7 Dos and Don'ts for Dealing With an Unmotivated Employee

As a supervisor, team leader, or co-worker, it's important to observe an employee's past behavior before labeling them as "unmotivated" or "lazy." There may be a legitimate reason an employee is not performing up to par. "Is there anything you'd like to share with me about the role you've taken on?" or, "Do you feel everything is rolling along smoothly?" are just a couple of questions to ask before determining a plan of action. By expressing concern, you are sending the message that you care about their well-being and are not solely focused on the bottom line.

Here are 7 Dos and Don'ts For Dealing With An Unmotivated Employee:

  • Do make sure to provide specific job responsibilities and due dates. A breakdown in communication is often the reason a good employee doesn't perform to optimum standards. Spend some time reviewing clear goals and offering some form of back up if a particular task or project has become overwhelming.
  • Don't assume the unmotivated employee is out to take advantage of coworkers. It may be a simple case of misunderstanding the original request. However, if the behavior is consistent, it's important to address the issue before it begins to affect the entire team.

  • Do give them an opportunity to shine. No one is great at every job and placing an employee in a position that fails to utilize their skills is ill-fated judgment on the part of the team leader. Each person has something valuable to add to the team, office, or event. Setting them up for success is a win-win for everyone.
  • Don't let their attitude influence your own work. It's natural to see someone get away with something for so long you begin to think you should have the benefit of doing the same. You may feel tempted to arrive late to work, complain about your boss to coworkers, or enjoy an extra-long lunch without regard of repercussions.
  • Do let your employee know you are aware they aren't pulling their weight. If an employee is single-handedly hurting coworker morale or the progress of a project, the team leader or supervisor should make an appointment to discuss their behavior in private. Be prepared with specific examples and suggestions on how they can improve. Check-in periodically to ensure tasks and goals are being met.
  • Don't let an unmotivated coworker's lack of enthusiasm affect your mood. We tend to mirror other people's facial expressions, body language, and overall demeanor. Often without thinking, we take on the behavior and mannerisms of the person we find offensive. Make a deliberate effort to be pleasant, upbeat, and sincere without appearing postured or inauthentic.
  • Do provide rewards and incentives. This will serve as a not so subtle motivation to the entire team or office to hit their marks. A gift card to a favorite deli, an afternoon ice cream run, or an early Friday departure are friendly gestures that show employees you appreciate them, while expecting a certain level of support in return.
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