Tara Peters Video Transcript



 [ Dr. Tara Peters ]:

Five hundred million dollars — that's a half-billion dollars, and yes, that's the number that you see on your screen.

There's a crisis that's plaguing business, and it's costing half a billion dollars every single year.

The crisis is connected in part to employees who have lost their motivation and are therefore no longer engaged in the workplace.

And for more than 20 years, Gallup has been examining the impact of employee engagement on business and has determined that there is a half-billion dollar cost to business.

So I think that you'll agree with me that that's a really big number.

And so let's drill down on that number a little bit more to better understand it, by taking a look at a miracle — a miracle at Morehouse.


So many of you may be familiar with the story of Robert Smith, billionaire investor and philanthropist, who is the CEO for Equity Investment.

And what he did at the commencement address in 2019, was to shock the class of 2019 at Morehouse College.

And Robert Smith announced that he was going to pay off all of the student loan debt for the class of 2019.

And then he upped the ante later and said, "Not only will I pay off the student loans for the students, but I'll also pay off the parents'."

So that total cost was going to be $34 million for the class of 2019.

So you get your student loans repaid, you get your student loans repaid.

So I want you to imagine for a moment that $500 million — and not only can we pay off the class of 2019 at Morehouse, but we can pay off the class of 2020, 2021, 2022, all the way to 2032, and still have a cool $20 million or so remaining.


So when we think about the impact of that half-billion dollar crisis, it is in fact significant what Gallup has found in relation to employee engagement.

And so let's look a little more closely at Gallup's research on employee engagement.

Seventy percent of all U.S. employees are disengaged or actively disengaged in their jobs.

So let's take a look at your row.

We're going to count down your row. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

On your row, seven out of the ten people are disengaged or actively disengaged at work.

So that means on your row, only 30 percent are actively engaged.

So let's better understand what it means to be actively engaged. These employees have a profound connection to the organization. They're passionate about the work.

They're driving innovation in organizations.

That's 30 percent. The other 70 percent, the second group, is disengaged. They're checked out, sleepwalking through the day.

That's not any of you guys, I know.

But, they are doing just enough to get by.


And then the third group is actively disengaged.

They're not just unhappy at work, they're busy acting out their unhappiness in terms of deviant workplace behavior.

Seventy percent of the U.S. workforce is either disengaged or actively disengaged at work.

And if that wasn't staggering enough, it's shocking to think that that figure has remained relatively unchanged for almost 20 years.

That's two decades, people. We just started a new one.

So for twenty years, 70 percent of the U.S. workforce has either been disengaged or actively disengaged at work.


And so you can imagine that, as a business school professor at Northwood University for the last several years, I was curious.

Because I was hearing stories from students over and over again in our MBA program, talking about how they had lost their internal drive.

They had lost their internal motivation. They were disconnected from the organization.

They had lost their zeal and their love for their work.

And not only was I hearing this, but my colleague, Dr. Cathy Bush, was also hearing similar stories in her classes as well.

And so we decided to undertake research to better understand what was causing our students that we had in our MBA classes to speak to this point around losing their motivation.

And what it led us to was research around demotivation.

And you might be thinking to yourself, "Well, isn't demotivation just the opposite of motivation? Isn't it just the flip side of motivation?"

And the short answer is, "No."

So while demotivation borrows from the research on motivation, it's different in part because demotivation is driven by different factors.

So let me give you an example of that.

We know from the research, that with knowledge workers, money is not a strong motivator.

However, if it's perceived that the pay is given unfairly, or if the practices around compensation are not transparent, that can become a strong demotivator.


And so, as Cathy and I were engaged in this research that also led to a book called "The Demotivated Employee," we identified five sources of demotivation.

And while the research — the list is not exhaustive, it is reflective of what we found in the literature and also in our professional experiences.

And so to help you to better understand these five sources, I'm going to talk about two of them tonight, and I'm going to use stories.


Now here's a disclaimer.

I have changed the names to protect the innocent.

I've also changed identifying details to protect the innocent. However, the heart of the stories remains intact.

