Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Workplace Doctor: How do I deal with team member's low motivation?

People are primarily motivated by one of eight career anchors – priorities that define how they see themselves and how they see their work

Bored businessman leaning on elbow.
Bored businessman leaning on elbow.

QI work in a busy hospitality environment. I have noticed that an individual who reports to me seems to have a low level of motivation. I am concerned this is affecting their performance and, if left unmanaged, will begin to affect the rest of the team and the perceptions of our customers. What is your advice? KL, Sir Baniyas Island

AEmployees with low levels of motivation are not rare – Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report showed that only 16 per cent of employees across the UAE are engaged with their work.

Engagement refers to the emotional attachment we have to our work, which in turn supports high levels of motivation and productivity. So we are faced with a majority of the workforce that are not particularly engaged with their work and less likely to be motivated.

As the workplace demographics are increasingly made up of millennials – and younger workers are less engaged than older workers in the UAE – managers need to adjust their leadership style to engage with this group. They respond best to coaching orientated towards leadership and knowing that there is purpose in what they do. A previous report from Gallup further suggested that more than two-thirds of an employee’s motivation is a direct result of their manager’s influence. People perform best when they have clear expectations of what is needed of them, they receive appropriate structure and they get progressive, constructive feedback. As a manager, the important skill of being able to keep employees positive and engaged cannot be underestimated.


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So how do you keep this individual motivated? There are two approaches to consider. According to Edgar Schein, people are primarily motivated by one of eight career anchors – priorities that define how they see themselves and how they see their work. By being able to determine employees’ specific anchors, you are able to adjust your communication style to fit the employees’ needs and to drive improved performance by recognising and rewarding accomplishments. In essence, the different anchors are: technical competence; general management; autonomy; security; entrepreneurial creativity; dedication to a cause; pure challenge; and lifestyle. Knowing which anchor motivates this individual will enable you to make him/her feel both valued and motivated.

Another approach would be that of the work, management and behavioural science writer Daniel Pink, who sees motivation stemming from better performance and personal satisfaction. To achieve this you need three elements: autonomy. mastery and purpose. Being in control of our work inspires motivation, so having some impact on decisions and being given clear goals is important.

For mastery, we want to be aware of our growth and development opportunities and map a career path for the future. Finally, to have purpose we want to know that we are making a difference. Employees who are aware of and in line with the company’s mission are mindful that they can make a direct impact and the company’s strategic goals will hold some personal meaning.

It is imperative to consider the effect this may have on other employees and on your customers. It is easy to see how one demotivated employee can lower morale and have a negative impact on the rest of the team. Furthermore, employee motivation and engagement are directly linked to a company’s customer service levels and satisfaction. Employees with low motivation and morale tend to shift their focus to themselves rather than showing a real interest in customers. It is likely that these individuals will not be concerned with doing anything beyond the minimum expectations. This may result in the employee receiving negative feedback, which in turn may further influence their motivation and future behaviour.

Doctor’s prescription:

Personal time and positive attention from their manager is one of the most rewarding and motivational interactions for employees at work – so to foster this it is important to know the needs and wants of each employee. Provide direction and give praise and recognition where it is due. Set organisational goals and sufficient context that will help to create meaning and purpose as to why this person is coming into work every day.

Yolande Basson is an executive coach and consultant at Ashridge Executive Education – Middle East

Updated: October 24, 2017 08:25 PM