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Why Employees Do Not Work to Full Capacity

Aug 17, 2007
Many workplace studies show that at least 25 percent of workers said they were capable of doing 50 percent more work. On average, they estimated they could do 26 percent more. But why do they not? About a third mentioned one or more of the following explanations:

1. Not being involved in decision making.

2. The lack of a reward for good performance.

3. No opportunity for advancement.

4. A lack of supervision and inadequate training.

Good managers remember to recognize and motivate employees. Great managers do it every day. Here are some proven methods for making sure that praising employees becomes part of your daily routine:

1. Make employees a part of your weekly To Do list. Add the names of the people who report to you to your list of goals to accomplish. Then cross off names as you praise them.

2. Write notes at the end of the day. Keep a stack of note cards on your desk, where you cannot ignore them. At the end of the day, take a minute to write thank-you notes to any employee who made a difference that day.

3. At the beginning of the day, put five coins in your pocket. Then, during the day, each time you praise an employee, transfer the coin to your other pocket. It may sound corny, but once you get in the habit, you will start relying on tricks like this one.

Many managers think that handing out praise indiscriminately is better than not praising at all. They are wrong. Do not make the mistake of thinking any praise is good praise! If you hand out praise the wrong way, at the wrong time, or for the wrong reasons, it can do more harm than good. Here are some guidelines to follow when using praise to motivate employees:

1. Be very specific about what you praise. Never say: Bob, you are doing a great job, keep up the good work. For all you know, Bob may have spent part of the morning making personal phone calls and goofing off. He is going to think that you are a pushover and easy to fool. Wait for something specific to praise. For example: Bob, you did a great job on the Anderson account. Keep up the good work.

2. Do not praise ordinary performance. If you praise employees for daily routine tasks, they will not be motivated to do better. Also, if and when they do excellent work, your praise will not mean as much.

3. Do not just hit and run. If an employee does excellent work on a project, spend some time with that employee to let him or her know how much it means to you and the company. Better yet, take that employee to lunch as a way of rewarding the behavior.

4. Use praise to improve poor performance. If an employee is doing well in one area, but poorly in another, use praise to improve the poor performance. Sit the employee down, praise what he or she is doing right, and then say: Now I want you to take the same approach on this other matter...
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Pj Germain
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