motivation barriers

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What are motivation barriers? How do you discuss motivation barriers? Can they be overcome?

When somebody fails to meet expectations—whether that be at work, in a personal relationship, or with family—it’s often due to a motivational barrier. Motivational barriers can often be overcome by providing the person with consequences and disciplinary actions if they continue to resist improvement.

Keep reading to find out how to discuss motivation barriers and overcome them.

How to Discuss Motivation Barriers

Before initiating the conversation, the authors explain that you must identify whether the other person failed to meet expectations due to a lack of motivation or a lack of ability. In this article, we’ll explore their advice on how to deal with motivational struggles and address motivation barriers.

The Importance of Relaying Consequences

The authors write that if someone fails to meet our expectations, we must explain to them the consequences because people make decisions based on the consequences they anticipate. 

If the other person doesn’t anticipate negative outcomes for neglecting to meet expectations (for example, believing that nothing “bad” will happen and they can get away with it), then they’ll likely continue to not meet expectations. On the other hand, if they foresee negative consequences happening (for example, getting in trouble, letting people down, or depreciating their reputation) they’ll most likely choose to meet expectations to avoid these outcomes.

The authors note that people are more motivated to avoid negative outcomes than they are to pursue positive outcomes. They theorize that this happens because rewards create extrinsic motivation—the desire to do something in order to achieve an external reward—which can reduce a person’s intrinsic motivation—their desire to do something well because they believe it’s important or want to do it. 

Consequently, the best way to motivate a person is to present the full range of consequences—in other words, why the task is important and why they should complete it.

Why Emphasizing Consequences Works More Than Emphasizing Rewards

In Drive, Daniel Pink seconds the authors’ argument that using rewards as motivation can decrease intrinsic motivation and in turn, high performance and creativity. However, Pink adds that in certain situations, rewards can be beneficial.

If you think using rewards would be helpful in your situation, Pink advises you only use extrinsic rewards for routine tasks. When we use rewards for routine tasks, it can motivate people without the negative consequences discussed above because routine tasks don’t usually require creativity or high-quality performance. 

Additionally, if you offer a reward, you might actually provide intrinsic motivation to complete routine tasks because it will give the other person something to look forward to, or in other words, another reason to complete the task aside from it being mandatory. 

Techniques to Explain the Consequences

The authors lay out the best ways to overcome motivation barriers and discuss consequences below:

Connect the consequences to the other person’s values. To motivate the other person to want to do what you’re proposing, help them see how their own values will be supported in the process.

Connect the short-term reward to the long-term costs. Show the other person how the immediate enjoyment they are experiencing will inevitably lead to problems in the long term.

Focus on the long-term benefits. Remind the other person that while the commitment may be annoying right now, the long-term benefit will be worth it.

Introduce the other people involved. When people make accountability errors, they often forget to consider how their decisions impact other people involved. Remind them of the stakeholders involved and the consequences these people face as a result of their actions.

Bring up the social implications. Explain to the other person how their actions are being viewed by others. For example, if someone is constantly showing up late to meetings, you can let them know that this behavior is causing other team members to think that they don’t care about the project. They probably don’t want others to think they’re apathetic, so they’re likely to try and be on time.

Connect to rewards. Using rewards typically is not the best place to start when trying to create motivation; however, it may eventually pay off to remind the other person about the benefits of keeping their promise or upholding their commitment.

How to Determine Which Consequences to Focus on

In The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin explains that people tend to fall into four categories based on how they respond to expectations. She writes that the category which the person falls into will determine what we should focus on when relaying the consequences.

The two most common categories that people fall into are Obligers (41%) and Questioners (24%). Obligers are motivated by external factors but not internal, whereas Questioners are the opposite—they’re only motivated by internal factors and their own judgment of whether or not something is really necessary. So, while all the above options that the authors recommend are motivating consequences, some will be more effective than others depending on the person.

If the person you’re having the issue with is someone who almost always meets external expectations, they’re probably an Obliger. In this case, you should probably focus on discussing the other people involved and the social implications of the failed expectation.

If the person you’re having the issue with is someone who tends to question authority and has strong personal values, they’re probably a Questioner. In this case, you should focus on connecting the consequences to their values, explaining the long-term costs and benefits, and connecting to rewards if necessary.

When Discipline Is Necessary

The authors write that if you’ve explained the consequences of the other person’s behavior but they still resist change or insist that meeting expectations isn’t necessary, it may be time to introduce discipline. To effectively discipline the other person, you must:

1) Know the procedure. Depending on the situation, it’s possible that there are certain procedures or rules that must be followed when disciplining someone else. Always check the rules and with the other people in authority before disciplining the other person, otherwise, your credibility could be undermined.

  • In an office, for example, you might need to give someone a formal warning before docking their hours. In a family unit, check with your partner before disciplining children so you’re acting as a unified force.

2) Act appropriately. Keep a somber tone—disciplining the other person is not something you should take pleasure or excitement in. Make sure the other person knows that you regret having to discipline them, but that it must be done.

3) Explain the next step. While you’re explaining the discipline they will face, be sure to include what will happen next if the person behaves this way again.

4) Be fair. Make sure that you are giving the same discipline and number of warnings to everyone in the group. If one person received two warnings and then a consequence, everyone should receive two warnings and then a consequence.

5) Hold your ground. Once you’ve delivered a consequence, don’t back down under pressure. If you retract your punishment, you will be known to make hollow promises and people won’t take you as seriously.

6) Share your coping strategy if you lack authority to discipline. If the other person is resisting but you lack the authority to discipline them, develop a coping strategy to the other person’s ill behavior and candidly share it. By candidly sharing your coping strategy to their misbehavior, you force the other person to observe the consequence of their actions.

  • For example, your business partner has been getting extremely frustrated and yelling at you every time you disagree about business decisions. After explaining the consequences and using all the techniques from this guide, your partner still insists that they can’t change. Explain to them that if they can’t change, you will have to remove yourself from the situation when they begin to get aggressive. You will leave the room and come back once they have calmed down to continue the discussion.
Motivation Barriers and How to Overcome Them

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