Business “Acceleration Trap” can Decrease Employee Motivation

by: Nichole Gunn September 27, 2010

The name of the game in the business world is bigger and better, but a recent report out of the Harvard Business Review sheds new light on a problem known as the “acceleration trap.”

This phenomenon occurs when companies, “faced with intense market pressures ... often take on more than they can handle.” Performance goals are raised, speed at which activities/jobs are completed is raised, the number of projects/jobs undertaken is raised, and companies even speed up the rate at which innovative technologies and business systems are implemented.

While this strategy may work and produce the desired results initially, if it is not curtailed problems will arise. The Review notes, “not only does the frenetic pace sap employee motivation, but the company’s focus is scattered in various directions, which can confuse customers and threaten the brand.”

Management, upon noting a difference in employee motivation and efficiency, lays the blame on the employees. Lacking insight, management assumes it is the employees’ fault: they are becoming lazy or rebellious. Often, the company may even add more pressure to the already frazzled workers. This just makes the scenario worse resulting in an overworked, overstressed staff, as well as a number of employee resignations.

Business leaders might take notice of another article from the Harvard Business Review which explains that the best incentives for employees are those that provide a feeling of accomplishment and progress. This type of employee incentive strategy provides a desire and motivation to succeed.