Motivating the Unmotivated - Part 2

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Welcome to part 2 of the Motivating the Unmotivated series. Last week I discussed starting with a personal assessment before entering into a conversation with someone who you feel is unmotivated. This assessment is necessary as it sets the stage and better prepares you for the conversation. If you missed it, start here.

In this article, I want to review the most common reasons that people are unmotivated at work and offer up some thoughts on how to approach or work towards a resolution. Keep in mind that each person on your team is different, so while I am offering really need to adapt them to fit the individual you are working with. I will give you a specific example of what I mean next week, but for today just consider that not every response is suited to every person in your charge.

It's also worth noting that every approach to a resolution should be done with the mindset of a positive outcome. If you insist on blame and finger-pointing, you will be wasting your time and creating bigger issues. No matter what the reasons are, your focus should be on getting them back on track and motivated to do well.

Lastly, in order to get to a have to hear them out. Listen to what they have to say before you jump to any conclusions.

Here are the main reasons why people are unmotivated at work:

  1. They are overwhelmed. They have a lot on their plate or they have a few responsibilities that are challenging all at once. How to approach: First, understand that whether you agree with them or not is irrelevant. If they feel it, then they are. And you asserting your opinion that they don't have that much to do will only put fuel on the flame. My suggestion is that you review what they have going on and how much time they spend on each area. Help them prioritize and find out how you can help. There may be paths you can clear, or you may find that they are laser-focused on getting everything done, but one of the activities can be put on the back burner because it's not due for a month. Or, as you work through what they have going on and how much time they spend on each are able to bring to light that they spend a lot of time focused on unnecessary things.

  2. They a generally negative. This is the person who finds fault or problems with any and everything. How to approach: Be ready to agree with them where things seem difficult, but also prepare to consistently speak about the upside or the benefits. Also, don't get emotional with them it just gives them proof that "things are bad". I've been in this situation and it's hard, my advice to you is to state the benefits and show them you aren't buying into their negative routine by moving on to the next topic.

  3. They are hard on themselves. This is the person who feels they haven't done enough, or aren't good enough, or should be doing more. How to approach: This person needs reassurance they are on the right track. You will need to invest time consistently telling them how they are doing and letting them know they are on the right track. Once they know you see they are doing well, their own self-esteem will pick up and they will be comfortable being uncomfortable.

  4. They are focused on what someone else is doing. They are so concerned with someone else, that they have lost sight of what they themselves are doing. This focus is either usually because the other person is doing something wrong and getting away with it or they don't like what the other person is doing or are jealous (for whatever reason) of the other person. How to approach: First, and most important...If a problem needs fixing, then fix it. Don't let a bad situation fester because you don't want to deal with it. You need to let them know you will take care of it and it's time for them to focus on their own work or responsibilities. If it's an unfounded or unnecessary focus on someone else, you must address it. They may need to understand why that person they are focused on is doing what they are doing or and that you are ok with it. It's important that you explain that they need to refocus on themselves, so they too can be successful and feel accomplished.

  5. Afraid to take on new opportunities. They have a fear of failure or just really don't want to take on new opportunities, but then are left unmotivated because they've been doing the same job for a long period of time. How to approach: You must help them understand that everyone needs to have the opportunity for growth in their life and that it's essential for the development of the team and the company. You also must reassure them that you will be there to support them through the process and not just leave them to fend for themselves.

  6. They have no opportunities for growth or upward movement. This person is bored to tears because either you or the company have not provided the necessary opportunities for growth. How to approach: Depending on your situation, you may need to be creative. Ask them what they would like to work on or learn about and then provide them the opportunity to go after it. If you don't have a budget, help them find low or no-cost classes. If you have a fear of them actually following through, then be there to help and guide them through the process. If you don't have any upcoming projects or new learning opportunities, ask your peers or ask other departments if they do. If you choose to not elevate your team's knowledge and growth, then you are doing yourself, your team, and the company a disservice.

  7. They feel under-appreciated. This person feels that no one knows what they do or how they add value to the company. How to approach: First, apologize if you haven't been showing your appreciation and let them know you will rectify that immediately. You should be consistently letting each person on your team know that you value them through giving thanks and personally giving them recognition in your one on ones. You should also be singing your team's praises as much as possible openly to your company. This is an easy one to fix.

  8. They have no idea. This person actually has no idea why they are feeling the way they are. How to approach: You may need to spend some time working through various areas of their work-life to get to the bottom of their lack of motivation. You should take any information they provide and ask clarifying or probing questions to keep digging deeper and deeper until you get at what they need. If you can't seem to make any headway, speak to your HR Department for some guidance.

Next week we will go into how to create a plan based on your conversation to ensure you can move your unmotivated person into being productive again.

Lead with greatness!