A Manager's Dilemma: Motivating Employees to Greater Productivity
by Cindy Ventrice

A sales manager has a staff made up mostly of GenXers. His company sets sales goals for the manager's department, and it is the manager's job to rally his team to meet those goals. The manager claims that he cannot get his team to care about the sales quotas ... he says, "this Gen X sales staff is not concerned about meeting the sales goals because it is too much work for them, and they would rather set lower goals that are easily achieved, than reach higher and try for more."

How do you motivate employees to produce more?

It's an interesting dilemma and an almost universal management challenge.

It may look as if nothing will motivate these employees but, in truth, they are simply pushing back against what they see as a heavy-handed approach. So, what is the answer?

This sales manager needs to realize that most people do not want to be "motivated." GenXers in particular find this kind of behavior from management very offensive. They prefer to motivate themselves, thank you very much.

GenXers won't produce just because they are told they have to. They want to know what they get out of it and they want more than financial incentives. Remember, this generation watched their parents pour their hearts and souls into their work only to be laid off whenever it was economically expedient for the employers. The enticement of the "carrot" (a bonus) and the threat of the "stick" (losing their jobs) just doesn't cut it.

Does this mean the manager can't have an impact on motivating his team? Of course not! This manager needs to discover what his people already care about and cultivate that. He needs to create an environment that nourishes each individual's personal motivators.

If, instead of using a carrot and stick approach, the manager asks for the opinions of team members on how to improve sales, shows them respect, and trusts them to do the right thing he will have far better results. He needs to become part of their team.

The Container Store offers a perfect example of how to do this. Most of their employees are GenXers. They are loyal and highly productive. They achieve amazing results. Why? Because management makes them their biggest priority. Chapter 3 of my book highlights what The Container Store managers do differently and why they are so effective at creating an environment that provides its own motivation.

Forget the carrot and stick approach. Build relationships with employees. Help them motivate themselves.


Cindy Ventrice is a management consultant, speaker, and workshop leader with 20 years of experience. She focuses exclusively on helping organizations improve operations, products, and services by improving workplace relationships and employee morale. Her new book, Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works, is available through any bookseller. You can contact Cindy at cventrice@maketheirday.com.

Make Their Day!
Employee Recognition That Works

by Cindy Ventrice,
Berrett-Koehler Publishers,
April 2003

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Copyright 2003 by Cindy Ventrice. All rights reserved.

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