often find yourself going back and forth on things that you say? Do you treat your team fairly?

2. Provide Vague, Impossible, and Constantly Changing Performance Goals.

For me, this one hits home. Managers often get frustrated when teams aren’t doing what they want. It’s important to ask yourself if you have clearly communicated goals and that they are attainable. I often use the SMART technique when discussing goals with my teams to provide clarity and ensure the goals are achievable and clear.

3. Impose Arbitrary and Unnecessary Rules, Policies, and Work Processes.

Let’s not forget that work processes can be unclear like performance goals if not communicated correctly. People dislike change and will resist it. Creating unnecessary rules and standards that are difficult to understand is a quick way to kill all momentum.

4. Support Constant Competition among Everyone in the Organization

Friendly competition is that is fun will help in an organization, but when things go too far, it can become a way to make people fear for their jobs. Don’t make everything a competition and when it is, keep it friendly.

5. Point Out People’s Mistakes and Criticize Them for Errors

This one should be a no brainer. Are you praising in public and giving constructive feedback in private?

Motivation That Works for Everyone

1. Help People Develop Appropriate Levels of Self-Confidence in Their Work Skills

Developing skills, coaching, giving feedback and building trust are great ways to motivate your team. These actions can be clearly seen and are give a feeling of care and security when performed correctly.

2. Create a Positive Emotional Environment at Work

The power of positivity unlocks so much potential. Engage your teams, allow them express themselves for who they truly are, consider what rules are actually needed and eliminate anything that may disrupt motivation, and encourage your teams to take chances.

3. Ask People to Accept and Value Their Own Performance Goals

OWNERSHIP…. Ownership is the key to not only motivating a team, but ensuring they take a since of pride once they complete their projects and don’t come to you to micro manage.

Motivation isn’t a magical puzzle that can’t be solved. At the end of the day, be clear with direction and treat people honestly. Your results will follow.


Clark., R (2006) in Pershing, J., & Pershing, J. A. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of human performance technology : Principles, practices, and potential. Center for Creative Leadership.


bottom of page