GLENDALE, Ariz. — It can be difficult to motivate employees who are incapable of, or unwilling to, respond to motivation. It all begins with the hiring.

Start with people with whom you can reasonably work. You have to let gamblers, drug addicts and anyone with an anti-social personality go because just one can dishearten the whole team. Happy at home usually means happy at work.

Motivation starts with you.

YOUR BEHAVIOR IS CRITICAL

Employees are very sensitive to your moods, probably more than you think, so leave your “cranky pants” at the door. As their boss, you can raise them up or shoot them down without even realizing it.

And it can be hard to “read” employees because “the boss” can be intimidating. Some will “yes” you a lot simply because you are in charge.

Never humiliate an employee publicly. Anything negative you say or do to an employee, especially if done in front of others, will be griped about behind your back. And you may see passive-aggressive behavior, if not someone outright quitting on you, so choose your words wisely (and privately, if you can).

Also, when you need to correct an employee, don’t insult their character. Instead, make it clear you are correcting their behavior. Big difference.

Give compliments, the opposite of “cranky boss” behavior. But they must be sincere and honest. If you give someone a fake compliment, it will be worse than offering no compliment at all.

If you give an employee an honest compliment, it raises them up. It makes them feel valued by the boss. It makes them happy.

It’s not hard. Just be on the lookout for something good that an employee does and thank them for that specific deed.

So guess what happens next? Most will work even harder knowing that you value them. Some will work harder just to get a compliment. They will be more likely to protect your mat and to grow the business because they will feel like they’re a part of it.

Smile a lot! It’s well-documented that smiling boosts moods. Not just for everyone around you, because it’s contagious, but yours, too.

Don’t show any favoritism. Always try to be fair. If you favor one employee too much, others will see it before you even realize and will probably resent it.

Employing someone who has trouble finding work due to a disability is magic. They come with their own motivation, as long as the job can be matched to their abilities.

I once employed a man who had polio and walked with a serious limp. He showed up like clockwork for years, worked hard when he came in, showed honesty that was off the charts, and had customers who loved him!

Employees who demonstrate chronic bad behavior are a drag on their co-workers as well as your customers, so I say three strikes and you’re out! If you have a bad apple who’s been duly warned (document those instances to protect yourself), you must let them go. If you’ve been fair about it and issued warnings to try to correct their behavior, staff morale will go up once the change is made.

ENCOURAGE TEAMWORK

Give them some autonomy and ask for their opinion.

The boss can’t think of everything. If I had a problem and wasn’t sure how to find a solution, I would ask the crew for suggestions. Most will be happy that you considered their opinion, and you will get answers.

If you encourage them to work together as a team to solve a particular problem, you’ll create a positive feeling that their input is valuable. This boosts morale and motivates them to look at the business with a positive, problem-solving attitude.

Case in point: We folded our cleaned comforters, which left them bulky with too many creases, taking up precious storage space.

So I wrote a memo asking my employees to talk it over among themselves to think of solutions. They came up with rolling the comforters like a sleeping bag. Since there was now only a single lengthwise crease, we rolled them up tightly, cutting the size nearly in half. They looked better on the shelves. To save shelf space, they also squeezed the air out while double-bagging them. When the customer opened the bag, it would magically “inflate.”

This idea alone boosted morale in the store because we stood out over our competitors, which brought pride in the crew to be working there. Especially since it was their idea.

If you encourage your employees to work together as a team to solve a particular problem, you’ll create a positive feeling that you value their input. In other words, don’t micromanage too much.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!