How to Motivate Lazy Employees

Employees are the heart and the backbone of any business. As such, if your employees are working inefficiently, are unmotivated, or are just plain lazy, your business might be losing money, reputation, or even employees themselves. Keeping your employees motivated and profitable should be one of your biggest priorities as a manager or business owner.

In this article, we’ll look into some of the best ways to motivate and inspire your employees to work harder (and better) for your business.

The Importance of Addressing Lazy Employees

Lazy employees don’t just hurt your bottom line. They also hurt your workplace atmosphere, stain your reputation, and just generally make your life more difficult. It’s important to remove or reform these lazy employees as quickly as you can. However, what about an employee who does the absolute bare minimum, but doesn’t do anything wrong?

For an employee like the above, it can be hard to address them because they’re not technically breaking any rules or doing anything that they should be reprimanded for. However, to make your company a success, having employees that go above and beyond, strive to go further and be promoted, and look for creative solutions to problems is the goal. Thus, finding ways to deal with lazy employees fairly is crucial.

Unfortunately, part of the big issue with lazy employees is that laziness is contagious. If an employee in your workplace gets away with being lazy, shirking their duties or slacking off, other employees will inevitably try to do the same thing. This is part of why it’s so important to nip laziness in the bud and keep it from spreading. This phenomenon is called peer effects.

In other words, if you want to have a business full of excellent, high-performance employees, laziness can’t take root among them. Peer effects work both ways in that if your employees are all working hard and doing more than they’ve been asked, your other employees will be inspired to follow their example.

As such, if you can keep laziness out of your workplace, hard work will abound instead. However, it’s making this happen that’s the problem! Fortunately, throughout the rest of this article, we’ll give you several tips on setting up your workplace this way and replacing laziness among your employees with hard work and motivation.

Step One: Identify the Problem

Sometimes, lazy employees aren’t necessarily caused by other lazy employees, although this is an option. If you want to eradicate lazy employees from your business or company permanently, you must first find the source of the problem. If you eliminate the lazy employees, but not what created them, you’ll soon have the same issue on your hands again.

As such, step one involves finding out why you have lazy employees. If your other lazy employees all stem from the influences of one, that’s fortunate, and it makes the job very easy. However, laziness can come from other sources, too, such as:

  • A monotonous, non-advancing job
  • Bad management practices
  • Inability to prove one’s abilities
  • Favoritism among employees
  • A hostile working environment

As evidenced by the above list, lazy employees can come about because of many different factors. However, the above list isn’t exhaustive, either. Your investigation into what is causing the problem may take longer than you expect, especially if it’s from an uncommon or difficult-to-find source.

However, identifying the problem is the hard part. Once you’ve figured out how to proceed, it’s time to draft up an action plan and get to work on motivating your lazy employees once and for all.

Employee Feedback

An excellent way to investigate issues that might be plaguing your company is to ask your employees themselves for their opinions. Since your employees are in the middle of everything, they will have more intimate knowledge of the issues that might be holding your company back. Employee surveys, performance reviews, and just general heart-to-hearts with your employees are excellent methods to connect with them and figure out what’s wrong.

If your employees want something changed in the way your business is run, rest assured that they will tell you if you give them a chance. However, if you don’t open up avenues and options for your employees to come to you and tell you, they may feel reluctant to approach you themselves.

There is an undeniable disconnect between employees and their bosses that exists in many businesses, and this can work against you. Your employees also might not feel like any opinions they give you will make a difference, especially if they’ve done so in the past but have nothing to show for it.

However, if you give your employees an easy, judgment-free avenue to tell you about their worries, they will be far more likely to do so than they would otherwise. The chance of them doing so is further boosted if you decide to make the feedback system anonymous, as many employees feel bound by peer pressure not to report their coworkers and friends. However, anonymity gives your employees a secure way for them to alert you of your worries without fearing retaliation from you or their peers.

Step Two: Formulate an Action Plan

Once you know what the source of your lazy employee problem is, you’ll have to come up with a plan to address the issue. Imagine that your problem lies with bad management practices, for example. If your employees aren’t being disciplined appropriately and fairly when they’re lazy, they may not fear the consequences of doing so.

