20 Causes Of Workplace Demotivation And How To Fix It

26 August 2019

Workplace Demotivation

​No-one operates at their best when work becomes a daily grind. But great leaders have the opportunity to identify the common causes of workplace demotivation, step in, make some changes.

The result? Inspired, energetic, passionate and excited teams who are happy to come to work each day.

At Trojan Recruitment Group, we get to see some fantastic workplaces who have actively sought ways to increase employee motivation and create inspired workplaces. So, we've pulled together 20 causes of workplace demotivation and a fix for each.

1. Uninspiring Environment

Do you stare at grey walls, grey carpet? Using worn-out desks and chairs? Or do you have a lack of natural lighting in a cubicle style office, with little contact with anyone?

You can imagine how demotivating this type of drab environment might be. The good news is that employees don't need a lavish multi-storey office to feel more productive. In fact, a lot can be done with a lick of paint, access to natural light and some collaborative spaces.

2. Job insecurity

If you think you are going to be let-go, or the business is going south, then the focus of your mental energy is on finding a plan B; not on excelling in your current job or helping the company pull out of their existing challenges.

Many Japanese companies have identified that job security is critical to business. So much so that they offer "a job for life." Here, they'll do everything in their power to protect their employees.

So, find ways to build job security into teams so they can be focussed on driving the business forward, not planning their exit.

3, Negativity

Misery breeds company. So, if Negative Nelly is bringing the whole mood down, it's time for a shake-up.

Nelly obviously has a big influence, so make it your mission to help her turn around. Bring in more positive people to draw Nelly out or lift her spirits (just be careful she doesn't crush them too). And if that looks like the case, it may be time to move Nelly on - after all, she isn’t happy anyway.

4. Lack of progress

High performers want to see their efforts translate into outcomes, so if they don't see progress, it can kill their workplace motivation.

So, find the roadblock and address it. Identify any leaders who are afraid to make decisions, leaders who are fearful of new ways of doing things and help them with their mindset.

You should also address any cultural issues - a culture that fears failure can mean endless justification rather than delivery. And make an effort to unplug bottlenecks caused by inadequate skills or resources.

5. Lack of confidence in the leadership

We all want to work for the business that is kicking goals and going places, and it is the leadership that sets the tone. But if leaders are unskilled, lack vision and innovation, or do not bring a sense of purpose, then followers can feel like they are working on a sinking ship.

Think about your role as a leader and the tone you are setting. How are you keeping up to date and propelling the business forward? What sense of purpose do you bring? How are you inspiring your employees about the future direction of the company? Are you Blockbuster Video or Netflix? It all starts with the leaders.

6. Boredom

Something amazing happens when you are operating in your learning zone. Where there is sufficient challenge for your skill level and you are excited as you build towards mastery. However, for those who have become masters, it is easy to be complacent and bored, staying in the role as it is comfortable.

Long-term loyal employees are extremely valuable, and it is essential to make sure they are sufficiently challenged. Secondments, role swaps, additional projects and other learning opportunities can prevent them from slipping into the boredom zone.

7. Unpleasant co-workers

Overly political, backstabbing, bullying, inappropriate behaviour can lead to a “why bother” attitude. And this is especially true for high performers who care and are proud of their work.

If you are aware of employees who aren’t living the values you are trying to build within your culture, it needs addressing.

Read more about six types of difficult workmates and how to work with them effectively.

8. Micromanagers

How inspired and motivated do you feel when being told step-by-step how to do your job?

Micromanagers sap freedom from their employees and can make them feel inadequate – often unknowingly. Their actions eliminate any autonomy, creativity or satisfaction in their workers achievements.

Micromanagement comes from a fear-based, competitive culture that makes managers fear mistakes or through the manager having their own fears and anxieties that creates the need for control. So, addressing the culture can go a long way to support leaders who micro-manage.

For leaders themselves, coaching can be an excellent support to help them form new, healthier ways of leading their teams.

9. Unfair remuneration

How loyal, inspired and motivated will you be to a person or organisation that doesn't appreciate you back?

Whether below market or inequitable between colleagues, unfair pay sends a message that an employee’s contribution is less valued.

Successful organisations pay employees “as much as they can reasonably afford”. They believe that paying market (or above) is one way of saying we value you. It can help attract and retain incredible talent – assuming all other factors are equal.

10. No career growth

If you are stuck in the same job with no prospects of a future challenge, then you are likely to get bored, stale and not further your skills.

Give employees opportunities for growth.

This doesn't necessarily mean a promotion. Changes in responsibility, new learning opportunities and new skills can help stretch them and make them feel like they are progressing.

11. An unsupportive boss

Did you know that 58% of people trust strangers more than they trust their boss?

A boss that cares about you, has your back, inspires you and earns loyalty. Conversely, one that is unsupportive, couldn’t care about you as a person or what you do each day makes their team members feel insignificant.

