Anti-Pattern: Defensive Motivation

Defensive motivation is a pretty broad class of dysfunctional phenomena in employee motivation that have one common trait: such motivation puts personal goals significantly above the goals of the organization/team. This represents a fundamental problem to many organizations and produces unproductive culture that characterizes by the following:

  1. Lack of trust
  2. Avoidance of risks
  3. Trading customer and business success for personal gains

A simple summary of this dysfunction could be provided as follows: I am trying to fulfill as much as is required of me at my workplace with minimum effort applied and minimum risk to my career.

Organizational structure, existing culture, funding model, KPIs and office politics are usually at the root cause of such a dysfunction. The responsibility for repairing toxic, defensive environment usually lies with the upper management who represent essentially the only category of people with the required authority to alter the contributing factors.

Defensive Motivation comes often in connection to the Semiconductor Organization and Death by Good News anti-patterns.

Note: the author appreciates Andrew Long’s valuable input regarding this critical topic.