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Staying Motivated As A Debt Collector


The topic of discussion for this week’s blog is something that we imagine has affected everybody within the debt collection sphere at one stage or another. In this week’s blog, we are going to take an in-depth look at the concept of motivation and its role in our role as debt collectors in the industry, for better and worse.


We have touched upon psychological matters in our blogs once or twice before. Were of the firm belief that psychology plays not just an important role in debt collection, but also our jobs and our lives more generally. We can also assure you that it will crop up again in future blogs too, unapologetically. However, for this week we will be talking about its application to our jobs.


Motivation is one of those things which captures everyone’s imagination. We know this for many reasons. We have seen through our pursuit of empirical evidence on psychological topics such as motivation the demand for and interest in an even greater knowledge of motivation and yet we have heard it talked about in commonplace, everyday conversation daily by colleagues, clients and peers alike.


But we think it would make for an even more interesting blog if we managed to find a way of illustrating a bit of a discrepancy between what the “experts” say about motivation and what laypeople say about motivation. Then we will move on to a discussion about what our newfound (dangerously assuming it will be new) understanding of motivation can do for us as debt collectors.


During a recent call we participated in on styles of leadership and management we were fascinated to be presented with a snippet of a video on YouTube of a man, who we understand is very well known in tech circles, giving a speech of earth-shattering proportions to his delegates in his unique attempt to promote himself, the company he works for and their brand. We would love for you to watch it here.


He looked….motivated, wouldn’t you say? Or perhaps you were thinking of another word. In reality, we guess that your perception of what motivation looks like is a bit more subtle. Subtle only in its presence that is. Because if there is one thing that we have seen time and time again throughout our working lives, it is that it is not very subtle when it seems to be absent. How many times have you felt like you can’t be bothered to do anything at work and felt at peace with that feeling?


Probably not many times is our guess. For most of us, it involves an internal conflict between a lack of motivation and our morals and values, and sometimes our ego too telling us that it is not acceptable, if we indulge in some downtime then we are going to fall behind in our work and this in itself leads to more consequences and therefore anxieties or we are going to look lazy in front of our colleagues and we certainly would not want anybody thinking that about us.


Worse still, it might even start to become a habit, going to lunch a bit earlier than normal, coming back a bit later, coming in a bit later than your usual start time to work, extending morning greetings to your colleagues to half an hour, or an hour(!) before you log on and start doing any meaningful work, counting down the hours until lunchtime so you can escape again from that feeling.


But what do the experts say? Is the internal conflict that we have described above justified, or rational? Well, let's start by addressing the apparent unacceptability issue. A recent study conducted in October last year (Brosowsky et al., 2020) concluded that it was perfectly natural for motivation to wane as time spent on a given task increased, which in turn negatively affected performance.


What about the demands of doing debt collection work? Well, as you know it is inherently a job that involves a lot of rejection, and in a study by (Kronenwett & Rigotti, 2019) they propose that subjective achievement experiences lead to higher levels of motivation and a scarcity of subjective achievement experiences lead to “strain”. In essence, if your job is to collect cash and you are frequently being denied the opportunity to do so, it is going to take its toll.


So, we have had a look at a common-sense understanding of motivation in the workplace and we have also had a look at some theories of motivation on job performance in the workplace. But what does it tell us? For us, we have been able to draw two main conclusions. Two takeaways which we would like to offer the reader, especially if you recognised yourself in the description of the way that motivation can negatively impact you at work above in this blog.


First of all, there is not a single person in the world who is motivated all the time. Yes, we agree it is an aspect of ourselves that varies from person to person, and if we were to compare to others for long enough we are bound to find someone who appears to display levels of motivation which we feel within ourselves that are completely out of our reach. But why do we need to compare ourselves? We heard someone say once “A flower doesn’t wonder if it is more beautiful than the flower next to it”.


Secondly, the evidence from the studies cited would suggest that motivation is affected by the time spent doing an activity. In other words, if you're finding yourself struggling to motivate yourself then our advice would be to change the task that you're doing. Move on to another ledger, even another account if you have been stuck on the same account reconciliation for hours. The evidence suggests it will help.


Thirdly – we know we only said there were two but we have thought of another one – if our mind is wandering after lunch then be thankful for it rather than beat yourself up about it, as the evidence would suggest that job performance is reduced at that time anyway. Perhaps it is our minds way of protecting us from the negative consequences of putting in a sub-par performance. Controversial, but food for thought.


We are still here to do a bit to businesses safeguard their cash flow against late payers or debtors that are refusing to pay, so if you have been struggling to get an invoice paid and would appreciate the support of a team that prides itself on operating in a way that is mindful of the above then give us a call on 01827 66820 or visit our website at www.jspcreditmanagement.co.uk and contact us to discuss your needs. We operate on a no-win-no-fee basis for bad debt recovery and our credit control and credit risk services can be ordered via our website with the littlest of hassle.


Brosowsky, N. P., DeGutis, J., Esterman, M., Smilek, D., & Seli, P. (2020). Mind Wandering, Motivation, and Task Performance Over Time: Evidence That Motivation Insulates People From the Negative Effects of Mind Wandering. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory Research, and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1037/CNS0000263


Kronenwett, M., & Rigotti, T. (2019). When do you face a challenge? How unnecessary tasks block the challenging potential of time pressure and emotional demands. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(5), 512–526. https://doi.org/10.1037/OCP0000149


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