ONE WOULD have to go back several generations to find national social and economic circumstances as troubling as today’s. Staying motivated is more critical and challenging than ever.
It is a good idea to have a coping strategy in place to deal with the many frustrating setbacks brought to us around the clock. Life has become an emotional roller coaster for many. But let us stay anchored in this reality: Considering the conditions of everyday life here in the United States of America, we are very blessed. While we are currently experiencing vast financial and health setbacks, the food we eat, the freedom we enjoy in speaking out and voting, the opportunities for education and growing needed skills, the ability to worship as we please, and so many other privileges in our daily walk are unmatched across the planet. The reality is, for most of us, our lives are rather abundant. This is a good time to pause and reflect.
The current state of affairs is one that puts pressure on the motivational needs identified as essential for a positive work drive. There are those who are on the front lines, working excessive and highly intensive hours. They must receive encouragement through gratitude expressed by employers as well as the beneficiaries of their labor.
Employers need to be cognizant of the fact that the children of these workers may not be able to go to day care or school at this time, and they need to be supportive and endeavor to help employees get through these trying child-care times. We, the public they are serving, can contribute support through a courteous and patient attitude when made to wait or get pre-screened before entering a building. A sincere “Thank you for your work” can also go a long way.
There are also those who have been laid off or have reduced hours. This is where people might find places to volunteer, using their skills and developing new ones. It is essential to motivation to keep growing and to be productive. An added benefit of taking an “other” focus is having the opportunity to create a bond with like-minded individuals who are eager to help. Churches and other houses of worship provide numerous avenues for efforts to meet the many needs that are out there.
The restrictions placed on our daily activities, as the government seeks to contain the spread of COVID-19, frustrate our desire to go about life freely. Of course, we can make allowances for constraints by accommodating temporary demands, which are reasonable considering the health benefits they confer. The cost of washing one’s hands repeatedly, sanitizing all surfaces, confining oneself when necessary, not making nonessential trips anywhere, etc. sure seems insignificant considering the consequences of not doing these things.
Yet, our autonomy is quenched in the process. An important ingredient in satisfying our psychological need for autonomy is taking initiatives. For example, during these tumultuous times, seeking out opportunities to help provide for the needs of others, including coworkers, friends and neighbors, would be a way of satisfying this core need.
Our motivation can also be affected when we are being challenged beyond our ability or our capacity to perform our jobs with the level of quality expected. Such an experience can cause people to feel helpless and inhibited in reaching out to meet needs. We need to feel competent to remain motivated. We can only expect to do what we are able to do. If we accept others’ pressure to exceed our limits, we become amotivated and ready to toss in the towel. To the degree managers can remain aware of the tipping point, they can reach out to ensure that employees are being cared for in a way that prevents burnout.
At a time when teamwork is critical for success, we are being told to stay socially distant. As necessary as this is, it, nevertheless, presents a hurdle to meeting our psychological need for connectedness. Video conferencing and phone conversations certainly provide a pathway to help bridge the gap, but seeking out opportunities to relate to others in a meaningful way takes some creativity.
The ability to earn a good living and expand one’s contributions at work are vital for intrinsic motivation to thrive. Regrettably, given the turmoil of the current economy, many are being displaced, and anxiety abounds. Others are being overworked and are worrying that they will contract this virus and bring it home to their families.
This is a call for us all to dig down deep and find our inner motivation. As an example, those in the health-care industry often began their careers in this sector because they were moved to care for people who were hurting. Then, there are those involved in keeping the food supply going, our police and firefighters, and many others. Still, they too have motivational needs.
Managers need to remain vigilant in order to meet those needs, as best as they can in these challenging times.
As we pause and reflect during this time, let’s consider how we, individually and collectively, can do our part to help serve, especially the most vulnerable.
This is a time for us all to set an example.