The Tricky Business of Motivating Employees - Part 4


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We are all aware that businesses must have a viable service or product to thrive. We also know that employees with talent and experience in their respective fields are necessary for a business to succeed. It is equally important that the members of the organization be prepared to carry out their responsibilities effectively. Otherwise, the most brilliant business concept and all the professional talent in the world can be undermined by day to day operational difficulties, which are a product of the behaviors of members of the workgroup.

With attention to the behavioral and interpersonal functioning of employees and work teams, many problems can be prevented or resolved before reaching critical levels. Conversely, the organization with motivated, cooperative and dedicated employees has the best chance of reaching its goals.

All too often, therapists hear their clients refer to work as a “burdensome commitment" that they dread, an “obstacle" in the way of their enjoying themselves more fully, or a necessary evil that they must tolerate.

The employee who continues at work for an extended period of time with this attitude is heading for trouble on multiple levels. This article will address some of the pitfalls of remaining in a job with a high level of dissatisfaction and will look at some steps that can be taken to get work back into sync with overall life goals.


The discontented employee will most likely stop performing at his/her usual levels. As a result, the employee will begin to receive feedback from supervisors and coworkers about deteriorating performance or an uncooperative work attitude. As supervisors begin to “counsel" the employee and coworkers begin to react to the employee's decreased commitment to work goals, a problematic cycle can begin.

This cycle often consists of the already conflicted employee focusing on the negative feedback being received, instead of his/her original dissatisfaction with the job. Self-esteem then takes a dive, and work behavior can become even more problematic. Under this growing pressure at work, it becomes even more difficult for the individual to focus on a plan of action to break the cycle.


As the work dilemma continues to unfold, the employee has less energy to commit to personal relationships. Family, friends and significant others may begin to complain to him/her about decreased emotional availability or increased irritability. The employee may withdraw or become even more argumentative with others (often complaining he/she is not receiving enough personal support through the work crisis). By the time most families approach a counselor, they are having difficulties tracing the conflict back to its source. The personal crisis now begins to feel like it has a life of its own.


If this cycle of misery is allowed to continue, it is likely that physical signs of stress will begin to appear. Headaches, muscle aches, digestive problems, sleep disturbance and excessive fatigue are some of the more common symptoms.

If the symptoms above are not addressed, it is possible that additional physical problems will surface that signal that the individual's immune response is being significantly compromised. Opportunistic infections and diseases such as arthritis and cancer, now have more of a chance of attacking the body. Cardiac functioning may also be affected, resulting in hypertension and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

If sleep and appetite disturbances are marked, this often indicates that a depressive disorder is present. This is a common finding in individuals with chronically stressful lives and poor self-esteem.


If the cycle is not arrested, the individual may also add additional problems to the mix. As the employee searches for relief, he/she may self- medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, overspending or other addictive or compulsive behaviors.

Another all too common response is to self-sabotage by inviting demotion or termination (These maneuvers are usually not totally conscious moves). Problems such as chronic absence or lateness may surface, or the employee may begin to make errors that are not typical for him/her. Other self-sabotaging maneuvers might include breaking safety or confidentiality rules. While the employee may be driven to these behaviors by a desire to “get rid" of the work dilemma, such behaviors are self-sabotage as they will certainly complicate the problem - immensely.

Roberta Cohen, LCSW is a grief counseling expert that provides
critical incident stress managment services , management
consultations, corporate trainings, coaching and customized
counseling services for corporate executives and their families.

For businesses or families requesting grief counseling or
critical incident stress management response, please visit:


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