2 Steps Forward and 3 Steps Back Make Jack a Very Dull Boy

In our last blog we found that what we know isn’t necessarily translating into what we do in the workplace.  The research we looked at last time proves that we have to close the gap between what we know about motivating employees and what we actually practice.

With over 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees, Amabile and Kramer discovered that progress and setbacks influence all three aspects of inner work life: 

  1. Emotions are more upbeat, joyful and full of pride on progress days; but frustration, fear and sadness occurred on setback days
  2. Motivations are more internal and based on interest in and enjoyment of the work itself on progress days; on setback days employees are less intrinsically motivated and less responsive to recognition, with feelings of apathy and are less inclined to work at all.
  3. Perceptions on progress days were more positive towards the challenge of work, team support and positive relationships among all colleagues; on setback days employees found less positive challenge in their work, less autonomy, less supportive colleagues and insufficient resources.

Fortunately the progress days are achieved with small wins that have a surprisingly tremendous impact on inner work life.  These minor milestones often evoke outsize positive reactions.  28% of the progress reported had a minor impact on the project but had a major impact on people’s feelings about it.  Progress events that often go unnoticed are crucial to overall performance.  Conversely, small setbacks can have a disproportionately large impact on inner work life and can even have a more powerful impact than an equally significant element of progress.

In our next blog we will look at how to support our employees’ daily progress with catalysts and nourishers – seemingly Management 101 fodder, but shockingly overlooked.



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