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DATA SANITY: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results

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What is the cost of dis-Harmony in one’s organization?

“People Want to Do More, but Work ‘Systems’ Get in the Way”

It is believed that the fate of many companies could be altered for the better if workers were more motivated. So, when things go wrong, why is the knee-jerk reaction to blame the workers for their poor attitudes and lack of work ethic? One needs to look within one’s business systems for the true causes for low motivation – and for their remedies.

Demotivators are performance inhibitors unintentionally built into the way most of us do business. They have a profound impact on performance, yet are often ignored because they insidiously creep into an organization and become part of its normal operations. A lot of the fear and anger, both expressed and repressed, rampant in organizations today are due to these demotivators. They can result in negative behavior by employees and even affect their health. Some research has shown that 84% of workers say they could perform better if they want to and 50% of workers said they put forth only enough effort to hang onto their jobs.

Too many managers underestimate the importance of what they consider minor irritations, not realizing how large these irritations loom in the subjective experience of employees. To employees stuck in the middle, these demotivators are not minor at all.

There are 21 demotivators. The list follows. The six most serious ones identified by Spitzer are denoted with “**.”

The 21 Workplace Demotivators

— Unnecessary Rules
— Unproductive Meetings
— Constant Change
— Dishonesty (Being lied to / executive “spin”)
— Withholding Information
— Discouraging Responses (to ideas)
— Capacity Underutilization (of individuals)
Being Taken for Granted**
— Overcontrol
Being Forced to Do Poor-Quality Work**
Unclear Expectations**
Poorly Designed Work**
— Lack of Follow-Up
— Internal Competition
Hypocrisy** (“Walking the talk”)
— Unfairness (Perceived preferential treatment)
— Criticism (atmosphere)
— Tolerating Poor Performance
— Management Invisibility
— Takeaways (of past entitlements / privileges)


Negative behaviors in reaction to demotivators common in workplaces cost American industry $170 billion a year through intentional slowdowns, procrastination, careless repeated mistakes, inattentiveness, unsafe behavior, absenteeism, tardiness, extended breaks, violence, and stealing (petty to major).

Using a formula developed by Spitzer to calculate the cost of demotivation in one’s organization:

Three demotivators a day per person in an organization with 100 employees working 240 days a year would be losing $1.44 million a year.

How does one rid a workplace of demotivators? There are seven strategic steps: 1) Involve key players; 2) Set realistic expectations and a long term commitment; 3) Identify top priorities; 4) Set a strategy; 5) Make a step-by-step plan; 6) Communicate; 7) Recognize improvement.

The current pace of change in organizational America as well as society in general has become a fertile breeding ground for these demotivators. Addressing them in an ad hoc fashion as in the past will no longer work.

[Taken from: Spitzer D, Supermotivation: A Blueprint for Energizing Your Organization from Top to Bottom, Amacom 1995. ISBN 0-8144-0286-0]

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