Balancing Motivation and Competition: How Positive Work Environments Create Better Business Results

Gary Beckstrand
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Leadership
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2018-05-14
Balancing Motivation and Competition: How Positive Work Environments Create Better Business Results

Competition is the very nature of many business ventures. In order for a company to be successful, it needs to outperform its competitors and produce better results. But adopting a “growth at all costs” mindset and setting unrealistic expectations for employees may actually hinder the growth a company seeks to obtain.

Many companies have been on the receiving end of bad publicity due to this kind of behavior. An extremely competitive working environment at Kraft Heinz has caused a decrease in morale and employee retention. Tesla’s working conditions and attempts to quell workers’ dissatisfaction may prove to do more harm in the end. Amazon’s warehouse employees have hesitated to take bathroom breaks for fear that they’ll be punished.

More than having their reputation tarnished, these companies — and others like them — may suffer from higher turnover rates and low employee engagement. This results-driven mentality is unfortunately common among many businesses, from Silicon Valley startups to long-established companies. Focusing on results without creating a work atmosphere where people choose to engage and do their best work for the right reasons may lead to behaviors that put current and future business results at risk.

So how can companies achieve the results they desire while providing an engaging and positive work environment? By taking steps to improve areas that may be lacking, business leaders can create a better workplace for employees and, in turn, reach new heights in their industry.

Improving Leadership

Many executives in leadership positions have obtained success because they got the results they wanted through hard work — an admirable quality. But what these leaders fail to understand is that hard work is only one component of a bigger picture. With their rise to managerial positions comes a shift in their purpose within the company — their job now is to influence others to do great work.

Leaders can put unhealthy pressure on team members, resulting in stressed employees. Poor management styles and workplace anxiety are more serious health concerns than meets the eye; new research from Stanford suggests that bad leadership and extreme stress account for up to 8 percent of annual health costs and 120,000 excess deaths every year in the U.S. Leaders can combat this issue by shifting their focus from unattainable expectations to creating an environment in which people can do their best work.

One way leaders can make positive changes to the work environment is by creating a dialogue between themselves and their employees. Setting up regular one-on-one sessions with individual members of your team gives you the chance to properly convey your expectations while also giving the employee the opportunity to express any concerns. By working together to set goals with which you’re both comfortable, you set yourselves up for success and reduce the burden of unnecessary stress.

Improving Culture

Creating a positive work environment means more than just effective communication between leaders and team members; it means working to improve office culture. Some leadership styles skew more toward a tendency to micromanage and unintentionally stifle creativity. Fostering creativity and giving employees the autonomy to take risks and perform to their full potential will go a long way in improving the work environment and sustaining productivity.

Moreover, employers should provide a healthy work-life balance. Offering trendy perks and freebies in the office space is appealing at first glance but does little to retain employees — even for tech giants like Facebook and Dropbox. When work always comes first, employees feel that the companies they work for don’t care about their well-being. Striking the balance between work life and personal life can be challenging, but if you listen to employees’ needs and are an advocate for them, workers will feel more appreciated and productive.

Businesses can create better office culture by engaging employees through social means. People crave social interaction and want to feel as though they belong to something bigger than themselves. Creating a space where employees can interact with one another outside of the office allows them the chance to connect in more meaningful ways. Additionally, HR managers can take initiative by implementing programs that are not only focused on physical health but that concentrate on emotional, social and financial health. Budgeting workshops, casual dinners and other off-site activities all can have a positive impact on how teams operate together and how individual employees view the company as a whole.

Improving Purpose

Leaders need to also be attuned to the company’s purpose and motivate workers by connecting results to customer benefits and the greater good of the business. Instead of driving performance through fear or pressure, the best motivator for true engagement is helping employees identify and connect with a company’s purpose.

Improving Recognition

Employees want to feel like their contributions are being celebrated. A culture that puts a stronger emphasis on recognizing wins resonates more with employees than one that instills fear in those who miss the mark. A recent study conducted by my company found that of the six most motivating factors that cause employees to produce great work, recognition is by far the No. 1 factor. Taking the time to acknowledge when employees have accomplished something great will go a long way in motivating them to continue producing good work.

Even though the competitive nature of the business world can place pressure on companies to exceed industry standards, leaders should seek to emphasize more than just results. By improving workplace culture, instilling a sense of purpose and recognizing significant accomplishments, leaders can achieve better results without sacrificing their employees’ well-being.

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