The funny thing about top performers is that while they rarely need external motivation, the wrong kind of management will quickly result in serious demotivation.
Also noteworthy: these folks tend to be politically savvy enough to hide the worst of their frustration from their managers. Instead, one day they’ll just up and give notice, thanking their clueless employers for the “valuable learning experience” as they skip out the door.
This is the bad type of turnover that smart employers try and avoid, especially in the current economy, which is becoming more and more a seller’s market.
As every employer knows, talent acquisition is an investment. Failure to get the proper return on that investment hurts the bottom line. It also hurts morale and engagement when talented folks are driven out needlessly. It’s discouraging and causes remaining employees to have to reboot and regroup.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Here then, as a blueprint for what NOT to do, are the 5 surefire ways to demotivate your top performers.
#1. Micromanage. I’d guess that a literal ton has been written about the evils of micromanaging. Nobody likes being told exactly how to do his job, over and over again, as a matter of course. Top performers value autonomy and the ability to think for themselves. Anything else feels demeaning and stifling. Give top performers an objective and a deadline (if necessary) and then leave them alone. If they need help, they’re skilled enough to ask for it.
#2. Flip flop. Indecisiveness drives top performers batty, because they like getting stuff done. A habit of obstructing progress by failing to make needed decisions is guaranteed to send your top performer racing to the job boards.
#3. Be opaque. “Why” is a very important question for top performers, who appreciate knowing the reasons behind requests and directives. Managers who view “why” as a threat to their authority and/or who feel entitled to give orders without considering anyone else’s need to know, will find themselves continually on the look out for good employees.
#4. Underpay. When rewards aren’t commensurate with results, most employees will get a little antsy, and top performers are no exception. However, top performers tend to know their worth and will more quickly seek other options. While cash isn’t the end-all-be-all motivator for everyone, money is needed currency to obtain food, clothing, and shelter (among other things of worth), and it signals value, to boot.
#5. Routinely engage in petty politics. Politics is an unavoidable part of corporate life, and top performers certainly know this. Still, there’s a difference between healthy politics, which entails the use of power and social networks to advance interests in an assertive and respectful manner, and the toxic, tiring games of the truly unenlightened. The latter requires too much emotional labor and makes work hard for all the wrong reasons. Top performers don’t want to be bothered with that.
Top performers give more, and they require more in return. They want their ideas and their intellect respected, they want to be paid what they’re worth, and they don’t want their efforts choked by needless roadblocks and petty politics. These behaviors are all surefire demotivators and surefire ways to find yourself on the losing end of the war for talent.