Motivating Techniques

Finding the right balance in your management style

Motivating Techniques

We belong to an industry that expects results. From the third-shift cleaner, who is expected to keep the fourth floor of the local hospital clean and sanitary, to the owner of a lucrative contract cleaning business, high expectations follow all involved in this industry every day.

Our industry shares responsibility for the health, image, and productivity of all our customers and clients. When we perform at a high level, we enjoy the benefits. When our performance is lacking, we endure the consequences.

Motivating to Achieve Results

Nothing is more important to a company’s performance than its staff. On the most basic level, there are generally two principles that motivate staff performance: fear of losing something or the opportunity of gaining something.

In the workplace, the most fundamental fear motivator is the fear of losing much needed income. There is also the fear of losing one’s dignity through reprimand or rebuke. When an employee hopes to gain something, it is often in the form of income, but can also be in the form of additional responsibility, which leads to a feeling of higher value within the company. Most employees are motivated by a combination of these factors, and a skilled manager uses both to motivate, depending on the individual and the circumstance.

Motivating with Fear

Fear as a motivator can be a powerful tool. It appeals to an individual’s instincts of survival and security and can be effective for:

  1. Quickly changing the behavior of one employee or your entire staff;
  2. Pressuring employees who are not pulling their weight, thus causing resentment within the group.

However, fear often changes behavior in a manner that is reactive and sometimes less productive. Used long term and across the board, it can build resentment for the people or situations that created it, leading to other issues such as insubordination or low morale.

Motivating with Opportunity

Opportunity as a management technique can also be powerful. It provides hope and encourages employees to take a long-term approach to their employment.

This technique usually takes longer to achieve results, but when employees are motivated by opportunity, the change in work behavior lasts longer and leads to more buy-in and loyalty to the organization.

Motivating through opportunity does not come easily to some managers. It requires much more practice, financial planning, and other types of planning. It also involves more than just the obvious, such as rewarding achievements with money or other awards, but above all, providing employees with opportunities for advancement and input on company operations. Encouraging input from employees also involves providing a certain sense of security to them that is not available in workplaces motivated through fear.

Striking a Balance

On the other hand, some managers are so averse to fear motivators that they fail to see the value in certain circumstances. For example, if some employees are performing badly and appear not to face any consequences for that behavior, it can lower the morale of your harder-working and more dedicated staff, no matter how many opportunities you provide them. The threat of job loss can be a powerful motivator in bringing the outliers around. That being said, fear, as a motivator, should be used sparingly, only when absolutely necessary, and only in the short term.

An effective cleaning organization is a collection of individuals working together toward a common goal. While knowing when and how to apply the different motivators is the key to staff performance, in the long term, nurturing and positive motivation will eventually point all the people in your organization in the same direction and performing to the highest expectations.


Posted On March 29, 2016

Kevin Keeler

Founder of Keeler Consulting

Kevin Keeler is founder of Keeler Consulting. He specializes in the development and implementation of tools, technology, and systems that provide cleanliness, cost effectiveness, and accountability. Keeler is a co-author of Behind The Broom. For more information, visit

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