Motivation — the willingness to get the job done by starting rather than procrastinating, persisting in the face of distractions, and investing enough mental effort to succeed — accounts for 40% of the success of team projects. Yet managers are often at a loss as to how to effectively motivate uninspired employees.

Richard E. Clark, a professor emeritus of psychology and technology at the University of Southern California reviewed research on motivation, which indicated that the key is for managers to first accurately identify the reason for an employee’s lack of motivation and then apply a targeted strategy.

Carefully assessing the nature of the motivational failure — before taking action — is crucial. Applying the wrong strategy (say, urging an employee to work harder, when the reason is that they’re convinced they can’t do it) can actually backfire, causing motivation to falter further.

These reasons fall into four categories — a quartet called the motivation traps. Namely, they are:

Trap 1, Values Mismatch: I don’t care enough to do this.

Trap 2, Lack of Self-Efficacy: I don’t think I’m able to do this.

Trap 3, Disruptive Emotions: I’m too upset to do this.

Trap 4, Attribution Errors: I don’t know what went wrong with this.

Each of these four traps has distinct causes and comes with specific strategies to release an employee from its clutches. In this article, Richard E. Clark explains each trap and provides a targeted strategy to help your employees escape them.

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