What Not to Say to Your Employees


by Eileen Feretic

If you want to motivate the people who work for you, the very last thing you should say is, "Be thankful you have a job." That doesn't motivate people. It makes them feel resentful and trapped--and sometimes furious.

At this stage of the economic "game," we all know that we're lucky to have a job. But we don't want anyone rubbing our face in it. Keep in mind that the job market will eventually turn around, and new positions will open up. If you don't want your best employees to jump at the chance of getting one of those jobs, you need to learn how to talk--and listen--to your staff.

That's where Suzanne Bates wants to help. This executive coach and author of Motivate Like a CEO (http://bates-communications.com) says that many executives need to brush up on their leadership and communications skills so they can effectively motivate and inspire their employees.

"Communicating effectively is a learned skill," she told me. "Relatively few people are natural-born leaders and communicators. You have to focus on it to get good at it."

Bates says the first of her motivation principles begins when an executive discovers and harnesses his or her purpose and passion. "You need to rally people around a big idea that's important to your business," she advises "and then communicate a clear, powerful message about the idea's mission and purpose to your staff.

"You also need to learn what motivates individual employees because people have different needs and wants. It's up to executives to drive collaboration and innovation by inspiring all of their employees."

Bates acknowledges that this is hard to do when the focus at many companies is on cutting costs. Nevertheless, she insists that innovation can happen in a down cycle if IT and business executives put a significant amount of time and energy into communicating with their staff.

"You need to understand what drives every person on your staff," she says. "Find out what's important to them, spend time with employees, encourage them, meet with them and believe in them. People will follow you anywhere if they believe in you."

And if you don't tell them they should be thankful to have a job.