May 11

Want to Motivate Your Team? Here’s What You Should NOT Do (And What to Do Instead)

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t exactly motivate someone. You can say all the right words but at the end of the day, they still have to choose to be motivated.

Incidentally, this is what many employers get wrong.

Leaders think that being generous with praises (and even compensation) is enough motivation. And these help, sure. But ultimately, employees themselves choose when to go the extra mile, when to give their best, and when to share brilliant ideas.

So the best thing leaders can do is to shape conditions, which make it easier for employees to stay motivated.

Motivational Strategies Gone Wrong

A 10-year study of more than 200,000 employees revealed that 79 percent of the respondents quit their jobs because they didn’t feel appreciated enough.

If there was recognition of sorts, they found it either insincere or even offensive.

What sort of motivational strategies rub people the wrong way? Here’s what several of the respondents mentioned:

Impersonal, Drive-by Praise


“The presentation you submitted looks great. Thanks.” It’s common for leaders to pop into people’s offices and drop random messages like this. They mean well and often just want to express appreciation for their teams’ excellent performance.

While statements like these are flattering on the surface, they can also feel rather impersonal and inadequate.

No matter how sincere the intent, employees might find these generic phrases a poor substitute for genuine, personalized appreciation.

Feigned Acknowledgment

Feigned Acknowledgment

Employees can see through managers who are lying outright. If you find their work subpar, let them know. It’s better to be straightforward and demand better output rather than lay it on thick to spare people’s feelings.

In other words, don’t feign acknowledgement just because you feel that you have to.

As I mentioned earlier, words alone aren’t enough to motivate people. You also want to challenge them to do better, and honest, constructive feedback can create a space and opportunity for them to do just that.

Guilt Gratitude


Leaders should take every opportunity to acknowledge their team’s efforts. But when this gesture is largely driven by guilt, it can come off insincere and manipulative.

For instance, let’s say you forgot to prepare your presentation for that big meeting. So, you tap a subordinate to finish it for you, which would require them to pull an all-nighter. Afterwards, you announce to everyone how brilliant his/her work was.

This is what we call guilt gratitude. It may be sincere on your part, but your employee might not be as appreciative of praise if you were trying to cover up guilt over something you should have resolved on your own.

What to Do Instead

Now that we’ve established what not to do when trying to motivate your team, let’s check out better alternatives.

Show Genuine Interest

Show Genuine Interest

Nothing affirms an employee’s great work better than recognising the effort behind it. If you truly want to make them feel that their work matters, don’t just focus on the end result. Instead, ask about how they accomplished it, what challenges they encountered, and how they solved those problems.

When you ask for the story behind their work, you don’t just honor their contributions. You also honor the person behind them and that is the greatest form of recognition.

Show How Their Efforts Contribute to the Company

Show How Their Efforts Contribute to the Company

Regular employees don’t often see how their individual work contributes to the greater good. Hence, they can feel like an insignificant cog in a wheel and this can be demotivating.

Conversely, when your employees can see how their efforts contribute to broader strategies, they will come to appreciate their own significance.

Since human beings are more driven by purpose than anything else, this is more likely to keep them motivated at work too.

Acknowledge The Challenges

Acknowledge The Challenges

Every substantial contribution comes at great personal cost. For many employees, an excellent performance at work means spending more time away from their loved ones. Furthermore, these sacrifices are often made behind the scenes.

Being an effective and empathetic leader involves shedding light on these struggles.

The next time you recognise your employees’ contribution, acknowledge the challenges they must have had to overcome as well. This will make your appreciation sound more genuine and personal.


Excited to build a team of motivated and passionate remote workers? We’ve got you!

Remote Staff has been providing more than 3,000 Australian SMEs and entrepreneurs with skilled remote workers from the Philippines since 2007. Aside from scouting and hiring, we also help with onboarding, so you have more wherewithal to shape a healthy and cooperative virtual working environment for your employees.

Call us today or schedule a call back and let’s get started.


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Disclaimer: The above article was written according to the information available as of press time.
All opinions and beliefs expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Remote Staff's, its employees, subcontractors, clients, and affiliates.

About The Author

Serena has been working remotely and writing content for the better part of the last decade. To date, she's written for and Mabuhay Magazine, among others, and has churned out more than a thousand articles on everything from The Basics of Stock Market Investing to How to Make Milk Tea-Flavored Taho at home. Hermits, aspiring hermits, and non-hermits with interesting project propositions may email her at

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