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Dealing With Struggles and Employee Motivation
by Angie Belz, Ph.D., M.S., Assistant Professor of Business
Concordia University Wisconsin

Motivation and Morale
How are you keeping your employees motivated when you may be struggling yourself? We are entering a very different holiday season, with stress high and morale often low. Many of us are approaching the end of a fiscal year and facing difficult financial decisions that will likely impact our employees. There are things managers can do to boost morale and despite external, uncontrollable factors.

Self-Leadership
Self-leadership was originally defined as “a comprehensive self-influence perspective that concerns leading oneself” (Manz, 1983). This concept is useful for managers, but can also be provided as a tool for employees at all levels within an organization. Teaching employees positive self-talk, mindfulness, and stress management all fall within self-leadership. This theory has helped managers retain and motivate employees in fields that are often considered to be high stress with heavy workloads and low compensation. In this post-pandemic world, we are all experiencing similar challenges and can benefit from these tips.
Practicing and teaching self-leadership can include the following:
  • Behavior focused activities (goal setting, metrics, rewards)
  • Natural reward focused activities (intrinsic motivation)
  • Constructive thought patterns (positive self-talk)
Perceived Organizational Support
The theory of perceived organizational support asserts that employees develop global beliefs concerning the extent to which an organization values their contributions and cares about them personally (Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002). If employees experience a high level of perceived organizational support, it contributes to their job satisfaction. However, if they experience low levels of perceived organizational support it can increase stress and lower morale.
Managers can benefit by taking a holistic look at their employees, and address areas where needs are not being met to maximize the performance of their employees. It is also important for managers to understand that the behavior of one negative supervisor can sour the opinion of employees within the entire organization (Shoss, Eisenberger, Restobog, & Zagenczyk, 2013). Employees tend to personify the organization as having “benevolent or malevolent intent”, therefore “agents of the organization” are no different from the organization itself within the minds of the employees (Eisenberger, Cummings, Armeli, & Lynch, 1997).

What can we do with this information?
  • Acknowledge the anxiety that comes with uncertainty and be transparent
  • Recognize the strong correlation between employee retention and the relationship with direct supervisors
  •  Praise employees for their efforts while recognizing that they are experiencing increasing demands
  • Provide a safe place for team members to share concerns and grievances
Conclusion
If you are struggling with motivation and looking for tools to support your staff, you are definitely not alone. Using self-leadership techniques can improve your own morale, and teaching these tools to others can improve overall job satisfaction and retention. Furthermore, it is important to remember that motivation is driven by more than just compensation. If employees believe that their organization cares about them and appreciates their efforts, they will be more likely to stay committed to the organization through the good, but also the more challenging times.

References:
Manz, C. C. (1986). Self-Leadership: Toward an Expanded Theory of Self-Influence Processes in Organizations. Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 585–600. https://doi-org.cuw.ezproxy.switchinc.org/10.5465/AMR.1986.4306232
Eisenberger, R., Cummings, J., Armeli, S., & Lynch, P. (1997). Perceived organizational support, discretionary treatment, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(5), 812-820. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.82.5.812
Rhoades, L., & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: a review of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 698–714. https://doi-org.cuw.ezproxy.switchinc.org/10.1037/0021-9010.87.4.698
Shoss, M. K., Eisenberger, R., Restubog, S. L. D., & Zagenczyk, T. J. (2013). Blaming the organization for abusive supervision: The roles of perceived organizational support and supervisor's organizational embodiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(1), 158–168. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030687

 
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