Motivate, Don’t Manipulate

Manipulation is almost a dirty word in America. No one wants to feel manipulated to do anything, which is why when you lead people you cannot use manipulation as a way to get them to do work. In this post I will share why it is important to motivate people to do work instead of manipulating them.

pic of carrot and stickFlickr Photo Credit: opensourceway

Here’s a few questions to orient us what manipulation is and how it affects us:

  • Have you ever been manipulated into doing something?
  • How did that make you feel?:
  • Did you want to do that activity again later?
  • What were your thoughts about that person who manipulated you?

The bottom line is that no one likes to be manipulated. Unfortunately, manipulation often occurs in the form of guilt when leading people. Instead, when leading people you must use motivation, not manipulation.

What’s the difference between manipulation and motivation?

Manipulation is getting someone to do something for your benefit that he/she does not want to do regardless of the benefit to him/her.
Motivation is getting some to do something for your benefit that he/she does want to do which is also beneficial to him/her.

In my context of leading A Day of Hope, I believe there are 4 reasons you cannot use guilt with volunteers. (These also translate to staff, board members, bosses, etc.)

1) It does not work long-term.
An example of this sometimes occurs with businessmen who are made to feel guilty by people in the nonprofit sector for all the money the businessman makes, so a nonprofit staffer or one of the businessman’s friends makes him feel guilty into joining a board or volunteering on a committee. As a result, the business man is not bought into the work, is not personally vested, and fails to follow through on his commitment because he was not committed in the first place.

2) People would rather leave than stay somewhere they are caused to feel guilty.
A Tony Robbins quote comes to mind on this that “humans move away from things that cause them to feel pain and they move towards things that cause them pleasure.” Meaning, if something is painful we try to avoid it while if it is something we enjoy doing we try to do more of it. If you guilt people into doing work, they are going to avoid the work and the person who is guilting them.

3) It causes people to feel bitter towards you and your program.
Nothing sours the passionate and exciting vision of an organization than someone working for that organization causing people to feel guilty as a way to motivate them into doing work.

4) People don’t like it.
The bottom line is that people just don’t like feeling guilty. I am not sure if this is an American thing where we don’t like people to be in control of our lives, or that we just do not like to be told what to do (the quote, “Give me liberty, or give me death comes to mind”), but people hate to feel guilty.

If you are serious about leading people long-term you cannot use guilt and manipulation as a way to motivate staff, volunteers, or board members to do work. You must learn to motivate them. Motivate, don’t manipulate.

Question: How do you try to motivate, not manipulate people when you work?

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at