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Ask an outside consultant

  • October 19, 2008 - 10:13 PM

Q As a seasonal business now in our busiest time of year, what do you do when you have a team member who isn't motivated to put in the extra hours and work necessary to meet the current demands? What are some strategies to motivate them? And what do you do if those strategies don't work?

BRIAN WELKE

HALEY COMFORT SYSTEMS

A Many people who have read the question will come up with the obvious answer: Terminate the employee. However, the question is about motivation.

For me the "motivation rule of thumb" rests in the work of Chester Barnard, who wrote "The Function of the Executive" in 1938. Paraphrasing Barnard, the duty of motivation rests with the manager in charge. So the manager has to be assured of these points:

•Work expectations are understood by the employee.

•The expected work is in line with the job's purpose.

•Completion of the assignment is in the employee's best interests.

•The employee is physically and mentally capable of doing the work.

The manager has to review those four points with the employee to determine why that person is not motivated to do the necessary work. In doing so, the manager may find a previously unstated issue that is impeding the work. For example, a family obligation may prohibit extra hours. In many cases the employee may be surprised that he or she is perceived as unmotivated.

The seasonality of the workflow may present its own problems. The employee may not be comfortable with an uneven work pace and may need help in planning how to adjust to seasonality. Analyzing the problem will generally lead to an acceptable solution. In most cases there will be little need to resort to termination or discipline.

JACK MILITELLO

PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT

AND DIRECTOR OF HEALTH CARE PROGRAM

UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

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