Motivating the unmotivated

decrease negativityManaging a team would be easy if everyone was motivated to do their best all the time. But life isn’t like that. Even the most motivated have days when they’re in a bit of a slump, and that’s not taking account of those who are just unmotivated most of the time.

It’s not that they can’t do the job – that’s a different problem all together – it’s just that you need to find ways to get them to want to do the job. So here are four ways to help you to motivate the unmotivated:


Get to know your employees as individuals

Be honest. How well do you know your employees? You may know their names but do you know their stories, values, skills, areas of competence and what they would like to achieve? Do they work for money to fund their lifestyle, or are they saving for retirement? Do they like prestige and recognition, or do they come to work to spend time with other people? Getting to know your employees on an individual basis helps you find the most suitable role for each individual, which will improve their motivation and help achieve everyone’s objectives. Plus, the more you know about your employees, the more the likelihood of discovering what incentives and rewards will make the difference to them.


Be conscious of team dynamics

Organisations are comprised of teams of employees, made up of individual characters, so it’s important to be aware of your team dynamics. People want to work with people they like, so pairing an employee up on a project with someone they don’t get along with can make the difference between a frustrated negative employee, and a happy engaged employee. As a manager, you need to be aware of multiple people and their interactions, in order to get the best out of your employees, and benefit from the potential collective energy and creativity your team can offer.


Invest in training

helping handOne of the major motivation factors for employees is training and development, and, whilst your options on training might be limited, due to tight training budgets, there are alternatives. You could arrange for your employee to lead a project, or formally deputise for a manager who is away on holiday for a few weeks. You can also look into secondments with other teams or departments, so that they gain a better understanding of the organisation and how everything works together. Another option is to implement a formal mentoring programme, between the employee and a mentor (not in their team or department), who can help them with their career and personal development.


Get the communication right

It’s important as a manager to get your communication right. This doesn’t mean having a weekly team meeting, but being clear in your expectations for your individual employees and the team as a whole. It also means about being honest with your employees, and dealing with any negative business news or performance issues. But communication is a two-way process, so allow employees to have their say or communicate their own ideas for projects or solutions to problems, and always feedback to your employees the results of any consultation.


Managing a team is about managing people, which means understanding your individual employees and communicating clearly with them. If you’ve got unmotivated people in your team, it’s not that they can’t be motivated, it more likely that your using the wrong methods to motivate that particular person. So if you’re being frustrated in your attempts to motivate, then try these four tips to get to know your team and improve your results.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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