5 Ways to Motivate Complacent Employees

5 Ways to Motivate Complacent Employees


Motivate Complacent Employees
Many new managers struggle with how to motivate complacent employees.  We define complacency as self-satisfaction.  Complacent employees are especially frustrating when they are unaware of the related dangers or deficiencies.

What to Do When Employees Do Not Act Upon Performance Feedback
Because complacency is often a well-hidden sign of an underperforming culture, managers should know what to do when an employee does not seem to hear or act upon performance feedback.  A typical situation occurs when an “inherited” employee continues to behave in a way that is unacceptable despite your repeated requests for improvement. The previous manager had apparently accepted their behavior.

But you are not going to overlook substandard work, regularly missed deadlines, or an unwillingness to help co-workers for the good of the team.    As many times as you’ve tried to talk to the employee, the undesirable behavior continues.  It’s time for you to change your approach and turn their complacency into a genuine effort to improve.

Five Steps to Motivate Complacent Employees
Here are five field-tested steps for managers to follow to better motivate complacent employees.

1. Clearly Identify the Problem
Maybe you’ve not been clear enough. Meet one-on-one and describe the unwanted behavior in a very specific way.  You can’t assume your employee knows exactly what is expected.

Instead of, for example, a general “you always interrupt at meetings and try to dominate the conversation,” give specific examples of recent meetings where they interrupted and derailed the discussion.

2. Describe the Negative Effects
Share with the employee the negative effects of their behavior. Their rudeness upset the teammate who was interrupted, angered the rest of the team, and squelched further discussion.  Their behavior made it seem as if they felt their opinion was more important than any other.

Instead of a balanced and productive sharing of different ideas, they took over and discouraged any further discourse.  This is not how you want the team to explore solutions to the problems that occur.  You know that the best decisions are made when a variety of ideas are proposed and evaluated in an open forum.

3. Get Ready to Listen
Now it’s time to give the employee a chance to explain. Is there something going on that accounts for this behavior?  There may be a background conflict you should know about or there may be a personal situation that is affecting their behavior.

Whatever the reason, you need to listen carefully and non-judgmentally.

4. Try to Solve the Problem Together
Now move toward a solution. The behavior has to change; the expectations are clear; the solution must be agreeable to both.   What suggestions do they have?  This is the time to shift toward the future.

As a new manager, you cannot just cave in here.  Establish a timeline for improvement and agree upon a workable schedule.  With an explicit agreement, there should be no misunderstanding or waffling.

5. Hold Employees Accountable
With the schedule as a guide, check in regularly to see that it is being followed. Has the behavior improved at team meetings?  If so, be sure to give positive feedback.

If there’s no sincere attempt on their part to improve, the employee has made a choice and it’s time for them to move on.  Though this is hard for new and experienced managers alike, you cannot accept substandard behavior.  Be accountable and hold your team accountable.

The Bottom Line
|Employees who perform poorly, for whatever reason, drag down the whole team.  High performing managers motivate complacent employees or help them to move on to a better situation for everyone involved.

To learn more about managing employee performance, download 3 Performance Management Basics All Managers Should Know

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