Motivated to quit

Quit smokingEveryone knows that smoking is one of the unhealthiest things you can do to yourself, yet many people continue to puff away because they simply ‘can’t quit’. So what is their motivation, knowing full well that it’s not healthy and that it will most likely have long lasting negative implications?

This left me pondering similar scenarios repeated across the world every day by disengaged workers… why do they continue to work for organisations that they know are bad for their health – both in terms of stress and career progression? And what can employers do to make a positive impact on these individuals in order to reduce presenteeism?

‘Motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way’

according to the Oxford English dictionary, which makes it all sound very simple! But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that there is both intrinsic motivation (from within) and extrinsic motivation (from the outside world). These concepts have had psychologists writing countless theories over the centuries.


So how do you motivate a person intrinsically?

An intrinsically motivated person will work on a math equation, for example, because it is enjoyable. Or they will work on a solution to a problem because the challenge of finding a solution provides a sense of pleasure. In neither case does the person work on the task because there is some reward involved, such as a prize, a payment, or in the case of students, a grade. Intrinsic motivation does not mean, however, that a person will not seek rewards. It just means that such external rewards are not enough to keep a person motivated.

An intrinsically motivated smoker therefore may not want to give up smoking regardless of the outcome because there is simply no interest and the possibility of poor health or shear cost is not enough to maintain that individual’s motivation to put any effort into quitting.

Something to think about if your motivation programme is not delivering the results you desire, despite the reward being as big, glitzy and shiny as possible. Perhaps rewards are not enough for your staff? Perhaps your management team should spend a bit more time ensuring that the workplace is both enjoyable and challenging in order to keep the interest of these individuals.


Inject a little fun

According to a William M. Mercer survey, only 29 percent of employers in the US encourage humour as part of their company culture, and only eight percent have a policy of using fun to reduce employee stress. Yet, research at California State University showed that people who have fun at work are more creative, more productive, work better with others and call in sick less often.


Challenge your team

It’s easy for leaders to fall into the trap of taking everything on themselves. When there are important tasks to be done, a feeling can arise of needing to handle things personally, or perhaps that it’s too tough for your team to handle. While there is always going to be tasks that no one but you can do, we must consistently try to remind ourselves that we are equipped with a very capable team as well. Remember, each team member has a set of strengths that vary from the next, and as leaders we need to tap into that.

Your team WANTS to be challenged. They WANT to be motivated, and they really do want to be excited to come to work every day. They love to have tasks that make their minds come alive and stimulate new ideas.

Challenge your staffWhy not take some of your challenging tasks, and give them to your team to help you with. Let your team show you how creative they can be, and how many different ways they can come up with to get to the best solution. Explain to them why it needs to be accomplished, what is so important about it, and set deadlines that things need to be done by. Encourage them to work with each other and bounce ideas off each other to find the best solutions. By aligning the team with a common goal, giving them a challenge to motivate them, and empowering them to work with each other to become more effective as a whole, you will start to see that spark in their eyes again – that spark that tells you they are motivated and connecting.

If a smoker were set the challenge of quitting smoking for a cause (such as a charity or lent) then they will be more likely to succeed than those who are doing it ‘just because’. Individuals and teams within an organisation work in much the same way, so the role of managers is to find the right combination of challenging work without over stretching limits, a fun environment without losing structure and rewards that motivate but don’t break the bank. Only then can presenteeism be eliminated in workplaces across the UK.




John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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