Executive Coaching Articles

Stay Motivated At Work

No raise + no promotion = no motivation

A lot of my clients work at fast moving, high growth companies. They’ve come to expect annual raises, be promoted, continue to grow their careers and have countless opportunities. This has been the culture for years. However, in today’s economy, raises and promotions are few and far between.

Even though many say “I should be thankful I have a job and grateful I get a paycheck,” it’s not how they actually feel. Fact is, they feel guilty they are worrying about raises and promotions while others are far less fortunate.

This situation can be very difficult, especially for people who have wanted (and deserved) a raise or promotion and now it’s going to take even longer to get one. They feel it might never happen and they start to lose all hope.

The challenge for my clients (and I am sure many of you) is how to stay motivated at work when you have fewer incentives. Here are six strategies that can help you stay motivated at work:

  1. Take comfort in the things you DO control. Even though you may feel you have no control and circumstances are controlling you, there are many things about your job that you can “own” and feel good about. Make a list of those things and set objectives for each. Then, when you reach those objectives, find ways to celebrate or reward yourself.
  2. Set new, personal work-related goals. Forget about salary increases and promotions for the next six months (or until the economy improves). Instead, identify three or four new, personal goals you can achieve. Consider training opportunities or skills that will make you more marketable. For example, invest and learn how to use your new iPhone or Blackberry.
  3. Volunteer for a challenging project or developmental opportunity. Look for an assignment that can help you break out of the everyday routine. Consider projects totally outside your area of expertise, yet something you feel you could add value to. These can energize and motivate and, once successfully completed, can be added to your resume.
  4. Focus on other motivators. Make a list of five or six things that you find most enjoyable about your job or a job you’ve held in the past. Think about things that “get your juices flowing.” These could include mentoring a junior employee, giving presentations, organizing a special event, representing your group in an interdepartmental committee, etc. Then look for ways to add more of these opportunities into your daily routine.
  5. Position yourself for better times. While others in the organization are playing the “woe is me” card, consider this an opportunity to get more visibility and build your reputation as a trusted, positive team player. It’s only a matter of time before promotions and raises will be restored. You’ll want your name to be on the top of the list.
  6. Look for motivational opportunities outside of work. While your work life might seem at a standstill, don’t let this spill over into your personal life. This is an excellent time to restore balance to your life. Train for a 10k, and take your family or friends to an outdoor festival. Maybe you’ll realize that raises and promotions aren’t as important as you once thought they were.

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Recently, two clients wanted to talk to me about their careers. Not surprisingly, both work in organizations that are downsizing. The first client (I’ll call him Bill) heard rumors there might be another round of layoffs in the next four to six weeks. He wanted some advice on how to avoid being a casualty. Bill was essentially looking for survival strategies.

My second client (I’ll call her Carla) was faced with a similar situation. There was also a lot of uncertainty in her company. But Carla had a completely different mindset. Her question to me was, “How can I take advantage of downsizing to advance my career?

If your company is reducing staff, I encourage you to ask the same question. Turbulent times create opportunities. There are more problems to solve, risks to take and challenges to overcome. This is fertile ground for future leaders.

As a wise sage once said, “Character isn’t made during a crisis, it is only exhibited.” And if you’re having trouble staying motivated during these difficult times, the above tips will help you stay motivated at work and provide you the fuel to keep you going.