The Importance of Being Self-Motivated at Work

Self-motivated employee, having a cup of coffee while reading emails.

We all know what it feels like to lack motivation. Whether you’re struggling to cut carbs, organize your garage, or finish a project, you just can’t seem to find the drive. Unfortunately, many people feel this way about their jobs, and it can have a negative impact on the company as a whole.

That’s why being self-motivated at work can be such an asset. Learn what self-motivation looks like and how to foster it in your employees.

Self-Motivation Helps Business Thrive

Every entrepreneur knows that being a self-starter is absolutely critical to breathing life into their ideas, going from concept to reality. The same can be said for self-employed and contract workers, since they don’t have a boss breathing down their neck and keeping them on task.

If you’re a manager, then you’re acutely aware of the value that self-motivated employees bring to the workplace. Without the constant need for pep talks, they lift up your team’s performance and allow you to direct your attention to where it’s needed the most.

Being self-motivated at work means looking beyond the bare minimum of what’s required. These types of workers know what their goals are, strive to find more efficient ways of getting things done, and don’t require constant handholding or reminders about what tasks need to be completed.

This, in turn, is good for business. Goals are often met or exceeded, employees are more engaged in their work, and new goals can be set. This increased engagement leads to higher employee retention, productivity, and sales. And all of this is good for a company’s bottom line and growth potential.

The Self-Motivated Perspective

It’s evident that being self-motivated at work leads to greater employee satisfaction and better business, but how do you get there? Psychology Today outlines two ways people motivate themselves:

  1. Ought self-guide. This focuses on duties, safety, and security. It motivates people primarily through fear of falling short and disappointing others. This perspective tends to include a greater amount of self-criticism.
  2. Ideal self-guide. This approach aims more at aspirations and a desire to accomplish things, rather than avoiding negative outcomes. It lends itself more to creating new opportunities and seeking positive outcomes.

The problem with the “ought self-guide” (“I ought to do X,Y, and Z”) is that its motivation through fear, anxiety, and avoiding negative outcomes can stifle creativity and create unnecessary levels of stress. Employees who are stressed-out typically don’t perform at their highest potential and often burn out.

The latter form of self-motivation, focused on goals and aspirations rather than fear and duty, results in higher levels of happiness, satisfaction, and confidence. The key, however, is to base these aspirations on realistic goals; otherwise, employees may set themselves up for disappointment.

How to Foster Self-Motivation in Your Employees

So, how can you help your employees self-motivate in a positive, productive way? If you micromanage your employees, second-guess or demean their value to the organization, and fail to explain the larger context of their contributions, they won’t be in the right mindset. If you want self-motivated employees, you need to understand that people are generally motivated by three main things:

  1. Knowing where they fit into the larger picture.
  2. Feeling competent in what they do.
  3. Having a good degree of autonomy.

Otherwise, they’re just doing what they think they “ought” to do to avoid getting reprimanded. Your employees will have to generate motivation within themselves, of course, but there’s a lot you can do as a manager to prime the pump. So, if you’re striving for employees who enjoy being self-motivated at work, here are a few tips:

  • Ensure your employees grasp the bigger picture and their role in it. Explain how processes flow together and work toward the end objective.
  • Provide adequate training and recognize individual achievements regularly. Periodic reviews are a good time to acknowledge past success and discuss future goals, but sometimes it’s better to address successes as they occur.
  • Don’t micromanage—discuss what needs to be accomplished and then step back and let your well-trained employees take ownership of how they get it done. If they fail, encourage them to learn from their mistakes.
  • Help them establish quarterly and/or annual goals. These could include the development of new skills or capabilities that require a certain amount of self-discipline to achieve.
  • Be sure to reward effort, even if it doesn’t produce the intended result. A self-motivated employee who pursues an idea that ultimately doesn’t pay off may strike gold next time. However, you still need to ensure they’re using their time wisely.

It’s also important to seek out new recruits who already have a track record for being self-motivated at work. Some of the best ways to find workers with this mindset is through employee referrals, behavioral interview questions during the interview, and even anything you’re able to glean from their social media profiles. If they’re self-motivated outside of the office, then they’re likely the same at work as well.

Elevate Results by Cultivating Self-Motivated Employees

Neither micromanaging nor an “anything goes” approach will yield good results with employees. The ideal is a balanced management style that stresses the importance of being self-motivated at work, along with some necessary direction and supervision. Our free expert resources will help you hire and cultivate a staff that’s ready to take your company to the next level.