Motivation is the drive to do something. In the workplace, it is the force that compels employees to get up every day and do their work. When workers are motivated they are faster and more productive.
Sometimes however, employees can end up losing their motivation and there are several reasons why this might happen. They include:
- Faults with management
- Heavy or light workloads
- Unclear goals
- Career stagnation
We cannot discuss what leads to employees losing motivation without talking about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. With intrinsic motivation, employees will do their work for personal rewards. These can include helping a community or simply because they enjoy their work. Extrinsic motivation is driven by an external force. It lies in avoiding punishment or getting a reward.
Neither is better than the other and some schools of thought advise that to get the best from employees, both need to be present. Employees losing motivation can result in a loss in morale and engagement, it can increase the likelihood of errors at work and workplace absenteeism. Below, we discuss what causes it.
Too heavy or too light tasks
Having a pile of work that they can never get to the bottom of can lead to employees losing motivation. Completion of tasks brings about a sense of accomplishment and gives employees something to be proud of.
If they feel like a task will never end, employees can start to feel unmotivated about doing the work at all. To prevent this from happening on large and long term projects, managers can consider breaking the job into smaller chunks with several milestones along the way.
On the other hand, too light or unchallenging a workload can also lead to employees losing motivation. With light workloads, employees may feel like they are just doing busy work, or that they are not trusted to take on serious work. Both scenarios will result in a loss of motivation.
They don’t have a good enough reason to work
‘Why am I doing this?’ if an employee asks themselves this question and the answer isn’t good enough, it can lead to a loss of motivation. Both employees and bosses have a role to play in preventing this.
Some bosses might think that a salary and financial benefits will be enough to stop employees losing motivation but this might not be the case. Managers should begin by clarifying goals to employees. Employees should know why they are doing a given job and what it will mean for the organisation.
They should also know how their specific contribution matters to the end goal. No employee should wake up feeling like if they did not do their part all would be well.
Employees too should work on their own personal goals. This will give them the motivation they need to keep going even on those hard and long days. Goals give people direction and motivation.
They don’t see the results of their efforts
Think about it, an employee works all year long and they do not see how their work impacts the organisation, their clients or anyone else. It is highly motivating for employees to feel that their efforts count for something. Management shouldn’t neglect to share reports with their teams and to keep them abreast of the organisations’ performance and what they did to contribute to it.
These results don’t only need to be about work or in hard numbers. They can be the outcome of filling in for a colleague thus enabling them to care for a sick parent. The result here is giving a colleague the opportunity to take care of someone important to them.
It is also important for organisations to cultivate a culture of gratitude. In this way, results small and big will be highlighted. When employees know that what they do has a positive outcome, motivation will improve.
One thing that can lead to once hard working employees losing motivation is career stagnation. Employees need training, development and advancement opportunities in order to keep bringing their best to the work.
Engage with employees in order to help them map out a career path. When this is done, both manager and employee will know where an employee wants to be in the future. This can include anything from skills they would like to master, training they would like to have, and projects they would like to take part in and or even lead.
As manager, take the time to check in with an employee if you see that they are stagnating or are not being challenged.
In order to be motivated to do their jobs, employees need to feel that they are not expendable. Working in a company where people are constantly being fired or where leadership changes too often can lead to a sense of insecurity.
When people feel like any day could be their last at the company, they might not feel motivated. In addition, as opposed to focusing on their work, they might spend time looking for jobs that can give them the security they crave.
It falls on management to reassure employees of their future at a company, particularly in periods of change.
When burnout creeps in, it will lead to employees losing motivation to work. Burnout can be described as prolonged physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It is not the same as being tired after a long work week. Instead it is sustained fatigue that might not budge even after rest.
Once burnout sets in, it is hard to fight so both manager and employees should try to prevent it. They can do this by creating schedules that allow for rest, prioritising work-life balance and by taking care of mental as well as physical wellness.
Motivation is an important aspect for workers and managers need to keep an eye on it. If there is a marked and continued decline in motivation, then managers need to investigate the reasons behind it.
In some cases, it will be clear why employees are losing motivation, in others, there is a need to hear from them. Carry out anonymous surveys and one-on-one chats to discover why your previously motivated employees are struggling with work. Remedying the situation will have benefits for the employees and the whole company.