Getting More from an Unmotivated Employee

Unmotivated Employees

As Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. in “The Paper Chase” (1973) told his students: “You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

Approaching Unmotivated Employees

So how does an employer approach an unmotivated employee and “train their mind”? How does the management team remedy a bad attitude and teach an employee to act as a “team player” and “get with the program”? Answer: They shouldn’t even try.

It All Starts With Attitude

Companies exist to produce products, service clients, and achieve the corporate mission. Having the right attitude is the responsibility of the employee. Companies that spend time and energy trying to “right the ship” of a wayward employee throw good money after bad. The parent in every employer wants to nurture the employee and deliver the Sermon on the Mount of motivational speeches to them whenever they bring a poor attitude into the workplace. However, the reality is that only the employee can change his or her attitude. The employer can set the table with interesting opportunities which coincide with the employee’s skillsets and desires, and the employer can feather the nest with competitive compensation and benefits, but it is not the employer’s job to change attitudes.

The Role of The Employer

Where employers often go wrong is when they lose track of their role. They are the employer. They are not Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. Their mission is to advance the organization, not to change hearts, spurn unmotivated employees, and “train minds”. When an employer realizes that an employee doesn’t see their job as worth their time for the summer, for life, or for however long, the employer should invest in the process of developing a better candidate pool and improving their selection process for identifying more qualified candidates rather than investing in the sometimes vicious cycle of re-motivation, coaching, and demanding an attitude adjustment.