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Don't Let a Nodding Dog Bring Down Your Company Morale

Clare Hopping

David Patrick/flickr David Patrick/flickr

A happy worker is a productive worker – that’s the manager’s mantra, and with good reason.

Research conducted by the University of Warwick confirms that employees who work in conditions where their well-being is nurtured are 12% more productive than their less comfortable counterparts.

But, although compliance is generally considered an indicator of satisfaction, it’s becoming more and more apparent that outwardly agreeable attitudes could be concealing feelings of dissatisfaction. Instead of being shared with management and resolved, these doubts are whispered to co-workers and spread around the office to the detriment of company morale.

Nodding dogs, as this new breed of employee has been dubbed, are of growing concern to managers striving to maintain a positive office atmosphere. While their performance may be satisfactory, their lack of motivation prevents them from excelling, and their influence in and around the office is generally negative.

So how do you root out the negativity in your office and keep your employees engaged and satisfied in their work? These tips will help you cultivate a level of positivity in your workforce that’s guaranteed to increase productivity.

Communication = Motivation

As with everything, communication is key. The biggest problem with a nodding dog is that, at first contact, they will appear to be happy with their job their lack of motivation is so severe that they will refrain from being proactive and upfront about their misgivings.

Therefore, a diligent manager will need to consider more unconventional methods of communication. Perhaps there’s a colleague that might be able to shed light on his or her co-worker’s grievances or complaints.

The key to unlocking communication routes with an employee who is reluctant to speak freely is prior planning. Try to anticipate the challenges that may be frustrating your employee, be it a problem with the team dynamic or the introduction of a new technology, and plan specific questions that will allow you to understand the root causes of the issue.

Once you’ve established an understanding of your employee’s frustrations, you can work to remove these obstacles so that positivity and productivity can be reinstated.

Chris Potter/flickr Chris Potter/flickr

Moving forward

It’s easy for managers to jump to the conclusion that financial incentives will boost motivation, but research shows that job satisfaction is a far more effective motivator. The negative impact of prizes on performance is known as the overjustification effect.

According to the University of Stavanger, the term was coined by Sam Glucksberg, who conducted an experiment that proved the introduction of incentives actually reduces an employee’s focus.

Instead of using incentives, work on removing any causes of frustration and offering consistent recognition of your employees’ hard work. Positive affirmation is often far more effective than financial reward.

Where to Draw the Line

That said, it’s no easy task to convert a nodding dog into a willing employee, even when you’re armed with an overview of the issues affecting them. This is where managers need to weigh the cost of motivating the employee against the potential value of the employee to the company.

More and more, motivation training is being outsourced at high costs, so the importance of this decision is steadily deepening.

If you see traits of a nodding dog emerging in a new employee, it’s probably fairer to end the working relationship sharply, rather than to waste valuable time struggling through the processes outlined above towards an uncertain outcome. As for long-term employees, it might be worth working through their problems to improve their mindset, rather than cutting them loose at the first hurdle.

Clare Hopping

Clare Hopping has been involved in the recruitment of both full-time employees and freelance staff for ten years. She specialises in recruiting staff via social media and digital platforms.