Are you a manager struggling to keep your team productive?  You may have fallen into the trap of relying on carrot versus stick approach for motivation where the carrot is dangled at the whole team as a reward for hitting their target or delivering the project on time and in budget.  The stick is the micro-management of an unsuccessful team or worse one team member which then affects the success of the whole team.

If you are using this approach, it is no wonder your good employees are losing their motivation.  A one-size-fits-all method to employee management and development just does not work.

MOTIVATION in the workplace – the willingness to exert high levels of effort towards the Company’s goals conditioned by the effort’s to also satisfy an individual need.

Let’s assess some of the reasons your employees may be struggling to stay focused and motivated and, give you some key strategies to combat ongoing motivational failure.


An employee will have several values that they may or may not realise that keeps them motivated to do their job well.

Interest Value

To remain motivated, a person must have an element of interest.  As a manager, it is your job to find connections between tasks and the things that the employee finds interesting and matches their intellectual capacity.

Importance Value

How much responsibility have you given to your employee and do they understand how their role or tasks fits in the bigger picture of the Company’s larger goals? 

Identity Value

 Are they one of many?  If you bulk your employees together you are likely to make them feel like they lack their own identity at work, which can lead to disinterest in their day to day tasks.  It is essential that you draw out their skills set, for example; if they work well under pressure or engage successfully in teamwork, point this out to improve their self-conception.

The best solution, if you feel you have an employee who resonates with any of the above, is to share context and provide relevance.  There is no stronger motivation for employees than an understanding of why they are being asked to do something and how valuable their role is within the larger Company.


If you have an employee who has been given a task and maybe hasn’t tackled it successfully as you expected, then it could be that your employee is lacking the capacity to carry out this task.  Often, employees who lack self-efficacy are convinced that succeeding at a task will require investment of more time and energy than they can afford.  Recognise this maybe challenging and offer extra support.

SELF-EFFICACY in the workplace.  Defined as a person’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance.  Self-efficacy beliefs determine how a person thinks, feels and motivates themselves and behaves and can affect the person’s overall well-being.

On the flip side, you may have a disgruntled employee who feels overqualified for the task in hand.  As a manager, this can be trickier to negotiate.  Your employee may take no responsibility for their failures due to their inflated opinion of their capabilities. 

Here you must avoid challenging their expertise.  Focus on how the requirements of the task have been misjudged, and work towards convincing your employee to take a different approach.

Disruptive Emotion

Anxiety, anger and depression are all influencers to whether an employee is motivated to carry out a task.  Whether these feeling stem from outside influence or from the work environment itself, if you have an employee that is consumed with negative emotions it is likely they are no longer going to be able to perform within their usual competencies.

You should apply an Active Listening strategy: be non-judgemental; ask structured questions; let your employee speak and make sure you repeat to them what they say.

If you are unsure how your employee is feeling, check out our Candidate Hub Article on Mental Health at Work.

Attribution in the Workplace

Your employee is unable to attribute a reason to why they are no longer meeting deadlines on tasks or within their overall role.


You’ve noticed a decline in productivity and your first point of call is to speak directly to your employee, only to establish that your employee is unwilling to attribute anything concrete in their change of behaviour and motivation. 

The Blame Game

Failure and fault are virtually inseparable in most households, organisations and cultures.  Admitting failure means taking the blame and, in this case, means attributing the lack of motivation or productivity to someone or something.  Maybe they have credited the issues to another colleague or department a sign that your employee could be struggling to communicate effectively with other team members or departments. 

Personality Mismatch

If there is a personality mismatch within your team or between your employee and another department you need to quickly intervene.  

The main focus for you, as the manager, is to help your employee move past this block by ensuring they identify the issue and help them adopt a new strategy or to apply a greater level of planning.  It is also important to reengage a ‘Team Work’ strategy!

Check in and assess your own motivation

As a leader or man-manager, you may need to assess your own levels of motivation.  Maybe you are struggling to motivate others and are slightly baffled.  Remember, employees are attuned to a leader’s genuine connection to the work, they will know immediately if you are disengaged or unenthusiastic about your Company, or your team, or even the work you do.  

To reengage your own motivation, answer these four questions:

Question One

What do you love about going to work every day?

Question Two

What 3 things make you immensely proud of your team.

Question Three

‘Think outside the box’ and give us two things you could do today to make all your team feel special that costs under £5.

Question Four

Write down something about your role that you could change to increase your energy and enthusiasm.

The bottom line is: Do not rely on the ‘Carrot and the Stick’ approach to motivating your team; swap this out for regular and meaningful conversations.  Remember, it is unlikely you will be a great motivator if you are struggling yourself so tackle your emotional and professional state first. 

Finally, recognise and treat your employees as individuals.  Don’t bulk their success together.  Extract and communicate individual employee contributions both in a one-to-one environment and at the team meeting.

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