Motivating cynics is almost impossible. You may temporarily spur them to try harder or care about their work, but your efforts may soon fizzle.
It’s better to shut down cynics and make them true believers. Deliver these three benefits and you’ll sweep away their scorn:
1. Equality. After making an unpopular but necessary decision, you want employees to say, “I don’t like it, but at least it’s fair.”
By treating people with respect and listening to their concerns and objections with an open mind, you motivate them to think for themselves and look for ways to contribute. Make sure to pay equal attention to everyone on your team rather than play favorites—and don’t pit people against each other.
2. Meaning. Help staffers connect their efforts to a greater good and model the kind of enthusiasm that you want them to feel. Your passion for your organizational mission can prove contagious.
Consider how penmanship guru Austin Norman Palmer (1860-1927) motivated instructors to teach his handwriting style. If he lacked pen and ink, he’d grab a piece of straw and demonstrate his “Palmer method” of script—with his own blood!
3. Collaboration. When employees rely on each other for their success, there’s less room for cynicism to fester. Peers who work well together are too busy to gripe. Plus, they fear letting down co-workers—and incurring the group’s wrath as a result.
Motivate people to fuel each other’s excellence by assigning goal-oriented projects and rewarding team accomplishments. Create opportunities for workers to bask in collective glory rather than compete for your praise.
In attempting to lift cynics out of their torpor, dignify the lessons they’ve drawn from their experience. Perhaps they’ve been burned after making sacrifices for the team’s good. Reassure them that their team-first attitude will advance their interest.