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Reigniting Passion for Work: Use Company Culture to Combat Fatigue

By Carole Wehn

Zoom fatigue. COVID fatigue. Just plain old fatigue.

Even if you’re a senior leader or the founder of your own company, you’ve experienced it. Some days, you feel like you can’t do another meeting or get on another plane. Yet you need to pull it together and manage to keep your team engaged as well.

Employees’ energy and passion for their work have been declining since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020.  Workers have endured unique challenges such as remote work schedules, children learning at home, and lack of social interaction with friends and family. Employee shortages and longer hours exacerbate these stress-inducers.

The antidote to fatigue brought on by these issues is reigniting the passion for your chosen work. Passion is the driving force that enables us to bring our best every day.

Your employees have chosen their career paths based on how they want to spend their time, what interests them, and their talents. These are their passions, so tapping into your team’s passions is not achieved by days off, happy hours, or free lunches.

Following are three ways to spark the passion that initially engaged them:

  1. Keep the work interesting
  2. Play to everyone’s strengths
  3. Make everyone feel appreciated

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Keep the Work Interesting

Thomson Reuters published a list of 20 ways their employees are motivated by their work. Would your employees say the same things as some of their staff?

  • Making an impact in this industry and customers’ lives is motivating.
  • I love thinking up fresh solutions or designs.
  • I’m challenged and at the same time encouraged to find creative ways to solve problems.
  • The work we do is complex and never-ending, but every call or meeting, even the tough ones, is always dotted with a personal connection, laughter, and a bit of fun.
  • My colleagues are a motivation to come to work every day as they consistently try to challenge the way things are done.

People want to come to work when they know they will have something to do that engages and interests them. Some employees want to choose the projects on which they will work. Some want to decide for themselves how they will approach their tasks.

So, empower and trust your employees to complete their assignments. Encourage creative problem-solving when they encounter problems. Even the most mundane tasks can be more engaging when employees control their work.

Giving your team autonomy doesn’t mean that targets and objectives aren’t necessary. Your team must have clear goals. They need to understand the priorities. Yet you can give your team some say in how they reach their goals.

Some employees like to know that they are serving the greater good. Granted, it’s not always clear how a job or industry benefits society. But giving your very best to make the company succeed and satisfy customers’ needs is also vital. So help every employee see how their job contributes to the bigger picture.

Other employees feel connected to their teammates and don’t want to let them down. They recognize that they owe it to one another and the company to bring the best they have every day. They find energy in the camaraderie and a workplace that interjects fun into everyday operations.

The Center for Creative Leadership found that:

“People who are happiest and most energized and engaged are doing work that aligns with what motivates them. Managers and employees work together to ‘sculpt’ or fine-tune roles or tasks so they are more aligned with motivations and passions.”

Determine your team members’ passions and tap into them to drive engagement.

Play to Everyone’s Strengths

Competence drives motivation. A blog post by David Burkus, part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, notes,

“Competence speaks to our natural human desire to be learners, to be growing and feeling like we’re making progress… Anything that helps individuals feel they are moving toward mastery leverages competence as a motivation.”

When we’re passionate about something, and we’re good at it, it makes it easier to keep going despite obstacles. We want to learn more; we want to take our performance to the next level. Therefore, it’s important to provide employees with the right kind of encouragement.

Burkus notes that “constructive or negative criticism has been found in numerous studies to decrease a person’s feelings of competence, and thus reduce motivation.” He advises meaningful recognition of employee successes to balance constructive feedback.

Author Marcus Buckingham addresses the concepts of mastery and passion in his book Now, Discover Your Strengths. Rather than telling employees what they need to do better, he advises helping employees grow in the areas where they are already strong.  

For example, don’t tell an employee they are a weak public speaker and need to improve when they don’t have a knack for it. Conversely, if someone is a good public speaker, give them opportunities to use and develop that skill.

