When the fish in a stream are dying, biologists don't attempt to solve the problem by yanking the fish out of the stream, throwing them into a clean fish tank for an hour a day, and then pitching them back into their original ecosystem for the rest of the day.

Instead, they search to discover ...When the fish in a stream are dying, biologists don't attempt to solve the problem by yanking the fish out of the stream, throwing them into a clean fish tank for an hour a day, and then pitching them back into their original ecosystem for the rest of the day.

Instead, they search to discover the cause of the problem and identify real solutions. This includes cleaning up pollution, educating users of the stream, and securing resources to respond to the challenge. True problem solvers use both common sense and good science.

Because they recognize that the well-being of each fish relates to the health of the total community, they do whatever is necessary to restore the condition of the creek so the fish can thrive.

Regarding workplace negativity, a "no sense, no science" approach is often used. It's similar to a captain swerving a massive ship just a wee bit after he sights the tip of a giant iceberg straight ahead. A humorous speaker is hired to "lighten up" or motivate jaded and anxious employees. Workers who are openly hostile or disruptive are disciplined or referred to anger management and conflict resolution programs.

Today's epidemic of negativity at work proves that workplace anger and anxiety are often justifiable responses to unjust workplace conditions. Negativity soars when the surface symptoms of a toxic work environment are attacked but the underlying causes of employee dissatisfaction (e.g., unfair policies and procedures, pay inequities, overwork, and inadequate staffing) continue to fester.

Successful managers are aware that the health, happiness, and prosperity of the entire company is inextricably linked to the well-being of each employee. Because they recognize that success is more likely to result when management demonstrates high concern for employees as well as productivity, they treat every person with dignity and respect while challenging them to reach their full potential.

The following examples portray the effects of two dramatically different approaches.


Ronald Allen, CEO of Delta Airlines, reacted to financial disaster with a brutal downsizing campaign that chopped about one-third of the airline's workforce. The deep cuts resulted in a startling decline in customer service ratings that had once been the envy of the industry. Allen was also known for humiliating employees, and a survey revealed that his workers were skeptical, frightened, and hostile. Even though Allen's actions placed the airline in the black again, a massive exodus of talent occurred as employees resigned, and the board chose not to renew Allen's contract.


On the other hand, when Gerald Grinstein took the helm of an ailing company (Western Airlines), he spent hundreds of hours in cockpits, behind check-in counters, and in the baggage-handling pits. He got to know his employees and genuinely listened to their concerns. His impressive ability to establish rapport became invaluable. He convinced employees to agree to concessions on work rules and to take pay cuts with the promise that they would eventually have a larger stake in a healthy company. His actions catapulted the airlines into a solvent position after only two years. In fact, Grinstein sold Western Airlines to Delta for $860 million.

Grinstein's successes were repeated when he became CEO of another ailing transportation company. Burlington Northern was saddled with $3 billion of debt. To gain employee approval of cost-cutting plans, Grinstein flew a selected group of maintenance workers, administrative professionals, and train crews from all over the country to dine with him at the company's headquarters. He also rode the railroad's routes, working and talking with crews. Because he asked for and genuinely listened to the advice of employees, they felt respected and empowered, and both the company and individuals reached peak performance.


Most of the causes and costs of workplace frustration, anger, and anxiety can be prevented. In an ideal workplace, employees are internally motivated and self-regulating because they are hired with care, placed in jobs that serve them as well as the company, and supported with the resources required to accomplish their jobs.

When companies treat employees with dignity and make efforts to empower them, employee confidence, morale, and performance grow.

The best employee motivation strategy is to correct dysfunctional aspects of corporate culture while simultaneously working with individual employees who are angry or anxious.

Successful companies understand Employee Motivation 101. They nurture their workers while achieving their missions.

Below are the key components of a training plan I use when I work with managers and organizations.


__ Understand that negativity is a symptom of the unmet needs of employees.
__ Identify the root causes of problems.
__ Create a respectful environment in which each individual is valued.
__ Recognize employee accomplishments and facilitate healthy social interactions.
__ Encourage the constructive expression of negative emotions.
__ Provide a safe work environment.
__ Shed one-size-fits-all routines and work hours.
__ Empower employees with change and stress reduction skills.
__ Create a workplace filled with humor, joy, and fun.

Author's Bio: 

Visit http://www.FreeJoyOnTheJobEbooks.com and GET YOUR FREE EBOOKS: "Secrets of Happiness at Work," "Employee Engagement Made Easy," and "Get the Respect & Appreciation You Deserve Now." Doris Helge, Ph.D., is an executive coach & a corporate trainer for companies as large as Microsoft.

© 2008 This article was excerpted with permission from “Joy on the Job” by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state, "Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published in "Joy on the Job."

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