How to Motivate Your Problem People

Everyone has motivational energy. Everyone acts in ways that they believe will make things better for them, their loved ones or the wider community.

Even problem employees are driven and committed — it is just that the direction or nature of their drive and commitment is not recognised or valued in the workplace.

In trying to motivate problem employees, most managers either:

  • try to “sell” their viewpoint to employees—or
  • dismiss them as ‘lazy’
  • avoid managing them all together and hope that the problem will go away.

1. Create a rich picture of the ‘problem’ employee.

Don’t simply label him difficult. Build a relationship and find out what drives him, what’s blocking those drives, and what might happen if the blockages were removed. A system of regular 121s should let you build a relationship that can achieve this within a month or two.

2. Replace predetermined ‘solutions’ with feedback

Don’t demand new behaviours just point out the impacts of those already in place and ask what he might be able to do differently? Help him to develop a menu of possibilities and choose to follow the ones that interest him.

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