Employee Motivation Techniques That Can Backfire – And How to Get Them Right 

Motivating employees is an integral aspect of successful management, but it’s not without its challenges. 

With numerous motivation techniques available, knowing how to strike the right balance is essential for company growth and employee well-being. 

The following article sheds light on these techniques, their potential pitfalls, and how to navigate them effectively.


The concept of competition, when applied carefully, can motivate employees and enhance their performance. 

However, the possibility of it backfiring cannot be overlooked. For instance, competition could turn people against one another and lead to unwanted behaviours. 

That could happen because employees think that they’re in a jealous and hostile work environment. That would then lead to significantly high stress levels, leading to burnout and other health problems.

Additionally, if we consider a mismanaged competitive setup within a team, there’s the risk of ethical breaches. Employees might feel pressured to manipulate outcomes or undermine the efforts of their peers to succeed. That behaviour is sure to erode trust among team members.

Inclusivity within teams is essential for cohesion and collaboration. When competition takes centre stage, some employees could feel excluded, demoralised and demotivated by constant comparisons with seemingly high-performing colleagues. As a result, the overall team spirit and productivity might suffer considerably.

Moreover, focusing solely on individual accomplishments in competitive scenarios can adversely impact teamwork dynamics. Valuing only personal success may potentially hinder collective progress as well as any cooperative interaction.

How to Get Competition Right

To prevent competition from backfiring, set clear goals and encourage healthy rivalries. 

Foster a supportive atmosphere by emphasising team collaboration and rewarding collective achievements. 

And regularly monitor the impact of competition on productivity and wellbeing, adjusting strategies as needed, and maintaining open communication channels to address concerns promptly.

Unlimited Vacation Time

Unlimited vacation time, on the surface, might sound like a fantastic employee benefit. However, it can backfire in unexpected ways. 

The ambiguity of having endless days off may lead to employees feeling uncertain about taking adequate time away from work in fear of appearing less committed. Consequently, they might not take enough days off to truly recharge and avoid burnout.

Additionally, there can be instances where employees may resent colleagues who make the most of their unlimited vacation time. That imbalance could breed potential dissatisfaction within teams and negatively impact workplace harmony and productivity. 

How to Get Unlimited Vacation Time Right

To avoid the employee motivation technique of unlimited vacation backfiring, establish clear guidelines on leave usage and foster a culture that encourages taking time off. 

Actively promote communication and transparency to manage employee expectations. 

Also, encourage managers to regularly assess workloads and remind employees of the importance of a work-life balance, so you can ensure everyone benefits fairly, and without resentments.


At first glance, setting tight deadlines might seem like an effective strategy to encourage employees to work diligently. 

However, imposing unrealistic timelines can result in significantly heightened stress and demoralisation. Under such pressure, employees are more likely to feel overwhelmed and may struggle to perform optimally.

Besides the potential decline in work quality, daunting deadlines may erode morale by generating a sense of failure and fear when unmet. 

Moreover, unrealistic expectations can exacerbate the risk of burnouts and even disengage some employees from achieving their objectives altogether. 

In the long run, all this could negatively impact overall team dynamics and productivity.

How to Get Deadlines Right

To ensure deadlines motivate employees effectively, set realistic, flexible, and achievable goals. 


  • Involve team members in the process to gain their insights. 
  • Break tasks into manageable milestones.
  • Offer support when needed. 
  • Foster a flexible yet accountable work environment that prioritises employee well-being while maintaining productivity.

Excessive Praise for Small Achievements

While praising employees for their efforts is undoubtedly valuable, excessively lauding small achievements can sometimes backfire. 

Overemphasising minor accomplishments may make employees feel like they’re being patronised, which could undermine their trust in your sincerity, and could also imply that you do not expect much from them. 

Routinely complimenting marginal and regular aspects of their job can result in diluted praise value, subsequently diminishing the impact of recognition.

Furthermore, overpraising runs the risk of creating complacent culture among employees who may perceive themselves as performing at a peak level when there is always room for improvement. 

That situation could hinder professional development as your employees may not strive to enhance skills or take on challenging tasks with full determination.

How to Get Praising Small Achievements Right

Balance is crucial.

You should always acknowledge employee contributions but do so without patronising or eroding employee motivation.

Get-Togethers Outside of Work Hours

Organising get-togethers outside work hours, like a weekend trip to celebrate a successful quarter, may seem like a fun and rewarding approach to motivate employees. However, this motivation technique could backfire if it becomes an inconvenience or imposition for your workers.

Employees might feel obligated to attend such events. In turn, that could mean they feel forced to arrange childcare or cancel personal plans, which would generate undue stress and resentment. 

The perceived intrusion into their personal lives may overshadow any positive recognition the event intends. And that’s the last thing you want. 

Additionally, such gatherings risk being counterproductive by reducing the very motivation they aim to enhance. 

Instead of fostering camaraderie and engagement among team members, after-hours activities that encroach on personal time could inadvertently affect workplace satisfaction and employee morale.

How to Get post-work hours Get-Togethers Right

To ensure your get-togethers are successful, always consider employee preferences and personal commitments. 

Offer various event options, choose suitable timings, and always make attendance voluntary. 

Encourage open communication to address concerns, and continually seek feedback to understand, and implement employees’ interests too. That will result in enjoyable and pleasant experiences for everyone involved.

How to Get Employee Motivation Techniques Right

To get your employee motivation techniques right in general, you must employ tried-and-tested techniques that genuinely inspire and engage your team. 

A key motivational approach is acknowledging employees for a job well done; while ensuring you strike the right balance between meaningful praise and not overdoing it on minor accomplishments.

Appropriate recognition methods can significantly impact motivation levels, so tailor rewards to each employee’s unique preferences. 

You should also consider presenting premium quality acrylic awards for significant achievements, as they serve as tangible tokens of appreciation and can be cherished reminders of employees’ hard work.

By focusing on thoughtful strategies and creating an environment that supports professional growth, you can foster sustained motivation within your workforce.

Summing Up…

Effectively motivating employees requires a delicate balance of strategies that helps avoid potential pitfalls along the way. 

Employing competition, unlimited vacation time, realistic deadlines, measured praise, and well-planned get-togethers can foster a positive and productive work environment. 

By carefully implementing these techniques and refining them based on employee feedback, companies can achieve increased engagement from their workforce while ensuring personal satisfaction and recognition are truly at the heart of each motivational approach. 

Ultimately, employee motivation done right will benefit the entire organisation through higher performance levels and overall success.

Author: José Luis Martín Cara – Writer & Head of SEO, LinkBuilder.io

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to get the latest news, events, podcasts and more!