How to Motivate People Who Aren’t Very Motivating to be Around

Almost every leader would recognise that it’s their job to motivate their team, although not every leader knows how to go about it.

By: Sinead Healy on

The easiest people to motivate are the motivated! They come to you with new ideas, they go the extra mile, complete work on time, achieve targets. So, saying well done, you’re a valuable member of the team is really easy because they give you something to work with.

But how do you motivate the people who suck the life out of you? The walking dead! The ones who aren’t going the extra mile, who are doing anything other than the basics? It can be difficult to raise the energy to want to motivate them, when often what you want them to do is leave.

The Energy Investment Model

The Energy Investment Model shows where people can sometimes sit at certain points in their career:

The Player

  • High energy, Great attitude - motivated, driven, involved & engaged

The Spectator

  • Low energy, but good attitude. Positive, keen to do well but unlikely to get their hands too dirty

The Well Poisoner

  • High energy but attitude is off, likely to be found complaining loudly to anyone who’ll listen.

The Walking Dead

  • Low energy, low attitude, waiting for retirement, there in body but not in spirit.

I’m sure if you’re being honest, reader, you’ll recognise that you have sat in some of these boxes over the course of your career.

The interesting part of the Energy Investment Model for me is that almost everyone started the company as a player, motivated, keen and up for a new challenge. If they didn’t then they were unlikely to get past the interview stage.

So, what happened? Were they overworked, overlooked for promotions, did their hard work and enthusiasm go unnoticed?

So how to engage these types, big gestures and insincere recognition isn’t going to work, as whilst the walking dead probably doesn’t know they’re the walking dead, they are aware that they’re not living it loving it in their job.

In short - talk to them, ask them how they’re feeling, what specifically is demotivating to them. Give them some attention. The temptation with this type of behaviour is to ignore it in order to protect your own energy. Take a deep breath and engage and notice even small shifts in perspective and behaviour before you know it, they’ll be a spectator or even back in the game and a player.

This What We Do