Remove obstacles

Coert Visser, September 9, 2013

Making progress in meaningful work is one of the most motivating factors for employees. Therefore, it is important to talk about and to describe desired and achieved progress, frequently. But did you know that negative occurrences such as setbacks and failures can have a 2 to 3 times stronger (negative) effect on motivation than positive factors? This was shown in a study by Amabile and Kramer.

Because negative events can have such a strong negative impact it is important to, whenever you can, prevent and take away any disturbing factors. Managers play an important role in this. As a manager, by removing obstacles, you can enable motivated employees to make the progress they want to make. Here are four examples of such obstacles:
  1. Undermining behavior of other people: in many ways, people are social creatures. How they are treated by other people can have a strong effects on how well they feel and how well they function. When people are treated disrespectfully or are obstructed by other people (eg. colleagues), they will probably be demoralized. A specific form of undermining behavior is actively or passively refusing to support the activities of the employee. A good manager intervenes when such things happen. 
  2. Lack of access to information: when motivated employees cannot get access to information they need in order to do their work this will demotivate them. This is especially true if it is not made clear to them why they don’t get access to that information. 
  3. Lack of access to resources: when employees can’t get the financial or material resources to carry out their tasks they will be demotivated. An example of this is an employee who is required to process numerical data but gets no permission to purchase adequate statistical software. 
  4. Impeding tasks: when employees are motivated to make progress on an important task but can hardly make any forward movement because they are entrusted with other tasks that seem less meaningful to them but which require excessive time to complete, this is a recipe for demotivation. An example of this is a project manager who is responsible for preparing and implementing an important new way of working in the department but who is, at the same time, asked to keep on doing billable work for clients for three days a week. 
Question: What experience do you have with obstacles and removing obstacles? What obstacles can you remove to enable unimpeded progress for yourself and others?