How Do You Motivate Office Staff?

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Author(s): 
Lynn Homisak, PRT

   I stopped her for clarification. “You mean, you sent the same exact letter to each staff person and let them believe that they were the only one to receive it?”

   “Yes,” she continued. “At first, it was great. Several of them came to me and said how nice it was that I took the time to acknowledge them in writing. But once they started talking to each other, they learned that everyone received the same email. Now none of them are talking to me and my situation is worse than before. See? Appreciation is not all that it is cut out to be.”

   Pat’s dilemma was self-provoked. Words are cheap but if they are used to convey sincere appreciation, words can also be extremely motivating. A simple verbal “thank you” is sometimes all it takes to make an impact. Her words, even though delivered through an unemotional email vehicle, came across to her staff as unexpected and encouraging. At first, each staff member believed he or she received an individual note of appreciation and it sparked a motivation to work more closely with her. When they later discovered that her words were nothing more than a general “form letter” passed around like a cheap bottle of wine, they had even less respect for her than before.

   This was another case in which a lack of individual recognition proved tragic. Had she made a genuine effort to speak to each of them personally, looked them in the eye and expressed her appreciation for each one separately, Pat could have won them over with sincerity and turned this story completely around.

   How do recognition and appreciation correlate with staff motivation? A major reason that 79 percent of people leave their jobs is a lack of recognition or appreciation.2 Consider the related conclusions drawn from 653 randomly selected, fully employed respondents in a recent survey.3

• 82 percent said that being recognized for their efforts/contributions at work motivates them in their jobs.
•78 percent said they would work harder if their efforts were better recognized and appreciated.
• 64 percent said they do not feel appreciated at work.

   One of the five findings stated in the final analysis of this report was “Appreciation is the foundation for motivation.”3 Based on the amount of correspondence I have had with staff members over the years who have shared similar sentiments, I have found this to be true in an overwhelming number of podiatry offices.

Don’t Use A Lack Of Rewards To Teach Staff A Lesson

This last case was a test in “what if?” What if staff were suddenly “cut off” from receiving their annual end of year bonus? Would morale come to a crashing halt?

   This was Dr. Joe’s quandary. Dr. Joe was the owner of a very successful, busy four-doctor practice with an inspired team of 20+ staff members. Other than a few minor personality conflicts (nothing too unusual under the circumstances), and a few operational weaknesses, his practice was for the most part a model office. Everyone pulled his or her own weight. The practice was financially stable and saw a lot of patients.

   Somewhere along the line, however, Dr. Joe became a little bothered by their attitude. While he was pleased with their work activity, he couldn’t help but feel that they were taking advantage of his good nature and generosity over the past several years, and it all came to a head when the annual holiday party rolled around. Soon after I arrived, Dr. Joe disclosed to me that he was thinking of discontinuing his tradition of giving out annual bonuses because last year, he received only one or two “thank yous.” He felt the staff was ungrateful and inconsiderate. Dr. Joe felt that the bonus had become an “expectation” and he saw no good reason to continue it. “Maybe skipping it this year will teach them a lesson, don’t you think?”

   He wanted me to agree with him and from a purely emotional perspective, I almost wanted to. I too wondered about their manners but I couldn’t agree with the doctor. I knew what the repercussions of such an extreme move would have on this otherwise very motivated, productive team and the backlash it would have on his practice.

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