Whatever problem it is that your workforce faces, you will need to come up with your own unique solution to fix it. If your employees’ jobs don’t offer enough advancement to keep them passionate and interested, for example, you may have to rework how that system functions and add some advancement opportunities.

If the working environment that your employees are in every day is hostile or not conducive to hard work, they may find themselves uninspired or unmotivated to work, especially if other employees are taking advantage of them. This situation arises due to bad management practices too, of course, and it can sometimes be solved by cutting the problematic employee(s) from the company.

You may want the help of experts to help address your employee issues, or you might feel confident solving your problems yourself. Whichever route you decide to choose, just make sure you follow through, as abandoning the effort halfway through will only serve to discourage your employees more.

Addressing Management Issues

Managers are employees, too, but they’re fundamentally different in that their job is to influence the behavior and actions of other employees directly. If you have lazy employees on the job in your business, then there is something wrong with management, without a doubt.

Regardless of whether it was a simple mistake – perhaps management hired someone they shouldn’t have – or a more significant issue, like a manager who’s lazy themselves, they should always be considered a prime suspect for the issues your company is facing.

Managers have a lot of responsibility to keep things running smoothly at a company. As such, it’s understandable that they might make a mistake, feel overwhelmed, or not be able to control their charges properly. However, if you hope to remedy your lazy employee problem, the management needs to be dealt with first.

If your managers really do have the best of intentions and your employees have simply gotten out of hand and out of their control, remedial training and a good sit-down may be enough to help your managers succeed again. However, if the manager is in a state of uncaring just like the rest of the employees, they may need to see the same treatment as they do.

If a manager is unwilling to work at keeping their employees and themselves in line, it may be better if they’re purged from the company. However, managers should be given a second chance to prove themselves, too. The only difference here is that a manager’s job is much more high-stakes; if the manager fails at their job, it could result in lazy employees all over again.

As such, management needs to be held to a higher standard than the employees that they control. Extra training, strict monitoring, and consistent check-ins are great ways to keep tabs on management that you’re not completely sure about. If they pass the test, you may be able to loosen up on your hold eventually, or you may find that it’s better to just start from scratch with new management.

Step Three: Implement a Fix

Once you know what you’re going to do to solve your workplace problems, it will be time to put these solutions into practice. To do this, you may need to do several things, such as:

  • Hire outside help to address certain issues, such as reorganizing office space, renovating buildings, or managing staff until positions are filled
  • Hire professionals to help evaluate and train your employees for their new jobs and responsibilities
  • Work through a hiring service to find higher-caliber employees to start over with
  • Give clear and constructive feedback to underperforming employees or purge problem employees from the company
  • Make other changes to the company that will make it clear to your employees that this will be a fresh start

More so than anything else, it’s crucial that your employees know that this is their chance to prove themselves to you and start over again, even if they’ve been lazy in the past. After all, if the working conditions at your company are partially to blame for inspiring employee laziness, your more promising workers may still benefit the company in the future.

Of course, there are many different fixes that you may need to implement to solve the issues with your company. You may even need to go through multiple fixes before you’re satisfied with the progress you’ve made. This will take time, but rest assured that the results you see in the end will be well worth the effort.

Performance Reviews

Different to employee feedback, performance reviews involve the boss or another senior employee sitting down with their juniors and discussing their performance, work ethic, and the expectations that the business holds for them going forward.

Performance reviews are an excellent way to bring employees up to speed on what your future plans are for the company, what will be expected of them moving forward, and any potential dangers of being replaced, if such concerns exist for that employee.

At the very least, giving a performance review or brief to each employee is just common courtesy before letting them go from the company if that is what you decide. Depending on how drastically you reorganize the processes at your company, it may be smart to offer previously-lazy employees a fresh start and give them another chance.

As such, if you warn them beforehand and they still don’t measure up to your new expectations of them, you have every right to let them go from the company, but doing so without any forewarning might be considered rash or rude. Of course, as the business owner, it is well within your power to do this, but by giving your employees a fresh start first, your reputation might benefit rather than suffer.

