Employee motivation depends on a positive attitude from company leaders, and language plays a big role in how that attitude is communicated.
The typical language of management isn’t very motivating. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink includes this great quote on employee motivation from management expert Gary Hamel:
“The goals of management are usually described as ‘efficiency,’ ‘advantage,’ ‘value,’ ‘superiority,’ ‘focus,’ and ‘differentiation.’ Important as the objectives are, they lack the power to rouse human hearts. Business leaders must find ways to infuse mundane business activities with deeper, soul-stirring ideals, such as honor, truth, love, justice and beauty.”
“Honor, truth, love, justice and beauty” are fantastic words for big-picture employee motivation. When it comes to everyday interaction, however, a simple phrase or question is often powerful enough to motivate employees.
Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results, suggests using the three As when communicating at work: Appreciate, Acknowledge, Ask.
“The single most frequent cause of workplace negativity is when an employer makes decisions that affect their employees without first asking for their input,” Price says in the Forbes article “Words And Phrases That Inspire, Motivate, And Persuade At Work.”
“Words or phrases which only take seconds to say can help create job satisfaction and a sense of well-being in another,” she says.
Here are five powerful phrases crucial to employee motivation and creating a happy work environment.
1. “Can you help me?”
These are the “4 Powerful Words Employees Need to Hear,” according to Inc. columnist Jeff Haden.
“‘Can you help me?’ speaks powerfully to our instinctive desire to help other people,” Haden writes. It also instantly conveys:
- A willingness to listen
2. “What can I do to help?”
In situations where you see employees feeling stressed or overwhelmed, step in and say this. It frames the situation in terms of problem-solving and action. “When you roll up your sleeves and work alongside them, you reinforce the importance of being a team player and make people feel supported,” writes Intuit blogger Jaimy Ford.
3. “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”
How often do you hear a real apology? It’s hard to admit fault. It makes you appear vulnerable. It also shows integrity and sets the tone for an ethical workplace. Everyone messes up, but it takes strength and humility to admit it. The respect you’ll gain is worth the temporary embarrassment of admitting fault.
4. “I’m so proud of you.”
Nothing sounds sweeter to the ears of someone who has worked hard. Everyone, from busboys to surgeons, wants to feel proud of their work.
5. “Thank you!”
Notice who you’re routinely thanking. We’re conditioned to say “thank you” in many everyday situations — you probably say it automatically to the barista at your coffee shop or the cashier at the grocery store — but are you saying it regularly to the people who do the most in your life?
Explain why you’re thankful, too. “I really appreciate your efforts,” and “We couldn’t have done it without you!” should be part of the gratitude lexicon in your workplace. A few seconds of heartfelt gratitude is nothing short of a vital investment in the future of your company.
Try saying all of these phrases at work every day for a week. Observe the difference it makes and how it inspires others to do the same. A positive attitude is contagious!
Looking for ways to bring the powerful benefits of gratitude to your workplace? It’s easier than you might think. Learn how in our FREE eBook, “Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.” Download now and start today!
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