How to Deal with Unmotivated Employees

We all know that happy employees are engaged employees whereas those who are unmotivated don’t enjoy coming to work at all. They may start taking unnecessary sick days or start looking for a job elsewhere.
Harrison Kenning
November 3, 2020

We all know that happy employees are engaged employees whereas those who are unmotivated don’t enjoy coming to work at all. They may start taking unnecessary sick days or start looking for a job elsewhere. Training new employees can cost thousands and take weeks, keeping employees motivated and engaged should be one of your top priorities. What should you do when faced with an unmotivated employee?

Being unmotivated has a direct impact on performance

If people are not motivated to do their job, generally they will underperform. Other employees may feel that they must work harder to compensate for unfinished tasks which can easily create resentment among team members, bringing down the morale of the whole team.

Low motivation levels are often accompanied by low productivity. This can create a bit of a catch-22 situation where poor motivation leads to poor performance, and the resulting lack of success leads to even poorer motivation, and so it goes on.

Look out for the signs

Your job is getting your employees through tough times. If you are not approached or asked for help you will need to be able to spot the signs of an unmotivated employee. Whether changes take place over time or are sudden, here are some characteristics of unmotivated employees to look out for:

  • Pessimistic/Apathetic attitude
  • Poor attention to detail
  • Shying away from challenges
  • Poor performance

The sooner you change this, the sooner you can prevent any negative effect the individual's performance will have on the rest of their team and on the organization as a whole.

Talk it through

The most critical step in successfully managing unmotivated employees is talking with the employee in question. You need to identify triggers that can make the employee feel unmotivated and disconnected from work. Both parties then need to agree on a solution and outline the steps required to achieve changes.

Take action to engage employees

If any slight setback at work can trigger a downward spiral of negativity for your employee, you could “put a process in place to deal with any failure where your employees are encouraged to stop and reflect on what has happened. Ask them to think about what they could do differently next time, and encourage them to look ahead and focus on the next challenge” advises Guv Jassal of Washington Frank International.

If the employee would benefit from some positive reinforcement, Guv suggests focusing on setting clear daily goals with the employee and encouraging them to keep a record of their success.

Small actions can have a big impact on motivation and morale. Some ideas include sharing an inspirational quote every day, inviting managers to give their teams little pep talks at the start of the week, allowing quiet music to be played in the background while they work.

Prevention is better than cure

You can only coach and guide employees to motivate themselves. It is down to the individual to manage their own mindset at work but there are things you can do to help the situation.

Knowing what motivates your team is the key. You could gather feedback in the form of a quick catch up at the start of the day, during team meetings, or even through workplace surveys. These are all great ways to get insights into what is working and what needs investigating further.

You play an integral role in laying the foundation to build a happy, motivated, and engaged workforce. The most powerful change you can make lies within the culture. The right culture will make people want to come to work each day motivated and ready to work. This will boost productivity and ultimately boost the bottom line.


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