How to overcome four common myths about employee motivation.
By Jerry Hayes, O.D.
For many optometrists, the difference between having a highly productive practice and having a merely average practice is how well they manage their staffs. I'll discuss four myths concerning employee motivation and provide suggestions on how to avoid them.
MYTH #1: Money is the best motivator
Reality: It actually works the other way. Lack of money is a de-motivator, but once you raise an employee's salary, money is no longer a motivation for her to work harder. If you pay someone who expects to earn $11 an hour only $10 an hour, then she's not going to remain satisfied for long.
But if you pay someone who was content with $10 an hour $11 an hour, she'll be grateful, but no more productive. Yes, money will motivate employees when you tie a specific result, such as grossing $150,000 for the quarter, to a bonus. However, the real motivating factor is the goal itself -- money's just the reward.
MYTH #2: My employees know their jobs; I don't need to tell them what to do
Reality: According to Ken Blanchard, Ph.D., author of the One minute Manager and an expert in employee productivity, the number-one motivator of people is timely feedback on results. Dr. Blanchard says that most bosses go wrong by only giving feedback when an employee messes up.
He says it's much more important for an employer to catch employees doing something right and to give them praise on the spot. You don't have to go overboard, but good bosses make a point to reinforce positive behavior more than they criticize bad behavior. This way, it's a lot easier to correct someone when necessary.
MYTH #3: A little fear goes a long way
Reality: Like money, fear can serve as a great short-term motivator. But scowling, yelling and threatening won't light a fire under many employees for long. The ideal approach is to be courteous and respectful with your staff. Not only will that improve morale, but employees are going to treat your patients the way you treat them.
MYTH #4: A good employee can excel in any position
Reality: Job success depends greatly on an individual's personality type. An efficient introvert will excel at a bookkeeping or laboratory position, while an extrovert thrives in positions such as receptionist or frame stylist, where they have constant contact with people.
Put an introvert at the receptionist desk and she'll wear down and get cranky over the course of a busy day. But an extrovert has high social needs and won't be happy if you place her in a job where she has to work by herself for any length of time. Employees are motivated when you let them work in their areas of strength.
Good bosses = good leaders
In the final analysis, you really lead people more than you manage them. If you're friendly and helpful with your patients, then your staff will follow suit. And if you complain about patients and act as though they annoy you, then your staff will too.
The key elements that factor into being a good boss are setting a good example and providing an environment where employees have the training and the tools they need to succeed. Combine that with meaningful work and acceptable pay and you'll have a highly motivated staff.