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Posted by on Jun 20, 2014

Elevate Employees to Improve Motivation

477371591Federal managers know to reward employees who go above and beyond. But what should they do with underperformers—those who can, but won’t? Sometimes the best way to get them up and running is to find out what they need and give it to them. In my upcoming book, 98 Opportunities to Improve Management in Government, I recommend increasing involvement in activities to engage people who don’t give it their all:

Some employees will do the bare minimum to get by, but nothing more. You know the type. They are cynics who will work within the outer edges of the performance appraisal system and do just enough to retain their jobs, get their step increases, and make it to retirement. That’s pretty much all they care about. Many of them seemingly rejoice in your inability to make them work any harder.

What is really sad about these people is that in general they are very talented and can do quite a bit more. They simply choose not to, for reasons that may or may not be job related. Perhaps they have gone through a nasty divorce, which has made them angry and bitter. Or maybe they were treated badly by a prior supervisor and are now determined to give nothing more than the minimum. This may simply be who they are—they might be people who don’t really believe in anything other than themselves. Most likely the root of such behavior is a combination of all of these things, but who knows? In short, these individuals can be poisonous because they often try to get other people to see things through their cynical prism and persuade them to slow down, too.

So as a manager, what can you do? To start with, I would try to elevate the employee, if doing so seems to make sense for that individual. Learn what makes him tick and why he feels the way he feels. For example, one of the most disengaged employees I ever worked with told me that he became that way because he had been denied a promotion he thought he deserved. Whether that was true or not was to some extent irrelevant, because his feelings were the underlying cause of his dissatisfaction. Knowing this allowed me to understand where he was coming from and to craft a strategy to bring him back into the fray.

A good way to elevate an employee is to get him more involved in the organization. Give him some special projects or place him on a committee or two. When you do this, you take him out of his own narrow world and begin to connect him to one that is more dynamic and fulfilling. This can sometimes pull him out of his own misery and get him involved in a bigger and more vibrant world.

Excerpted with permission from 98 Opportunities to Improve Management in Government by Stewart Liff. © 2014 by Stewart Liff & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

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