Sobering lesson on motivation, demotivation
Published on: Sunday, February 23, 2020
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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Participants of the UMS presentation of findings in Kinabatangan. Fourth from right is Prof Jennifer.
MOTIVATION can make or break anybody, governments included especially when everybody becomes disaffected.

Question: What motivates far-flung tourists to visit Lower Kinabatangan?  Basically, three things: “Wildlife, the wilderness experience and jungle,” said Jennifer Chan, Head of the Borneo Tourism Research Centre, Universiti Malaysia Sabah at the presentation of she and her team’s findings of a three-year research commissioned and funded by KiTA (Kinabalu Corridor – Tourism Operators Association), since 2016.

But the spectre of demotivation is always lurking out there to destroy Kinabatangan’s success.    


Wildlife, wilderness key motivators of Kinabatangan: Prof 

Lose wildlife, lose the jungle and lose the wildness experience to irresponsible, reckless practices and decisions from tour operators, or locals or planters or the Government, motivated tourists become demotivated and disaffected, stop coming and destination Lower Kinabatangan is in trouble, Prof Jennifer cautioned tour operators. 

Prof Jennifer, however, offered a host of salient details on the dos and don’ts from her team’s findings to avoid an irretrievable loss of motivation.  

KiTA President claimed Kinabatangan saw virtually no cancellation while Malaysian hotels lost RM66mil to 175,000 booking cancellations during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, Jennifer said the first question she wanted to answer in her research  was “what motivates tourists to visit Kinabatangan?”     


KiTA executive committee line-up. 


Guru on what is motivation   

Which sparked my interest on exactly what is motivation and what destroys with devastating consequences! 

It is a key subject to understand with respect to Kinabatangan.              

The beauty is nowadays we can always surf the Internet to find instructive gurus on the subject.

Nikos Andriotis offers some sobering warnings about the destructiveness of demotivation or loss of motivation in his article “The Do’s and Don’ts Of Managing People: How To Mend Broken Morale”.

In terms of origins, some specific external forces can cause a starting excitement to crash and all intents and zest for action diminishes or even vanish.     

So, the first damage of demotivation is it stops people from doing their best to achieve a goal.


Odd rules 

The causes of demotivation are many, says Nikos.  The first could be plain, odd rules, he says.

“Of course, all organisations must have rules or else they cannot function otherwise. But if the rules are illogical, unfair, and unnecessarily harsh, they will breed discontent.  

“Of course, managers or leaders have their own style of doing things but it should be a style which accommodates their team members. But what often happens is broken morale,” he says.


UMS presentation and workshop in progress. 


Exciting starts end in dissatisfaction 

For example, people get an exciting position, challenging positions the salary is good, benefits numerous.

Then they find it just does not jel, that is, people are not working together well, a classic example on not how one starts but how one ends. 

So, excitement ends in dissatisfaction, they are demoralised and yearn for something different but they can’t put their finger on or can’t figure out the causes of the demotivation.       

Then there are people hired to lead a team but no matter what they do, they don’t seem able to raise morale of inspire team members. 


Dr Fiffy chairs workshop session on feedback to UMS research findings. 


Reasons for demotivation many

The reasons that cause demotivation are many, Nikos says. 

“One of the biggest reasons is the relationship between the leader and the led or the managers and teams.

“Leaders unwittingly create dissatisfaction and, if so, no matter what you do, you never hit the heights of success.” 

The stakes are high.

“The impact of satisfied employees and dissatisfied employees in a work place can make or break a company.” 

By extension, the impact of motivated and demotivated tourists can make or break a destination like Lower Kinabatangan. By the same token, the impact of a satisfied or dissatisfied nation can make or break a government. 


Less than 1/3 US workers demotivated

Nikos cited an interesting 2014 Gallop Poll in the US which found that disaffected workers are not rare but major. 

The poll found less that one-third of US workers felt motivated by their jobs which is another way of saying more than two-thirds were not happy. 

The effects of poor motivation is high staff turnover – people resigned and replaced, lower level of engagement, sharing or association, poor communication, reduced productivity so that the whole atmosphere feels like a toxic environment.        

Key skills and practices 

Which raised the question what are the key skills, practices and knowledge that are needed in team leaders to deal with demotivation when it happens, to keep people under their care to be positive and satisfied?     

So, how to motivate and encourage people?

Nikos highlights the Dos or Don’ts for leaders to “avoid potential devastating negative impact” and that involves “Self-Examination”.


‘Lose wildlife and lose the wildness experience to irresponsible, reckless practices and decisions from tour operators, or locals or planters or the Government, motivated tourists become demotivated, stop coming and destination Lower Kinabatangan is in trouble.’ (pic: Expat Go)


Style and over-zealousness a sure fire

“This means looking at one’s style. Being overly-zealous about what each and everybody is doing is a sure-fire to breed discontent, mainly because it may be perceived as lack of trust.” 

Over-zealousness can manifest itself by breathing down everybody’s neck so that trust and the spirit of independence is lost.

“Equality sounds great but if outstanding and productive employees are treated exactly the same as the least productive it means low performers feel no incentive to improve. 

“This means you ignore achievement, an absence of praise and simple recognition of a job well done. 

“Yet, it is not enough to know that you have done your work well, it is vital job well done is seen by peers and managers and good leaders instinctively understand the power of not ignoring achievement and make it known,” Nikos believes.

When leaders are ‘apathetic to their own role’     

One of the common demotivators is when leaders who are authorised with statutory powers to perform their duties and responsibilities, shy away from action.  

A lot of us hail the ideals and wonders of a top down leadership as the effective answers to all problems and needs.

But Nikos says this is not the case. 

The problem is often people in positions of responsibility “shy away from being leaders,” in fact “apathetic to their own role”. 

A place like Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary was gazetted in 2005 as one level below a park because people live there but the gist of the matter is, to maximise the protection of its natural habitat – 250 species of birds, 90 species of mammals, 90 species of fishes and 25 species of reptiles.     


Political vanguard in line with a political licence the best hope

The future of Kinabatangan is best served by State Government at the top acting as a vanguard in tandem with the obvious political licence when the State legislative Assembly gazetted it a wildlife sanctuary in 2005 with wildlife protection and ecotourism as its fundamental purpose. 

So what is the wonderful top down answer the State Cabinet can do to make people stay motivated?

Nikos says, “lead by example”.

“Don’t shy away from difficult task, pull everybody together when one needs to tackle a hard job and make the important decisions, encourage people to do their best.

Last but not least, “make sure communication is not a one way street,” he said.

When people feel left out of the loop  

“Nothing is more damaging to morale to stakeholders than feeling being left out of the loop on important information and decision,” he said.

“If people feel that all internal communication is a top down process with little or no possibility of feedback upwards, they will feel they are of little consequence, become disaffected and demotivated but even telling people something is actually not enough, the top guys must be able to listen,” Nikos advised. 


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