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Chapter 25. Redefining People Problems > Motivating People to Change

Motivating People to Change

The most commonly heard complaints from managers are that employees have a “bad attitude” or are “just not motivated.” When problems with others are defined in these ways, a successful win-win resolution is highly unlikely. Why? Because from all the research into personality, attitudes, and motivation over many decades, we know the following generally to be true:

Personality is developed during the early years of childhood, and most experts in psychology and psychiatry agree that personality does not change once it is formed. Even with extensive psychotherapy, people do not change their basic personalities. These core characteristics are like the foundation of a house, which can be built upon through life—adding rooms or remodeling—but the foundation remains untouched.

Attitudes reflect our core beliefs and values. Attitudes can change when a person’s underlying beliefs and values change, but this generally happens only when the person decides to change, not when someone else attempts to change them. Change is most often prompted by a traumatic life event such as divorce, a major illness or accident, the death of a loved one, or a job loss.

Motivation is a process of attempting to satisfy unsatisfied needs. A satisfied need does not produce motivated behavior. Offering a banana split to motivate you will be ineffective if you are feeling stuffed from eating a large meal. Some motivational needs are basic and predictable: the need to survive, to be safe from harm, to have enough to eat and drink. Other needs are unique to the individual and are much less predictable.


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