Strong opinions, weakly held

Motivation is subject to depletion

Here’s an important article on employee motivation I saw on Hacker News:

The great majority of employees are quite enthusiastic when they start a new job. But in about 85 percent of companies, our research finds, employees’ morale sharply declines after their first six months—and continues to deteriorate for years afterward. That finding is based on surveys of about 1.2 million employees at 52 primarily Fortune 1000 companies from 2001 through 2004, conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence (Purchase, New York).

The fault lies squarely at the feet of management—both the policies and procedures companies employ in managing their workforces and in the relationships that individual managers establish with their direct reports.

Most of the prescriptions in the article are standard management advice fare, but I think they key point is worth remembering — people are generally excited about their jobs until the realities of the situation beat it out of them. The main responsibility of managers is to help them hold onto that enthusiasm.


  1. It’s more correct to say the main responsibility of managers should be to help them hold onto that enthusiasm.

    However, most organizations value short-term results over long-term investments in people, so good luck with that notion.

    Also, most people in management are pushed there because someone needs to do the job, and they’re often given little training or mentoring.

  2. I agree with Richard but the management is not trained in motivation and most employer do not understand the value of hiring someone to come in and work with their employee. I do attitude seminars and there is definitely a change in attitude after the classes but in most cases it truly only has a long term affect on about 15 to 20 % of those attending. I am in the process of setting up a Metanoia Club where people can come online, discuss their goals,make commitments to the group and be held accountable to follow through. The most important part thought is for a person to find what really makes them happy and follow that dream.

  3. There’s nothing worse than corporate motivation exercises. I used to work for HMV and they would regularly make you do silly team-building exercises and motivational exercises. It was horribly patronising to the point of being offensive. No-one working there was doing it because that’s what they wanted to do with their lives – they were just earning rent.

    I’d be interested to know what ‘attitude seminars’ teach you these days. I can’t help but be sceptical because most people don’t work in jobs they love and want to devote the bulk of their energy to. They’re providing for a family or simply earning rent. I know this is a typically British attitude to work and counter to the American work ethic but I think that nonsense about how you can change your attitude to your mundane job and make change your life is exploitative. It’s management consultants desperately trying to sell new ways to keep everyone docile and satisfied with what they’ve got.

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