The psychological concept of self-determination theory has been widely studied and practiced in academics and science, but it also has several useful strategies to offer leaders in the workplace. In a nutshell, self-determination theory refers to the three fundamental psychological needs that humans need fulfilled to be motivated to perform.
Since motivation should be a concern for any employer or manager, here are the 3 best strategies for improving your employees’ motivation and determination to perform their duties as efficiently as possible:
Let Their Competence Shine
One of the first components of self-determination theory is that of competence, or feeling passionate and qualified to perform a given task. Competence involves nurturing your employees’ intrinsic motivation, which refers to a psychological drive grounded in a person’s genuine enjoyment of something, as opposed to feeling forced to do something by external factors (e.g., a micromanaging boss, fluctuating deadlines, overbearing colleagues, commissions, etc.).
To help your team feel more competent in their roles in the workplace, be sure to praise them on occasion (instead of never-ending demands), acknowledge moments when they bring up good ideas, and encourage them to use their critical and creative thinking skills when developing new solutions to problems faced by the company or your customers.
Relate to Them
The second psychological component of self-determination theory is relatedness, or feelings of affiliation between an employee and their employer. Relatedness comes from the human connection between a supervisor and their subordinate, where they feel as though you genuinely care about their needs and goals in the workplace.
To establish greater relatedness between yourself and your employees, focus on being more empathetic when mistakes happen (zero tolerance for small errors will likely lead to higher turnover rates), socialize more with your team outside of working hours to foster a tight-knit professional family, and thank them when they help out, even if that’s an expected part of their job (people like to feel appreciated!).
Give Them Greater Autonomy
The final component of self-determination theory involves autonomy, or the feeling of independence and control over one’s own assignments and tasks. Bosses who micromanage everything are likely to drive employees away from the company, create a stressful workplace climate, and decrease their employees’ willingness to try potentially more efficient solutions in fear of deviating from the standard way of doing things.
Alternatively, you could help your employees feel more autonomous by encouraging them to use their own judgment to make smaller, less consequential decisions without always referring to you and check in less frequently with employees who consistently perform well without much external pressure.
Altogether, the 3 fundamental psychological needs – competence, relatedness, autonomy – are crucial for workplace leaders to develop for both themselves and their teams, so don’t ignore the potential benefits of enacting the principles of self-determination theory in your own office.