Motivation and science

Motivation and science

Feel like management is too much like herding cats? The Scientist spoke to a number of social psychologists and management researchers and published a great article about motivating creative and autonomy-loving postdocs, graduate students and research assistants.

While a laboratory may have a single overarching goal or research focus, the daily work of science requires the completion of multiple subgoals. Some of these might not seem relevant or as career-advancing as some team members would like. One way to get everyone working as a team is to discern how best to motivate each of them.

This article speaks about motivating your staff by knowing if they have avoidance or approach goals. David Neal, a social psychologist, gives the example that most people will know which group they belong to if you ask a simple question: Do you tend to study for an exam because you want the A grade, or do you study because you’re afraid of failing? He suggests framing tasks as either gaining a positive goal or avoiding a negative one.

DiSC profiles, of course, can give you even more motivators to use with your staff depending on what motivates them.

Grit is a trait this article suggests you help your staff develop to deal with frustrations and failures. Grit is defined as a long-term passion that can be sustained despite obstacles. “In a laboratory setting, regularly assessing obstacles that can lead to frustration and delay can help the team get into the habit of solving problems early.”

Also suggested is helping staff work on what they aren’t so good at. “During one-on-one meetings, managers can ask team members to make a list of areas they want to improve upon—whether it is expertise at a particular protocol or personal skills such as time management or writing—and to make a plan for improving those areas.” DiSC can help managers find ways to talk about these skills in ways their staff can accept. Ds might respond best to direct and clear problem statements that you allow them to find a way to fix. An S might respond better to putting the problem into the framework of how improvement in this area will help the entire team.

Other great suggestions are offered about inspiring creativity, outsourcing, holding meetings, and more.

by Kristeen BuzllwinkleZ and the team


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