How NOT to Inspire a Startup: Employee Motivation Mistakes that can Kill Your Productivity

Everyone knows that keeping your employees motivated is crucial to growing a startup. However, the best way to accomplish this remains a topic of some debate. There are multiple schools of thought on the subject, each with its own record of successes and failures.  However, in my experience, it’s not what you do to motivate your employees that matters so much as what you make sure to avoid doing.

Employee motivation, however you choose to address it, is kind of delicate. If you try too hard or too little, then you might find yourself distracting your employees rather than engaging them. For instance, here are some common motivation mistakes that could easily sabotage your company’s productivity.

  • Not Sharing the Love. A good employee motivation strategy inspires and engages all of your employees, not just the top performers. Consequently, this can make “Employee of the Month” competitions divisive for your work force. Instead of motivating employees with a competition that only rewards and recognizes one person each month, try to spread the recognition with smaller, more frequent awards. Whenever one of your employees has a good day, write them a personal email or give them a small bonus like a gift card. This will make it easier to keep your entire staff engaged and on-track.
  • Not Offering Feedback.  Nobody’s perfect, and if your employees have room to improve then it’s your duty to let them know. A recent Harvard study found that many managers are reticent to give their employees feedback on performance because they’re afraid that they can’t do it without being distracting. Let me assure you – your employees really do want your feedback. Just make sure you do it in a way that is constructive and not demeaning.
  • Not Setting an Example. As the head of the company, you are the champion of your startup. Where you go, your employees will unquestionably follow. If you slack off and rest on your laurels, then they will too. Conversely, if you’re the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night, they’ll take a page from your book and work harder as well. Set an example for your employees and show them that hard work and determination are the driving force behind your company.
  • Not Concentrating on the Culture. When you’re launching a startup, it’s important to engage in out-of-office activities to allow your team gel and develop a company culture. Take a business day every month to do something fun with your office, like paintballing or mini-golf. They’ll have a chance to get to know one another away from their monitors and everyone will get a welcome reprieve from the daily grind.
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Motivating your employees isn’t rocket science, even though it may seem that way at times. You can increase engagement in all sorts of ways, so long as it keeps your employees feeling recognized and appreciated. Just make sure to break these bad managerial habits now, or else they might become a problem in the future.


Lance Trebesch is the CEO of TicketPrinting.com & Ticket River, which offer a variety of event products and ticketing services. After working for nineteen years in Silicon Valley, Lance found that the key to happiness is helping customers worldwide beautify and monetize their events with brilliant print products and event services. Listening to his customers and learning about how they plan their events – which range from concerts to fundraisers – has helped him gain insight and expertise that he is always eager to share.


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