Today’s post is by Michael Figueroa, Project Manager at SafeSourcing
What motivates us at work? What is your default mechanism for convincing others to do what you need them to do? When we use statements designed to get others to do something using their desire to protect their pride, we are inadvertently using the tool of threatening scarcity as motivation. Brene Brown uses the term “scarcity” to describe a system of incentives revolving around a message of “never enough”. In the example of pride, we often send the message of “I’m questioning whether or not you’re good enough to accomplish X”, as a reverse psychological means to allow someone to “prove us wrong”. In her phenomenal book “Daring Greatly”, Brene Brown identifies shame as the underlying concept of using scarcity to threaten into action. Brown defines shame as “the fear of not being worthy of connection.” The problem with shame in the workplace, however, is that it’s a short-term boost to motivation through a desire to survive.
When people only care about career survival, they don’t care about the success of their company. Shame motivates us to manage our appearance more than our performance. The results of shame motivation manifests itself in cutting others down or cutting corners to look competent, which usually produces results less than our best, and sabotages the appearances of others who may be talented but don’t know how to defend themselves. A staff spending all its time on defending itself is more talk than productivity. How does this play out in real life? Here are a few typical objectives found in the workplace, and the means by which we traditionally may try to accomplish them:
Objective: Get someone to… Means: Give the message:
-Work Harder – “Look how much harder your colleagues work”
-Fix a report – “Your communication skills aren’t good enough”
-Stay late – “If you don’t stay, you’re not a team player”
-Fix your mistake – “You should have caught my mistake” (Blame Shift)
All of the examples on the right put us into defensive mode and therefore perception management modes. But how can we use the opportunities provided by the objectives to align the organization’s success with the individual’s output? We provide opportunities for increased connection, rather than threats to that connection. If shame is the fear of loss of connection, vulnerability is the tug we feel to support that connection.
No courage without vulnerability
If you make yourself invincible, never put yourself at risk for the sake of others, or are the type of person to run in the opposite direction when they see someone in danger, would anyone call you courageous? Courage forces us to put skin in the game. Skin in the game builds trust, and trust is a requirement for genuine human connection. When we see someone genuinely admitting that they need us, we dearly want to show them they can count on us. When someone shares a lifelong dream, we want to help them achieve it. These things require vulnerability, which is an invitation to connection, and in the workplace can be the key to motivating others to share in your vision.
Let’s look at the example from earlier. How might our approach change if we attempted motivation through connection, by being vulnerable?
Objective: Get someone to… ALTERNATE Means: Give the message:
-Work Harder – “I’m exhausted, can you take X off my plate?”
-Fix a report – “I need your skills here, will you make this look good?”
-Stay late – “We can’t do this alone, will you help us?”
-Fix your mistake – “I messed up, will you help me recover?”
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we invite connection, and bring others onboard with our vision, which leads to investing into each other’s success and the success of the company. It’s not without some short term risk, by those who may want to take advantage of our personal vulnerability, but it can prevent a team from becoming disinterested in the organization’s long term success.
For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.
We look forward to and appreciate your comments.