Latest News

6 Types of Motivation Fails (and how you can solve them!)

Are your employees suffering from lack of motivation? Learn how to get them fired-up and running again with the right diagnosis and intervention.


Even the most talented and diligent employees can become negligent and indifferent after a prolonged period of doing the same job.


Research on motivation suggests that employees who succeed have managers who apply the right kind of motivation to encourage them to consistently give their best. It is therefore key for managers to understand the reasons for their employees’ dwindling motivation in order to apply the right cure and re-energise them.


Managers must first examine or diagnose employees who are showing signs of lack of motivation before taking action. This is crucial because applying the wrong intervention could backfire. For example – pushing the employee to simply do a better job when they don’t know how and why they are failing could erode their motivation even further.


Here are the 6 common types of Motivation Fails according to experts and the corresponding interventions to get employees fired-up and running again.


#1 Values-Fail

Motivation Fail #1 Values

Signs and Symptoms:
When employees judge the job as either “not interesting”, “not useful” or “not important”, to their own self-development, the team or the company at-large.

Manager Intervention:
Managers often assume that what motivates them is also true for their employees. Find out what your employee cares about and connect it with the job. Here are a few questions you can start with —
(1) Rate your tasks from least to most interesting
(2) How important is it to you to do well on the job?
(3) Is the effort worthwhile to you?


#2 Self-Confidence-Fail

Motivation Fail # 2 Self-Confidence

Signs and Symptoms:
Employees who believe that they don’t have the time, ability, or energy required to succeed in the job.

Manager Intervention:
Build employee’s self- confidence and competence by —
(1) Citing similar challenges in the past where they have succeeded
(2) Building their capacity by gradually increasing job-difficulty
(3) Breaking down enormous tasks into smaller, more manageable bits

#3 Emotional-Fail

Motivation Fail #3 Emotional

Signs and Symptoms:
Employees who are overcome with negative emotion, e.g. fear, anxiety, anger or depression when confronted with a difficult job.

Manager Intervention:
Engage the employee in a heart-to-heart conversation to understand what’s upsetting them. Here are a few suggestions on how to handle a conversation with an emotionally volatile employee –
(1) Listen actively, ask how are you feeling and why do you feel the way you feel?
(2) Do not judge
(3) Do not agree nor disagree
(4) Offer advice – ask how you can help


#4 Attribution-Fail

Motivation Fail #4 Attribution

Signs and Symptoms:
Employees who struggle with this type of motivation-fail are finding excuses for their poor performance – citing reasons that are “out of their control”, e.g. blaming their teammates, the technology, the weather, anyone but themselves.

Manager Intervention:
Understand what’s really causing their struggle then assess how you can help them adopt more ownership and responsibility. For example – if you arrive at the diagnosis that the workflow is bogging the employee down, shifting the focus on their output and allowing them to manage their own process might do the trick.


#5 Leadership-Fail

Motivation Fail #5 Leadership

Signs and Symptoms:
When there is no clear line of authority or leadership responsibility, employees find it difficult to know what to do, whom to listen or turn to for support. And this can lead to issues with underperformance.

Manager Intervention:
You don’t have to be a senior level manager to lead. If you see this type of poor motivation in your team and you know you can help, put your hand up and take charge – just be sure you’re behaving in a positive way for the team, and not adding to the confusion!


#6 Culture-Fail

Motivation Fail #6 Culture

Signs and Symptoms:
Employees who don’t believe in what they do for the company are just in it for the money. On the other hand, employees who share the company’s purpose believe that the job is its own reward. Everything else is gravy.

Manager Intervention:
Lead a highly-motivating company culture by explaining the “why” behind the work of your employees. And be specific – paint a picture of how their work is adding value to the lives of your customers. Don’t just say “because it’s your job.”


The best leaders can turn around unmotivated and uninspired employees into consistent achievers. Sign up for any of our Leadership Training and Events to learn from the best global management practitioners and coaches with proven success for leading and engaging high-performing teams.


view all our learning events and training courses