And so I'm going to share the first story with you, about Sandra, to share with you the first source of demotivation, and then I'm going to talk to you about the second source of demotivation by sharing my story with you.


So Sandra was a regional marketing director for a major textbook publishing company.

And it was a brand new role for Sandra. She was so excited about the new opportunity.

She had a wonderful sales team that she was going to be working with, and she was excited about the pursuit of the goals that her team was going to pursue.

And even though the goals were really aggressive, Sandra knew that she had a wonderful team to work with, and she was looking forward to it.

And Sandra worked for James. He was an executive VP.

And James had a long tenure with the company and had been really successful in his roles.

But James was a bully.

He was known for belittling and demeaning employees in order to get what he wanted.

And so the relationship between Sandra and James started out well.

However, over time, the relationship began to deteriorate, because James blamed Sandra for the team's inability to achieve the sales goals.

And so over time, Sandra began to pull back.

She was no longer as engaged and committed in meetings in terms of contributing.

In fact, she began to skip meetings.

Her colleagues began to notice that she was losing weight.

And Sandra also began to suffer from migraines and sleeplessness.

And so one Monday evening, Sandra sent a text message to her team announcing that effective immediately, she was resigning her position because her job was making her sick, literally.

Stressful work for short periods of time can in fact motivate us in terms of achieving goals, getting to deadlines.

However, when stress persists for long periods of time or returns frequently, it can cause us to lose our motivation, and it can be exacerbated when we have a leader who doesn't recognize the stressful conditions and to help us to deal with them.


So our second source of demotivation, we're going to hear from Mike.

So Mike was the VP of operations for a national sporting goods chain, and they were located in Nashville.

And in that region, there were six stores, and there were managers that were responsible for each store.

And so on a weekly basis, Mike would meet with the team and ask for their input.

However, the managers quickly learned that Mike wasn't really interested in their opinion.

It was really just lip service.

He wanted to meet with them to share what he'd already decided and for them to just agree.

Also, the managers were not empowered to make any significant decisions.

They had to run everything, and I do mean everything, by Mike in advance.

And so this led to a lack of trust on the part of the managers because they were not empowered to do anything of any consequence.

And over time, this contributed to high turnover.

But Mac never considered — or Mike never considered — that it was his leadership style that was actually causing the managers to leave.

He always blamed them.

He said, "Oh, they're just slackers. They just can't deal with my high expectations."

But in reality, Mike was the problem.

And in fact, we know from additional research from Gallup that 75 percent of employees leave their manager, not their job.

And so after hearing all this, you may be saying, "My goodness is there any good news?"

And yes, there is some good news.

There are specific steps that leaders can take to actually address demotivation in the workplace.

One, to prevent it from occurring in the first place, or if it happens, to repair it more quickly.


And so in our research, we found six tangible behaviors, tangible behaviors that leaders can engage in, and the first one is to provide effective feedback and coaching.

Do that on an ongoing basis, not just at the annual performance review.

Remove obstacles.

Employees have barriers that they're trying to navigate. Help them to work around those barriers or to remove them entirely.

Invite input and opinions. Don't be like Mike, and do it for the sake of doing it, to say you checked the box.

Actually be genuine in inviting that input, and when you can't move forward with that feedback, go back to your people and let them know why.

Communicate frequently and clearly. So keep channels of communication open, so that two-way dialog can happen in your organization.

Explain the "why." Cast a clear vision, so the people in your organization know where they're going, and then they can align their day-to-day activities and priorities with that vision.

And then finally, develop a range of leadership styles. It can't be "one size fits all."

You need to learn to flex your leadership style to match the situation.


And so at the beginning of this talk tonight, we explored the impact of the $500 million crisis that's plaguing business.

I want you to imagine a world where we've been able to drive that cost to zero.

How can we do that?

Well, we can start by no longer demotivating employees.

And in the words of the great philosopher Yoda, "Do or do not. There is no try."

So let's stop it.

Let's stop demotivating employees.

And not only will we make a difference in the lives of employees, but we'll also help business to solve the billion-dollar crisis that's been plaguing companies for far too long.

Thank you.

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