Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

10 Ways to Motivate Your Lazy Employees!

By Anthony Hughes | May 16, 2016 | Staff Retention

man falling asleep at desk while boss looks at him angrily - cartoonLast week, we posted a blog post about ‘disengaged employees’ and how to re-engage them.

The post placed the onus entirely on managers to reassess and improve their processes to make sure their team were happy.

But was that really fair? Sometimes, you just get a bad, lazy egg, don’t you?

True; some people do appear to be incapable of doing a hard day’s work – we’ve all met them.

But it’s our job, as managers, to identify the lazy so-and-sos who’ll never change and those who simply need a kick up the bum to start performing again.

Below, you’ll find 10 ways to start motivating your demotivated employees – and some tips on how to spot those who are just plain lazy.

1. Communication is the key.

If you think you’ve got a capable staff member but they’re underperforming, there’s really no point beating around the bush – face the problem head on.

Call a formal meeting, sit down with said staff member and constructively discuss what’s going on, constantly reminding the employee of the important role they play to the business.

In most cases, there’ll be a reason why they are underperforming; it could be because of personal issues, unreachable targets or perhaps, they’re struggling with some part of their job.

You’ll never know unless you ask.

This conversation will give you an opportunity to help those who are genuinely struggling – but should also give those inherently lazy employees the kick up the backside they need to get back on track.

2. Set Objectives.

Could your employee simply be lacking direction?

Some people work better when they’re set strict targets – not everybody can or wants to work under their own initiative.

This is often the case in collaborative environments where people have many different projects to complete and many different teams to confer with…

Without some kind of guidance and structure, employees can get left with piles and piles of projects, to finish, without knowing which one is priority.

(We’ve all had to deal with pushy co-workers who always manage to get their tasks to the top of their pile).

Recruiter Pro Tip

Don’t forget that all of the goals you set should be SMART…

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Achievable.
  • Relevant.
  • Time based.

If the goal is too difficult, people will give up, too easy and they can be as lazy as they like.

Click here to find out more about SMART goals.

Agreeing on targets and prioritising workloads with your employees will really make them much more accountable – and your lazy employees won’t have anywhere to hide!

They simply have to get it done – or explain exactly why they didn’t.

3. Incentivise staff.

I know; it can seem pretty unfair to have to reward lazy staff members for simply doing their job.

But the thing is; many (in fact most) people work well when they know that a reward is available if they exceed the (SMART) goals they’ve been set.

And you don’t have to just incentivise your sales staff (although it’s easiest to for them).

You can offer rewards to all staff members, perhaps based on work completed, successful projects and positive customer remarks etc.

And – your incentives don’t have to be monetary!

There are thousands of ways you could be saying ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to your team! Click here to see just some of them.

4. Offer progression.

One of the best incentives you can offer your employees is a clear route for progression.

Would you want to be stuck in a role with no prospects of promotion, new responsibilities or change? Most people wouldn’t – and that’s when unhappiness and indifference start to creep in.

Why exactly should I go the extra mile? I’m not going anywhere anyway.

Working towards a possible promotion can have a massive morale boosting effect on your workforce and may just snap some out of their lazy slump!

5. Address any training issues.

Of course, if you’re going to offer progression, you must have the right training in place to back it up.

There’s nothing more frustrating for an employee than being unable to do a part of their job and having to ask for help all of the time.

Their morale will fall, they’ll feel like a burden or they’ll start to get complacent (AKA lazy).

If you develop employees through training, you are likely to be rewarded by a team who will be more committed and more capable of delivering success to the business.

6. Give them more responsibility.

Is your staff member lazy or just bored?

Going back to point one – it’s time to have a chat.

In most cases, your employee will admit that the reason they’re feeling demotivated (and a little bit lazy) is because they find the job too easy, don’t feel valued enough and are being underutilised.

Handing over more responsibility will make them feel more valued and give added motivation to do well – it’s their neck and reputation on the line, after all.

NB: be careful with this one, you don’t want to look like you’re rewarding bad behaviour.

7. Determine their interests.

Do you enjoy every single aspect of your job? Most people don’t.

Are you good at everything? Most people aren’t.

An important part of being a good leader is being able to identify your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes and dishing them out in the most productive way for your team.

Recruiter Pro Tip

I know, I know, this is easier said than done and to a certain extent, each employee knew what they signed up for when they took the job!

But if you can assign tasks based around personal strengths (for example, organisation, leadership, team-work) it really can boost productivity, morale and overall output in your office.

Just make sure that one person doesn’t end up doing all the horrible jobs (they may keep saying ‘I don’t mind’ – but really, deep down, they do).

If someone is apathetic towards a certain part of their role, they’re much more likely to do a bad job of it, I’m afraid – and that’s where your ‘lazy employees’ start to appear.

8. Assess your entire team.

Although you may recognise that one individual is showing signs of laziness, the problem may not be isolated to just them.

Sometimes, it can be a symptom of a much bigger problem, affecting the entire team.

Are the rest of your staff disengaged? Do they feel undervalued? Do they actually care about your business?

If you suspect that this may be the case, then it’s time to do an internal audit and reassess your entire employee engagement strategy and management technique.

Recruiter Pro Tip

Just ask! If you’ve noticed a decrease in engagement, output and general happiness in the office, then you need to find out what’s causing it.

Anonymous employee satisfaction surveys work well for less open environments, but if you (truly believe) that your employees trust you, an open (no-judgement) meeting could work.

Be straight with your employees – just ask them, what’s going on?

You can ask about working hours, the office environment, employee interaction and even management.  You will be in a much better position to change things if you have all of the facts.

9. Offer support.

Our personal lives have a real effect on our work.

So when you first notice a ‘lazy’ employee, it’s really important to try and work out whether anything is going on in the background.

Make sure you’re approachable and friendly and when you know there has been an issue, be as accommodating as possible.

I promise you that the loyalty and respect you gain from treating your staff fairly (and like human beings) will be worth it in the long run.

Click here to find out more about approaching sensitive subjects at work.

10. Know when it’s time to give up.

There’s only so much you can do to motivate your employees. Sometimes, you’ve just managed to hire a bad (lazy) egg.

If the rest of your team are performing well and seem happy and engaged, but one employee is trailing behind (and they haven’t got any personal issues going on)… it’s time to make a change.

Otherwise they’ll bring down the morale of the whole team! No one likes to work hard and then look across the room at a co-worker who gets away with bloody murder.

One final chance…

Even when you’ve made a decision that an employee is lazy and disrespectful rather than demotivated and disengaged, you should still give them one last chance.

Making a rash decision could cause more upset than good (and sacking brings down the morale of the whole office – especially if the employee is well-liked).

To find out how to deal with an ‘underperforming’ staff member – check out this blog post.

Alternatively, if you’d like us to send you a weekly blog post with our latest guidance on hiring, engaging and retaining great staff members – click here to subscribe to our blog!

- Anthony Hughes

Anthony Hughes

Anthony is a recruitment veteran of 18 years and is also one of the original founders of Coburg Banks. He now trains recruitment consultants on the best methods to utilise when sourcing and assessing applicants for their clients. 


> More blog posts by Anthony Hughes

Get in touch with us.

Telephone: 0121 362 2300
Or send us a quick message and we’ll call you.
*These are required fields
Please leave this field empty.