HBR 2002 - by Nigel Nicholson
The article starts off by mentioning a very valid fact about theory, i.e. motivation strategy works with only a fraction of employees and a smaller fraction of managers. Interesting enough that the author used hero like Nelson Mandelas or Winston Churchills to illustrate that exhorting managers to become one of those will get you no where. The author answered the question in the caption by saying that the question itself was wrongly asked. The fact is that those so called problem people in an organization that is taking up disproportionate amount of manager’s time can’t be motivated. ONLY the problem people THEMSELVES can.
The article used 2 examples to demonstrate typical cases of problem staff and how managers make common mistakes. Most managers would believe that motivating problem people is like selling his own idea, value and perception. It’s like if I can see he/she should see it the same way and it’s just a matter of talking to him/her again or let’s find someone who can have friendly dialogue to do the talking for me. According to the article this approach proved to be wrong and in most cases you’ll only get “sure, boss” and the problem keeps repeating itself over time. It is an impossible goal for the managers because changing people’s character is impossible. Change comes from within.