Personal Climbing Mountain at Sunrise

Keeping your motivation if you haven’t had regular feedback

Keeping your motivation if you haven’t had regular feedback

Posted on June 2020 By Nicholas Farley

Personal Climbing Mountain at Sunrise

Working remotely means to some extent a degree of physical distance from your colleagues and managers, and this requires some getting used to. 

There are some obvious working from home benefits, such as being able to fit in a mid-day run and spending more time with your pets. However, these benefits can be mitigated by a cost to your motivation and a knock in self-confidence and self-esteem if you aren’t receiving a regular pat on the back as often as you would if you were in the office.

A decrease in interpersonal interaction and external encouragement, as well as a reduction in receiving feedback can also have an effect on the quality of our work. Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, said in his TED Talk, “when we make progress and get better at something, it is inherently motivating. In order for people to make progress, they have to get feedback and information on how they’re doing.” For some newly remote workers, this isn’t happening often enough, if it all.

Many leaders are taking steps to improve their feedback skills, but we each need to take responsibility for developing our own reserves of confidence and motivation to keep us going. Professor Avelet Fischbach writes in her article “How To Keep Working When You’re Just Not Feeling It” that “effective self motivation is one of the main things that distinguishes high-achieving professionals from everyone else.”

Here are three tips to help boost your own confidence and motivation…

Call out your self-sabotaging thoughts

In ‘Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways To Tame Anxiety For Work, School and Life’ by Deborah Grayson Riegel and Sophie Riegel, two ways are highlighted to be the hallmark for self-sabotaging thinking: Overestimating unlikely probabilities and overestimating devastating consequences. If regular feedback isn’t in abundance, our minds can start to assume the worst and make up stories, which undermine our self-confidence in the best of times.

When you start to think, “I haven’t heard from my boss, am I about to be let go?” you need to challenge yourself and apply some rational thinking, even if this is a possibility.

Step one is noticing this type of thinking for what it is, and the impact it can have.  Saying to yourself, even out loud if you believe it may help, “These thoughts make me feel anxious and I can change them” or “I’m making up a story, and that’s all it is.”

Step two is reminding yourself that in the unlikely event the worst-case scenario did happen; you have everything you need to deal with it. Your inner resources such as determination, resilience and past experiences as well as the external resources such as your family and friends will help you visualise how you could navigate the worst outcome.

Step three is to look at the truth in your self-sabotaging thinking that needs work. If you’re worrying that you might be made redundant constantly, ask yourself what is making you feel that way. Make a concrete plan that will force you to address this issue – or let go.

Summon your “portfolio of selves”

Blake Ashforth, a leading expert on identity at Arizona State University, in his book, Role Transitions in Organizational Life: An Identity-Based Perspective, states that our sense of self is mostly based on how we are perceived by others. This makes limited feedback so challenging for many of us. Not hearing “we could do with your creative spark on this” or “we couldn’t have done this without you!” every once in a while can make you question the value you bring to your team.

For everyone we interact with, whether it’s a friend, a child, a colleague or a boss, we have different selves that show. Ashworth writes, “A particular role calls forth a particular self, such that the individual is actually a portfolio of selves.” This portfolio allows us to be who we need to be at a particular moment in time which will help us feel better, rise to a challenge or overcome a tricky situation.

“One of the coping strategies is to think about yourself as having multiple identities,” author and Wharton professor Adam Grant contends in his podcast, WorkLife. While you may not be hearing from your boss right now about your “team player” self, you can boost your self-confidence by thinking about all of the positive, helpful, contributing “selves” you are to the people around you.

A good exercise is to think of at least five people in your life who think of you in high regard. Write down their names and how they see you – for example, my colleague thinks I make her job easier with my work, or my client values my opinion on their marketing campaigns.

Leverage our reciprocity bias

In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini, he cites “reciprocity” as the first principle of persuasion. We are wired to treat other people as they have treated us. This drives us to return favors and treat others well, if that is how they treated us. It’s also what motivates us to pay back debts (or not — if that’s what the other person has done to us).

When we are looking for more of the positive feedback we crave, or even a friendly chat, it may be the best bet to give it first, for it to be returned. A useful exercise is to reach out to a few of your direct reports, managers, colleagues or clients to share some positive thoughts about them. Let them know that you are thinking of them, remind them of their impact they have on you, or simply share that you miss them. From there, be prepared to receive all of that back in return.

Malcolm Forbes once said, “A little reciprocity goes a long way.”

Whilst you’re waiting on some of these reciprocal positive vibes to come back to you, another option is to simply ask directly for what you want. Liaising with your manager or teammate to set aside time to share some feedback with each other, with emphasis on how it is important to you can open up a conversation and give you the opportunity to discuss your thoughts and receive some fuel for motivation.

Although our physical and emotional proximity has been reduced whilst we are working remotely, it shouldn’t mean that our self-esteem, confidence and motivation are reduced too.

Feel free to reach out to us if you're having any problems recruiting the best talent or if you are looking more regular feedback in your next role.

This blog has been adapted from an article in the Havard Business Review.