Unsupportive bosses can have their "own stuff" going on. Maybe they are busy fighting political fires. Perhaps they have their own unsupportive boss. Or they could be hamstrung in what they can do, are bored themselves or are just not wired to be people leaders.

So, determine whether the root cause is the boss or the business. Once you know this, you can address the issues preventing them from being the best leader they can be.

Read more about types of bad bosses and how to deal with them.

12. Moving goalposts

Imagine a ship is steering towards the Antarctic, then it shifts to North America and then again to Asia and employees just “end up at sea”. Nothing gets achieved; there is endless energy invested in each change and no outcome. Plus there are limits to how long employees can swim!

Take time to set the strategy and go for it. Yes, market conditions can change, and adaptability is needed, but needless change just ends up frustrating team members who end up feeling like they accomplish nothing.

13. Stringent Rules

In 2016, PWC banished its dress code. If their employees couldn't be trusted to dress appropriately, how could they be trusted to make good decisions about the business? Makes sense, doesn't it?

Stringent rules have a significant impact on workplace culture and can be a significant workplace demotivation trigger. They can hinder creativity, innovation, discourage problem solving and initiative, which are all needed to curb workplace demotivation.

14. Lack of appreciation

79% of people who quit their job cited a lack of appreciation as their number one reason for leaving the workplace.

Rewarded behaviour gets repeated. If you want your team members to be motivated and excited, consider an appropriate reward. It goes a long way to show you value their efforts.

15. Too much work

Ever had so much work you weren't even sure where to begin, so you did nothing? Then the work continues to pile up, and you spend time planning how to get it done while more keeps piling up. This vicious cycle leads to being overwhelmed and burnt out. And let's face it, what overwhelmed and burnt out employee is highly motivated?

So what should you do if work overload is the source of workplace demotivation? Your two options are to resource up or descope. Doing nothing means you will lose your team in one way or another.

Read more about the signs that your team are on the brink of burnout.

16. Lack of clarity in work

You work hard. You believe you have delivered on the task and are ready to tick it off the list. But, after investing all that energy, you learn that you missed the mark and the task reappears on your to-do list again… and again.

The issue with a lack of clarity in work is that employees feel they “should have got it." They may be disappointed in themselves, nervous to try again in case they are off base a second time and frustrated that their investment.

First of all, ensure the business has a clear vision and actions to achieve it. (If this isn't clear, then it is hard for employees to know what they are striving to achieve.)

Once you have a vision, ensure that leaders understand the benefits of effective delegation and have the time and skills to do so effectively.

17. Favouritism

Let's paint a picture; meet Perfect Pete.

Perfect Pete can't do any wrong. He gets invited to long Friday lunches with the boss, gets the tickets to the corporate box and enjoys a golf day while the rest of the team is back at the office slaving away. Even better, Pete gets to accept the Team of the Year Award after his colleagues invested all the effort.

Can you imagine how Perfect Pete makes his team feel? It's likely he's sending a message that their energy isn't valued.

As a people leader, you will naturally enjoy the company of some team members more than others. But be mindful to spread-the-love equally as it will lead to happier more productive teams.

18. Other demotivated employees

You are there in the trenches day after day, but your workmates turn up late, take extended breaks, are on Facebook all day. While you are trying to progress your projects, achieve your goals and your career, they don't seem to care. If these behaviours go unaddressed, then it is easy for others to fall suit or become resentful fast.

Workplace demotivation can have a ripple effect. So, if you see pockets of it emerging, best to address it quickly before the behaviour becomes the norm.

19. Duplication of work

Your team has been tasked with finding cost-savings within your department and has made a plan and started work. Next thing a project “task force” is coming into your area to lead the same activity and you are drawn into workshops about how your department can save costs.

Duplication of work leaves team members unsure about accountability ownership and doing the same job twice. And this is a significant source of workplace demotivation. Clear lines of ownership and accountability go a long way to solving this issue.

20. No tools to do the job

You have urgent deadlines and deliverables, and your equipment just won't work. So you put in more and more manual effort to find workarounds to compensate, but ultimately your tools are letting you down. Often the business isn't aware that old equipment is causing inefficiencies and impacting productivity and motivation as the employees are merely shouldering the burden.

Many organisations have created portals to which you can add a suggestion for continuous improvement to which employees vote on the ones that will make the most impact.

Employees don't need a lavish multi-storey office to feel more productive – a lot can be achieved with a can of paint, access to natural light and some collaborative spaces.

Let Trojan Recruitment Group help you build a great team

Is your team suffering from workplace demotivation? Perhaps you need to work with a recruitment agent to get the balance right.

Trojan Recruitment Group can help you build a team of inspired and motivated employees and provide advice regarding labour-hire, permanent and contract staff. Contact us today!