Buckingham writes,

“A strength is more appetite than ability, and it’s that appetite that drives us to want to do it again; practice more; refine it to perfection. The appetite leads to the practice, which leads to performance. Leveraging your strengths and managing around your weaknesses isn’t just about making yourself feel better. It’s about conditioning yourself to contribute the best of yourself, every day. It’s about performance.” 

Encouraging your team to play to their strengths will reignite their passion for their work and drive higher performance.

Make Everyone Feel Appreciated

Acknowledgment and appreciation can reinvigorate teams lacking energy and passion.

Meaningful appreciation should not be limited to celebrating the landing of a big new client or the launch of a major innovation. It can be as simple as letting your employees know that you see their skills improving. It might be thanking them for picking up the extra work from colleagues who are out sick.

Ensure that it is specific and shows how their efforts have helped achieve goals. Avoid the “everybody gets a trophy” approach or the generic “good job.”

Managerial coach Beth Miller advises in an Entrepreneur post,

“When you practice encouragement, don’t keep it behind closed doors. Take the opportunity during meetings to practice encouragement so others can learn the art and science of it. Share their small wins with other team members.”

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Show team members that expressing thanks and showing recognition are everyone’s responsibility. Acknowledgment and appreciation should flow in all directions, not just from management to employees.

An undeniable part of motivating staff is paying them what they are worth. Now that open positions outpace interested applicants, workers have unprecedented leverage over their desired salary and working conditions.

A Gallup article asserts,

“The majority of actively disengaged workers are likely to bolt for almost any raise, while the majority of engaged workers would require more than a 20% raise to leave their current company.”

Gallup wrote this in 2016, so the 20 percent figure may not resonate with everyone. But money has never been the determining factor in retaining good people. This is true even in these times of the Great Resignation.

Gallup further notes,

“Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. By ensuring employees’ basic needs are met — for example, that they have a manager who encourages their development and focuses on their strengths — leaders create a culture of engagement in which employees are more likely to want to stay, even if a more lucrative offer is on the table.”

People want to come to work every day and perform at their highest level when their manager is supportive, coaches them, and advocates for them.

A Word about Zoom Fatigue

Video chat fatigue can challenge even the most passionate employee. Blogger Adi Gaskell notes in a Forbes article that seeing colleagues up close and having to make constant eye contact is unnatural and draining. We’re not usually that close to others when we meet in person, and our eyes wander more during conversations. In addition, we’re not used to looking at ourselves all the time.  He observes,

“We’ve taken something that is largely a highly natural affair and made it something that requires a great deal of thought. Not only are we digesting what others are saying but we’re also ruminating on how we appear, whether we’re on mute, and how to turn subconscious signals, such as affirmation of agreement, into something communicable via video.”

Fortunately, Gaskell offers some suggestions for overcoming video chat fatigue:

  • Take your conferencing platform off full-screen mode, thereby shrinking your colleagues’ face size
  • Use a “hide self” option on your conferencing platform
  • Take yourself offscreen temporarily and get up and move a bit

A Culture of Passion

One of the Thomson Reuters employees best summed up their motivation for work this way:

“You thrive when you are part of an upbeat, supportive environment that gets you ‘in the zone’ that you need to be in so that you succeed.”

Does your company provide that kind of positive culture?

At CultureWise, we help clients develop and implement a winning company culture. We encourage them to create a series of desired behaviors for their employees. One of the behaviors our clients often choose is to “Bring It Every Day,” which we define this way:

Have a passion for what we do and be fully engaged. Make the most of each day by approaching every task with energy, focus, purpose, and enthusiasm Work with a sense of urgency to get things done.

CEO and author David Friedman’s book Culture by Design outlines our approach to culture implementation. One of the implementation steps is to reinforce behaviors through rituals. Rituals include giving examples of what the behavior looks like in practice.

For example, we provide ways to coach your employees on how to “bring it” to work every day, even on those days that you’re not “feeling it.”

Want to learn more? The CultureWise website is full of resources on company culture and implementation. Explore the options, and then connect with one of our representatives to learn how CultureWise can jumpstart your company’s culture. And be sure to sign up for a complimentary subscription to our all-things-culture newsletter, Culture Matters.

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