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Breaking the Cycle of Lethargy: Strategies for Motivating Underperforming Employees


Do you have employees who are lethargic, unmotivated, and underperforming? As a manager, this can be a significant challenge that affects your team’s productivity and the company’s bottom line. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to motivate underperforming employees and create a more positive work environment. In this article, we’ll explore three effective strategies for breaking the cycle of lethargy: setting goals, providing feedback, and creating a positive work environment.

Setting Goals: The Key to Motivation

Goals give employees a target to work towards and help them understand how their work contributes to the larger goals of the company. But, setting the right kind of goals is essential. According to research, setting specific and challenging goals can lead to higher levels of performance compared to vague or easy-to-achieve goals (Locke & Latham, 2002). Therefore, it’s crucial to set challenging but attainable goals that align with the employee’s role and responsibilities.

Providing Feedback: The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Feedback is an essential tool for motivating underperforming employees. When employees receive regular feedback, they understand what they are doing well and where they need to improve. Providing positive feedback for a job well done is equally important as negative feedback. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of the desired behavior to occur again. Make sure to provide specific examples of areas that need improvement rather than making generalizations about their performance.

According to a survey by Officevibe, 65% of employees want more feedback than they’re currently receiving, and employees who receive regular feedback are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged at work than those who don’t (Officevibe, 2021). Therefore, it’s essential to provide regular feedback to help employees improve their performance and stay motivated.

Creating a Positive Work Environment: A Recipe for Success

Creating a positive work environment is critical for motivating underperforming employees. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. Building strong relationships with employees, offering opportunities for professional development, and listening to their concerns are some ways to create a positive work environment.

Research has shown that happy employees are 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts (Oswald, Proto, & Sgroi, 2015). Therefore, it’s important to create a work environment that supports employee happiness and wellbeing. Offer flexible work arrangements, provide healthy snacks and drinks in the office, and encourage breaks and exercise throughout the day.


Motivating underperforming employees is a challenge that managers face regularly. However, by setting clear goals, providing regular feedback, and creating a positive work environment, managers can help employees overcome lethargy and increase their productivity. By using these strategies, managers can create a more productive and positive work environment, which ultimately benefits the company’s success.

So, if you have underperforming employees, don’t lose hope! You can use these three effective strategies to motivate them and get them back on track. Remember, setting goals, providing feedback, and creating a positive work environment are the key to breaking the cycle of lethargy and increasing productivity.

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