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> Feeling frustrated by an unmotivated team member? Here's how to overcome the #1 reason for an unmotivated team member.

August 8, 2016

Have you ever felt frustrated by a team member who doesn't take the initiative, who seems to require a bomb just to get off their bum?

An unmotivated team member can cost your team and your organisation big time. One of the biggest losses can be the drain on YOUR joy, energy and creativity in your role as a leader.

There are a number of reasons why your team member may be unmotivated. A thoughtful and effective team leader will respond with care and compassion if a team member is experiencing depression, or if they are feeling overloaded, or some other external issue is impacting their work performance.

But for now, we shall just consider the #1 reason for the lack of motivation in the workplace.

Charles Duhigg in his brilliant book 'Smarter Faster Better' states:

"When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more." P.19
Lack of control over choices is the #1 reason for lost motivation in the workplace!

The key question here is NOT YOUR OPINION as to whether they have choices but THEIRS!

People are more likely to stay involved when they have a sense of control and they believe that the decisions they make, make a difference. 

"If you give people an opportunity to feel a sense of control and let them practice making choices, they can learn to exert willpower. Once people know how to make self-directed choices into a habit, motivation becomes more automatic." P.31
All of us have a need for the freedom to make choices so we have a sense of control.

So what can you do to give control back to your team member? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Affirm positive choices a team member makes even if it didn't work out. For example, "John, I want to thank you for taking the initiative in responding to the client complaint. I know they still got upset and made a formal complaint but I appreciate that you responded to them. Thanks."
  2. For a team member struggling with a decision help them to narrow the choice to just two options and then leave them with the final choice.
  3. When the choice doesn't matter give them a coin and ask them to toss the coin to make a choice. [Research indicates that even tossing a coin gives the illusion of control.]


Article by Peter Watson, of Impact Facilitation. Impact Facilitation provides innovative training solutions with a special focus on not-for-profits in NSW, Australia. You can find out more at www.impactfacilitation.com.au.

[For further information on this important subject I recommend reading Chapter 1 on Motivation from 'Smarter Faster Better' by Charles Duhigg. You might also look up the concept of 'Locus of Control' because an 'Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher motivation and social maturity, lower incidences of stress and depression, and longer life span.' P.23]

*All quotes in this article come from 'Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg.

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