The #1 Most Powerful Motivator At Work

As a manager, if someone asked you about the #1 most important “motivator” for your employees, what would you say?

Money? A title? Opportunity for growth? A place where all the workers get along without conflict?

Surprisingly, none of these is #1.

There is a lot of research that has explored the most powerful and impactful motivators for people in the work environment and, consistently, one answer tops the list. It is…

“The need to be perceived as being valued.”

The key to this motivator is to understand that it has nothing to do with how you, the manager, think you are “valuing” an employee.

Rather, it has everything to do with how the employee perceives himself or herself as being valued.

In other words, the perception of “being valued” is completely in the eye of the employee.

Understanding this important distinction creates a big opportunity for the Manager to influence the employee to continually motivate themselves to maintain their performance, their focused energy, and their enthusiasm in the workplace.

As a Manager, all you have to do is appropriately ask the employee what “being valued” looks like to them. Then you must be ready (if at all possible) to deliver what the employee believes “ being valued” looks like to them.

Now, here’s the surprising part.

A lot of the time, it is a very small thing that is important to the individual that gets them to conclude that they are “being valued”.

Here is a true story from our client experience that highlights this point. The employee name and the business have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Janice works as a project coordinator at the biggest branch of a large Bank and, as a consequence of some Organizational changes, some of the workspaces have been reallocated.

For Janice, this meant she was moved to a new workspace.

This move triggered two of the most stressful things that a person can go through – “Change of social status and change of environment”.

Even though the change might look insignificant to some, for Janice it  triggered an unconscious cascading consequence of emotional negativity.

Because Janice’s new work station is now physically further away from her Manager, she feels like she has been demoted and, because she no longer has a view outside, she feels isolated and abandoned.

So she is stressed.

In addition, because of the way her new workspace is configured, her computer monitor is not in the same place it used to be on her desk, which means that now, to see the monitor properly, she has to turn her head, which results in neck pain by the end of the day, which is also affecting how she is sleeping.

The pain and sleeplessness, added to the stress of the Organizational workspace move is now an escalating situation for her.

Making things worse, when she asked the IT person if he could move her monitor, he said that he couldn’t do it because he didn’t have a long enough cable. He said that she would just have to live with it.

For Janice that was the last straw!

So, when her Manager dropped by to see how she was doing, he was surprised to hear her say that she may have to start looking for another job as she was clearly not valued or appreciated in the company.

Now, Janice wasn’t irrational.  She realized that workspace change made a lot of sense for the company and she understood that she wasn’t the only one being affected and also understood that, in the long run, it would be fine and would just take a little getting used to.

However, when it came to “feeling valued”, her sore neck and sleeplessness along with her feelings of isolation and abandonment became focused on the computer monitor that couldn’t be moved.

This situation presented the Manager with an opportunity to easily diffuse the issue or, by ignoring her feelings and point of view, to make things worse – and possibly lose a good employee.

Fortunately, the Manager did the right thing.

He immediately got into his car, drove to the nearest computer supply store, bought an appropriate length cable, went back to Janice’s workspace and connected the new cable himself, moving the monitor to the right spot as Janice directed so that she was now comfortable and satisfied.

He also reiterated that Janice was both very valuable to the team and an important resource and asset to the branch and the company.

Janice now felt valued!

All for the price of a computer cable and a little proactive and supportive attention.

Now, it’s important to recognize that an employee’s perception of a “value issue” can change situationally and over time.

Tomorrow or next month, Janice’s perception of what constitutes a value issue may be different than it is today.

For her manager, this is actually a huge opportunity, because all he has to do is keep appropriately asking Janice how she is doing and what he can do make her feel valued.

It is as simple and as complicated as that to proactively take advantage of the most powerful motivator for people in the business environment.