Dealing with Demotivated Staff

Recently, whilst returning to our destinations in a courtesy car, a manager and I got chatting.

“What do you do?”, she asked. “I have a consultancy business which helps companies in the areas of strat planning, training, profiling, team building and work-life balance” (maybe not the best elevator pitch).

“How about you?”, I asked. “I am in the private sector that is a service provider to government. My company has 700 staff, 10 who directly report to me. Work-life balance sounds interesting… but I must say – people are so demotivated. Maybe it’s a generational issue today?”

Here are 3 simple ideas to consider as you explore how to deal with demotivated staff:

1. “Needs and Wants”

This is what motivates people: we have needs (musts) and wants (desires). When people’s needs are not met, this causes discomfort, pain or frustration. Needs precedes wants. Basic needs, although taken for granted, may be what staff lack. These may revolve around factors such as: air, water, food, sleep, shelter, clothing, excretion, biology, homeostasis, security and safety. These are ‘deficiency’ needs – not necessarily ‘growth needs’, according to Maslow. Another point is the idea of “hygiene factors” (Hertzberg) – that having something does not necessarily motivate one, but that when you don’t have it – it demotivates (e.g. toilet in the workplace).

Good companies aim to ensure that staff’s basic needs are catered for within extent that the company can and should. More importantly, they provide opportunities for staff to experience: acceptance, love, belonging, respect, recognition, status and self esteem. The little things count – the way a manager makes a staff member feel has enormous positive effect. These are the little acts that create organizational cultures.

2. Passionate about your work

When a person is passionate about their work, it correlates with what makes them feel their best, most happy and self-fulfilled. It may talk to their personal identity or purpose as they perceive it. This kind of work makes them significant and special. It might appear as though work is not work, but fun and what their life needs. There’s a sense of appreciation and gratitude that displays in their body language, how they talk to customers, how they respond to queries and challenges, or demands made on them.

Good companies make sure that they have right people for the right job. A person’s occupational interests can be more important than their abilities and personalities when it relates to the subject of “job fit and placement”. Progressive companies measure people. They coach and train. Managers are taught to treat people as individuals not as a whole, group or thing.

3. Involvement

Staff who are not involved are generally not as committed to a cause or strategy than those engaged.

Good companies involve staff in providing feedback and inputs to make work better. Do you use opinion surveys, workplace climate surveys, one on one feedback, workshops, follow ups? Sometimes, people closest to the problems may have the best solutions.

These three ideas to improve staff morale and motivation are part of progressive and learning organisations. Involving staff is not deemed as unnecessary, a threat or a waste of time and money – but rather an important investment in pursuing organizational objectives.


Anil Salick

Anil Salick

Strategist, Facilitator, Coach, Writer. Shares about inspiration, leadership, critical thinking, fun, sports and current events.