How to Motivate the Unmotivated

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 07:23

By Leon Gettler

Lack of motivation at any workplace is every manager’s nightmare. It’s hard to get anything done, projects don’t get completed on time, or may never be completed at all and people are always having sickies. It can also create tensions in the office. Managers have to nip this in the bud and find solutions to get people motivated and switched on to the job.

First, it’s a good idea to think about what not to do. Victor Lipman at Forbes gives managers tips on how to demotivate people. Like for example being chronically late for employee meetings, not returning their messages and ignoring their suggestions for how to improve operations. Losing your temper, taking credit for all their work and not standing up for them when they are under attack will also demotivate.

Conversely, to do the opposite of all that would be a good way to motivate unmotivated employees. As Lipman says, managers should also take a genuine interest in an employee’s career path. They should do something about an employee’s work-life balance by offering some flexibility in schedule and be understanding about family commitments, doctors’ appointments and so on. Finally, they need to align an employee’s economic interests with those of the company through for example bonus schemes. What’s important here, however, is that these schemes have to be available for people at all levels in the organisation. It’s a way of letting people know everyone is in this together. That’s more likely to motivate people.

Jessica Jones at the Houston Chronicle says managers first of all have to determine why people are unmotivated. That means talking with supervisors, co-workers and the employees to learn more about any work-related issues holding them back. These issues might include additional workload, lack of challenging projects, co-worker relationship issues, changes in business policies, fear of layoffs or lack of direction when completing work tasks and projects. Managers also have to review past employee evaluations and see where they excelled and why, and see what changes might have happened that could have caused motivation to dry up. They would have to look at restoring what worked in the past. Providing rewards such as office parties, certificates of recognition or reinstating employee bonus or reward programs to help motivate employees works too. When they’re giving performance appraisals, the feedback has to be constructive. They should also cross-train employees to prevent boredom at the workplace and offer other incentives, such as additional training and opportunities for advancement, to keep employees motivated.

Dan Bobinski at Management Issues has some fairly sweeping suggestions. First, managers need to remind people of the vision and mission of the company and that everyone is on the same team. They also have to ask them to think about where they want to be. Do they want to work elsewhere? They have to tell them that people who are not putting in will be identified by the quality of their work and asked to leave. Managers should also ask people what the department can do to achieve its goals and then set these down to plans of action and timelines. They should then select the best people to track progress on these goals, with one person per goal.