6 Causes of Employee Demotivation (and How to Address Them)

What you can do as an employer to increase productivity, morale and motivation in the office.

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Nicole Pecoraro218
April 14, 2024 at 2:24AM UTC
Feeling inspired, stimulated and productive at work is paramount to keeping your employees from burnout and demotivation. When we feel like we are contributing to our company in a way that fulfills us both professionally and personally, we are motivated and excited to go to work each day. When we feel insecure or we are lacking creativity or inspiration, we start to find ourselves frustrated and failing to put forth the effort. 
For businesses, this means that your employees are not working to their ultimate potential and, among other things, the bottom line is —  it's costing you money. So how do you recognize this so you can put a stop to it and get your staff back to feeling a sense of purpose that inspires them to come to work every day and put their best foot forward? Recognizing what is causing your employees to feel dissatisfied and demotivated at work is the first step to remedying the issues and getting your company to a place of productivity and encouragement.

1. Low or unfair pay

Whether your pay scale is fair or not isn't necessarily determined by dollar signs. Your employees may make more than the market average, but if their job expectations aren't proportionate to their salary, there will be friction or bitterness. And that bitterness will turn into employee demotivation fast once your employee realizes they aren't being fairly compensated
If you have multiple employees with the same job title and requirements making different salaries, you can expect that animosity or the employee jumping ship altogether is soon to follow. 

How to address the issue:

Run audits on your payroll regularly to stay on top of the various employees and their salaries. Spend some time comparing your current offerings to the marketplace to see if you measure up. If you do internal hires, make sure the standard is being met across the board. The last thing you want is for employees to think you've picked favorites or devalue their work because you were unaware of the discrepancy in payroll between employees in the same position.

2. Disorganization

Whether it's physical or ideal disorganization, being in chaos makes it hard for anyone to achieve greatness. If your office is a mess or consistently missing important stock, it makes it hard for people to find the things they need in a timely matter. Losing precious time they could be working on actual tasks expected of them can cause frustration and anxiety in staff. They feel like their time is not being valued. Disorganization also comes in the form of ideas. 
As an employer, delegating responsibilities is the majority of your day. If you're disorganized with who or how you expect people to complete the assignments you're expecting, someone is bound to get frustrated. One employee can't be overloaded while another is playing solitaire on the clock. You need to balance out the responsibilities so your employees don't feel like the weight of the company lies on their shoulders when other, capable people could be taking some of that weight off of them. 
Additionally, if you're constantly firing off ideas and changing your strategy or your expectations of the final product, your employees will start to feel like they can't possibly do what's expected of them because it has changed so many times they aren't even sure what that is anymore.

How to address the issue:

Have an organized thought process, an executable plan, and stick to it. Albeit, most employers expect some flexibility and that's reasonable, but if your employees are anticipating multiple amendments to the end goal before they get there, they are already starting off annoyed and lacking the motivation to finish the job. 
Make sure you're delegating responsibilities fair and equally. Don't load one employee up while another is twiddling their thumbs, give them something to do. They will both thank you for it. Keep your office organized and make the necessary items your employees will need easy to find and access. Keep an inventory of your stock to ensure you're never running out of important items before you have a replacement, and expect people to keep their areas clean and tidy. It's hard to keep your thoughts organized when your desk is a cluttered mess.

3. Strict rules and policies

Rules are essential. Not many business owners would disagree with that. In instances of health, safety or legality, there is not much leeway when it comes to the rules bending if any at all. 
But when considering general office policies, having rigid, inflexible and very strict expectations can be discouraging to employees. Keeping the policy across the board is still possible while being flexible to varying situations or instances that allow a minor deviation without completely derailing the train off the tracks.

How to address the issue:

Consider the employee, the ask, their history or worth before jumping to regurgitating policy to decline their request. Some policies are important to keep things safe, legal and non-discriminatory in the workplace. Other rules can be adjusted on a case-by-case (or department) basis without any potential catastrophic recourse. Think about the potential ways to help offer more flexibility to your employees instead of jumping to a solid "no," because many times your employee is more valuable to you than bending the rules a tad. And when your employee hears "no" enough times, they are bound to stop asking and start looking for a job somewhere else instead.

4. Micromanagement

Micromanagers will demotivate employees FAST. In the micromanager's eyes, they are trying to oversee everything and make sure the job is done to the best of everyone's ability. But the overall message they are sending is that they don't think the employee is capable. They don't believe in their employee or they don't trust their work. Nobody wants to come to work every day to feel as if they are lacking the ability or not good enough.

How to address the issue:

Give your employees a chance to breathe. They are like little baby birds and as soon as you push them out of the nest, you're going to be scared, but eventually, they will fly. Make sure they have or have access to the tools to succeed and be open to communication and dialogue as they learn or grow, but unless necessary, try to let them do what you hired them to do. Let them do their job.

5. Too much (or too little) work

Being bored at work might be the worst of all demotivators. It's exhausting in a way that isn't exhausting at all. Employees will feel like they aren't being used for their knowledge and skills and as a result, they lack the motivation to continue. On the flip side, being overloaded makes people feel chaotic and frenzied. 
They can't tell which way is up and eventually, they end up forgetting something or making silly mistakes because they simply have too much on their plate. The inspiration and motivation get sucked right out of them because they are in survival mode at that point. It's not their best work, and they know. And so do you.

How to address the issue:

Keeping track of what assignments you've handed out will help you to keep a tab on who is expected to complete what and when. If you are noticing that one employee's workload far outweighs someone else, move some things around. Delegate some tasks to others to even out the playing field. The employees with less to do will be grateful to have something to keep them busy and the employee drowning in paperwork will feel less overwhelmed and therefore more motivated and excited to complete their duties.

6. Hostile work environment

Even if you are organized, flexible, inspiring and have realistic and attainable expectations, your employees will dread coming to work if they feel like the environment itself is unmanageable. A hostile work environment could be a negative or unmotivating and vile boss, it could be a bully on staff or someone in another department altogether whose hostility has seeped into other parts of the office. Whatever and whoever it is, they are surely bringing down most if not all of the entire staff. This needs to stop, immediately.

How to address the issue:

Take notice of the bullies, the toxic managers or the people that are dragging the company down and if you don't already have policies in place that make this kind of treatment or behavior unacceptable, make policies. This is one piece of a rulebook that should not be flexible, but instead, a one-size-fits-all rule that is equal across the board. Mean, hateful, offensive and/or demeaning bully-like behaviors or conversations will not be tolerated. Someone like this will be like a plague to the rest of your staff. Say good riddance to the hostility. 

Last word

Nobody wants to come to work unhappy. Employees want to feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment from their jobs and you want employees who are motivated and excited to be there. Taking a few simple steps to weed out the bad energy, organize your thoughts and office, even out the playing field and audit your compensation to ensure you're offering the best possible work atmosphere will not only aid in overall employee motivation and morale but increase your productivity and output. You will save money by putting forth a little effort to get the spark back in your staff, and in turn, your employees will thank you for it. If you are the employee, don't wait for your boss to fix the issues, learn how to self-motivate in a demotivating work environment to make your work experiences more purposeful. 

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