You Can’t Bribe People To Care

Over the years managing people, mentoring and coaching them I was many times confronted with a question “should I leave my current company or stay?” In my coaching capacity this always presented a bit of a challenge since when the client asks you to coach his team so they reach their full potential and you get to a point that someone on that team realizes that they are in a wrong place, it gets tricky. In my management role I would always listen and show you why to stay, however I would also do my best for you to realize where your sweet spot is.

You can’t make people to care

If you or someone on your team decides they just don’t care anymore it is usually too late to easily change their mind. I’m not saying it is impossible, but it is difficult. You can temporarily keep the person on the team by showing them what’s coming and that there still is something interesting to live for but you will struggle to make them really care. For that you would need to use the whole arsenal of weapons available to you as I will describe in a minute. You can also check out Your Heart Is Not In It Anymore.

You can’t pay people to care

Maybe not surprisingly, money are not part of the equation. Again, you can bribe people to stay with you a bit longer but you can’t bribe them into truly caring about you, the project and the company. In fact, more often than not, if someone stays only for the money chances are that they leave for more money once the opportunity shows up. What is worse, they may actually stay only because of money. In that case chances are they won’t be particularly engaged, they will worry more about their position and the bonus than about getting the job done.

You can build environment

So if you can’t make people to care and you can’t pay them to care, what can you do? Quite a bit actually. You can start with building working environment that will be difficult to leave. You can build a culture based on professional yet friendly interactions, a culture where people are encouraged to freely share information, ideas and concerns. You can train people on how to give and receive feedback so instead of gossiping about each other they will deal with problems and communication issues heads on. You can show trust to your team so they will trust you in return and you can show them that you care about their wellbeing as well as about the success of the company. For more ideas about building the right culture see The Myth Of Motivation and Now, How May I Help You?

Observe that when talking about environment I talk mostly about culture and interactions between people. It is not that much about actual physical environment. Obviously a physical space can be helpful (or damaging) to the type of culture you are trying to create. For example a culture based on cooperation and constant brainstorming of ideas will be much more difficult to establish when everyone is locked in his own room as compared to a team that shares the same space. This being said, once you provide the basic facilities that are nice and comfortable to be in your job is done. You really don’t need to provide all the perks you hear or read about from the likes of Google. In fact, one could argue that if misused (not used strategically) more perks and bigger fancier facilities may at the end work against you. You can find more about facilities related topics in Company Culture And The Role Of A Facility Manager.

You can provide vision

You’ve got the space, the culture, and now you need a reason why everyone is actually here. You need to provide a vision, a target that will align everyone’s effort. You need a basic set of rules how the team works together to achieve that vision, and you need to be able to show each and every team member how their work fits the big picture. People need to understand why they should wake up every morning and come to the office. If the sole reason is to make money then as mentioned above they don’t care about you or what you are trying to do.

The important thing here is that you can do this regardless how big team you have or where in the organizational structure the team sits. If you are a CEO, great you can do it for the whole company. If you are a team lead of ten people you can do the same even if the vision doesn’t come down from the top. You can always identify what the mission of your team is and make it appealing to them. Ideally it will be aligned with the bigger mission of the company but if that is a bit unclear you can do your best to guess and align your team with the “assumed” mission of the company, or the needs of the customers as you understand them.

You can help everyone to realize where they belong

If you show the team what you are trying to achieve and why, it will shift the conversation from “what will I get” to “how can I help”. If you have someone on the team who even knowing the vision, understanding how he or she can help, sitting in a great team that is working to get there, still cannot buy in then they probably shouldn’t be part of that team.

You need to ensure that you and your team have a mechanism how to hire and on-board great people who will fit into the culture and adopt its mission. You also need to ensure that you have a way how people who don’t fit get removed from the team. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean formal performance appraisal process. In fact, depending on the culture you are building it may be the last thing you want to do. In well-functioning team people usually realize that they don’t belong and self-select out before even the team or their boss sees that things are not working.

You, as a leader, can help people realize what their sweet spot is. The fact that someone is not performing particularly well in one position or one team doesn’t say anything about how good or bad he is. It just says that he is not suitable for that particular role. Helping people realize where they belong is one of the best and most gratifying things a leader can do since it leads to increased productivity of the team and increased happiness of individuals in question. You can read more about finding the right sweet spot for people in You’ve Got The Right Guy… In The Wrong Job.

So next time you are tempted to bribe people into staying you should consider whether they will stay because they care about you and your project or because they care about themselves. If they care only about themselves they will never be happy on your team regardless how many you through at them. In fact, they will most likely never be happy anywhere…


How do you motivate your team? Do you have some tips how to get people to care about your business?

Photo: © Figarro / Dreamstime Stock Photos

Categories: Career, Leadership

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1 reply


  1. Be A Leader Not A People Pleaser – The Geeky Leader

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