I was in a discussion about why people leave companies. I think understanding why people leave companies is key to understand what destroys people intrinsic motivate. Several years ago I posted something on this topic which was informed by The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham
This books assertion was that most managers think their employees switch jobs for better pay, that better pay is rarely the primary reason people switch jobs. Most people want to feel Trust, Hope, Worth, Competent. When they have trouble finding these things, they will often seek new opportunities. The seven reasons listed in the book are:
- Unmet expectations
- Mismatch skills
- lack of coaching and feedback
- Limited growth opportunities
- Feeling unrecognized or devalued
- Loss of confidence in senior leaders
The subtitle of this book is “How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late”. Most of the book focuses on how to recognize that someone is struggling in these areas and then how to engage the individual before they decide it is time to move on. If someone has decided that it’s time to go, it’s very hard to retain them for an extended period of time. It’s important to address these issues before someone is so demotivated they they start to think about leaving.
I think Daniel Pink’s book Drive is even more clear explorations of the topic. He suggests that there are three (I would say four) intrinsic motivators.
- Team/Community (he lumps this in with mission)
If people feel these are violated, they become demotivated and you are at risk of losing them.
- Autonomy is destroyed by micro-management for dictates from above without explanation.
- Mastery is destroyed by asking people to spend all their time working on mundane tasks or tasks which are way beyond their capabilities.
- Mission is destroyed when people believe the company can’t make their objective or when they decide the objective isn’t work while.
- Team/community is broken when people are isolated, or when the feel their trust has been violated.
Drive also points out a final issue which motivates people to leave. Ineffective extrinsic motivation. In creative jobs, financial motivation (pay, benefits, stock) rarely bring about effective motivation, but the perception that these aren’t fair can kill someone’s motivation. In other words, if you comp is more than fair (among people, against the market) you take comp off the table as an issue. If comp is not competitive you will lose people, and if it is being used as a tool to motivate and retain people, you will likely hold on to people, but not get their best performance.