7 Things That Will Kill Your Employee's Motivation

They say stress can kill you. Would you agree that unmotivated employees tend to produce a lot of stress in your practice?

Almost every new employee brings a high degree of motivation to:

  • Be the best they can be
  • Contribute to your practice
  • Learn new skills
  • Get along with other employees
  • Remain with your practice for the long haul

“I Love My Job.”

The challenge for practice leaders is to build on that initial motivation, and to create an environment where motivation grows deeper. Eventually, a sense of motivation can blossom into an attitude of loyalty and commitment.

This reminds me of a scene at the altar of a wedding I once heard about. When the groom started patting his pockets as though looking for something, his best man asked, “Did you forget the ring?” The groom worriedly answered, “No, I think I’ve lost my enthusiasm.”

Looking back on 36 years of leadership in veterinary practices makes me wish I had researched and written this article many years ago. No, I didn’t make all the mistakes all the time, but my leadership could have been better, especially in the area of keeping team members motivated.

A lot gets written about how to motivate employees. But what about the flip side; things that kill motivation like weeds choke out a vegetable garden?

Killer No 1: Lack of a Mission and a Vision Statement

  • The effectiveness of your practice may hinge on each employee’s understanding the answers to two questions. Those questions are: Where we are going and Why we are going there? Without a clear communication of real answers to those two questions, each participant will draw their own conclusions.
  • As a leader in your practice, the “Where" and the “Why” may be clear. But, you will get where you want to go a lot sooner and easier if everyone in your workforce functions under the same guiding principles.
  • A poor mission statement may be worse than not having one. Poor mission statements are vague, no more than a platitude, too long, too general or worst of all, never modeled by your leadership.
  • In a post on his blog he calls, “The Dreadful Mission Statement”, Bryan Zmijewski gives more details about pitfalls to avoid.
  • A well-crafted mission statement can provide just the right motivation and focus to take your practice to the next level and beyond.

Killer No. 2: Lack of Ownership

  • This reference to “ownership” has nothing to do with a financial arrangement. It is referring to what happens when team members believe they have a voice in their workplace.
  • Most people who work in a veterinary practice have been clients themselves. They have first-hand knowledge of what our clients expect when they bring their pets to us. Their ideas and opinions deserve attention.
  • When team members’ insights receive sincere consideration and, whenever possible, implementation, an attitude of ownership will develop.
  • Dr. Amanda Donnelly, DVM uses the term “engagement” in article for Live Oak Bank to describe employee buy-in to practice policies.

Killer No. 3: Drama and Gossip

  • These two “killer traits” usually go hand-in-hand. Few, if any, businesses escape an encounter with this pervasive problem from time to time. Their negative effects extend into client relationships, job performance, patient care, and eventually, into profitability. 
  • Left unchecked, drama and gossip may even define the culture within a veterinary practice.
  • In her article, Managing the Drama, written for the City Wire, author Michelle Stockman points out the dangers of growing distrust leading to higher stress and anxiety levels. She encourages businesses to look at drama like a poisonous threat to the heart of a business.
  • According to this post in Forbes, gossip can cause negative effects on productivity, morale, employee engagement and turnover. Liability becomes an issue when gossip reaches the level of “malicious harassment.”

Killer No. 4: Low Level of Loyalty

  • While client loyalty is critical to the long-term success of any practice, low employee loyalty undermines motivation throughout your team.
  • Don’t expect employee loyalty until your team members sense your loyalty to them.
  • Lack of employee loyalty leads to higher turnover rates, which translates into expensive recruitment and training costs.
  • One advantage small businesses have over large corporations is a greater likelihood for employee loyalty to develop.
  •  Loyalty will develop when employee welfare is a genuine concern.

Killer No. 5: Poorly Defined Roles

  • When employee roles are poorly communicated, two critical factors are missing. First, lack of a clear, written job description breeds uncertainty about what actions others expect them to perform. Your level of effectiveness in this area will be exposed during your next medical or surgical emergency. 
  •   The other critical factor is an understanding of how the performance of their actions fit into the team and how their contributions help accomplish the mission and vision of the practice.
  • While cross-training is a valuable asset in a veterinary practice, its purpose must be clear. For example, providing a “Plan B” when a team member is unable to come to work for a short time. Otherwise, you could find your team playing musical chairs.
  • Another problem with a poor or non-existent job description is that all delegated tasks fall under the "other duties as assigned" umbrella.

Killer No. 6: Lack of Recognition

  • You don’t need an MBA degree to realize the importance of employee recognition to the health of your practice. But, unless it’s given priority and practiced intentionally, long periods of time can slip by without sincere recognition being shown to team members who deserve it.
  • As Birute Regine wrote in a Huffington Post article last year, highlighting the fact that recognition is all about caring about the people you work with. She also points out how sincere recognition is an inexpensive yet high return investment.

Killer No. 7: Lack of Humor (Fun)

A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done. — Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Taking ourselves too seriously and never allowing a tincture of humor can be costly to your practice. Consider a few things you’ll miss by being so serious all the time. Employees won't get one thing that many say is more important than salary — a more light-hearted work environment. You’ll miss a chance to reduce employee sick leave, to lower blood pressure of team members, and to reduce burnout. Read this article for more about benefits of humor in the workplace.
  • You might also enjoy reading, “10 Reasons Why Humor is A Key to Success at Work” from Forbes.com. I like how the authors remind us that humor is hard to do well and easy to do badly. Take care in learning where the line is between constructive and destructive humor.

In the end, the task of maintaining a culture of motivated people who work in your practice comes down to relationships. We could sum it all up with the words of “The Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  

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