Performance reviews will also give you a better idea of how your employees as a whole are doing at your company. If only a handful of your employees are unwell, then your performance reviews will quickly show that. Alternatively, if all of your employees have been lazy, then the reviews will show that, too. The beauty of performance reviews is that you can compare the reviews of your own employees to those of other companies to help judge your progress.

Besides judging your employee’s overall performance, conducting a thorough performance review can provide other benefits like:

  • Making the employee more aware of the business’ mission and objectives
  • Helping the employee feel like they matter and are truly valued by the company
  • Motivating the employee to work harder for success
  • Letting the employee vent or express their concerns in a controlled environment

Overall, reviewing your employees this way is the best way to get a general idea about what the state of your employees is overall. It’s an excellent way to tell if just a few employees are the problem, if the whole group has become lazy, or if it’s actually attributable to an outside issue.

Make More Appearances

As the boss or the director of a business or company, you might have a rather busy schedule yourself. However, being more visible as the employer and director of operations has numerous benefits that you can claim for yourself and for your business if you’re willing to invest the extra time. Keeping an active, visible presence in the activities of your company can provide benefits like:

  • Better behavior from employees
  • More widespread knowledge of the goals and intentions of the business (i.e., what you’re working towards)
  • Intimate knowledge of the goings-on at the lower levels of your business
  • More respect from your employees
  • A reputation of being willing to get involved if necessary

If an employee believes that you’re unwilling or unable to get involved in lower-level company affairs, they may feel freer about shirking their duties, not following the rules, or just generally acting out. Often, this is because they feel like there will be no discipline in store for them even if they break the rules. Showing your presence and your willingness to get involved is a direct counter to that mindset.

Managing employees can be hard, and following up your business practices with the will to make sure everything’s working properly is a great thing to see, both for employees and managers. When employees see you checking on the progress of the little guys, they will feel more like the company and its operations are in competent, caring hands.

More Training

Extra employee training is an excellent way to help cut down on employee slacking at your business, too. While employee training isn’t a sure-fire way to make everyone perform ideally, it’s a step in the right direction. Your employees can’t work optimally if they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, after all.

While extra training isn’t necessarily a punishment, it can be used similarly to one. “Remedial classes” carry a certain taboo that implies someone failed at their duties, and this can be utilized to your benefit among your employees. Plus, no one likes extra training or extra classes, so they will try to avoid needing them whenever possible!

Different Plans for Different People

Just like every business is fundamentally different, the action plan needed to solve the issues of each business will be very different, as well. You can even go as far as saying that each employee at the business needs a separate, special, and personal action plan for themselves, too. Each employee should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, not from an overall perspective.

When you expect every employee at a business to fit into the same mold, not only do you stifle the creativity of each unique employee, but you may also miss out on extenuating circumstances, character traits, and motivators that make each employee unique.

If you dismiss all lazy employees from a company based only on the fact that they were lazy, for example, you might miss out on the efforts of an employee who could have provided much to the company if given a second chance. While not all employees will be like this, this is why it’s important not to judge them all by the same criteria.

Instead, judge each employee by their ability, dedication, and mindset. If an employee is willing to work hard at starting again for your company and making things right this time, then give them that chance. However, if your gut is telling you that one employee is toxic and not suitable for the work environment, don’t be afraid to remove them. You’re not obligated to give second chances.

Each remedial plan for each employee might differ, too. For example, an employee who didn’t show up enough to work before might be on a sort of “watch” or “probation” to make sure they don’t take too many days off and continue to shirk their duties or an employee who had a habit of causing workplace conflicts before might be on watch for more disturbances.

In the same way, a new employee that has just been hired into the business and didn’t have time to be caught up in the company’s culture of laziness shouldn’t have to deal with the same consequences. If they were punished the same as the lazy employees just by virtue of working at the same company, they might feel resentful. As such, pardoning them or at least telling them what’s going on would be a wise choice to make.


Once you’ve figured out the reasons why your employees are lazy, even if you take care of the issue, the laziness could return if similar conditions are met again. As such, instead of only cracking down on negligence, you should also make sure to encourage motivation going forward, or you will get nowhere in the end.

There are many ways to encourage this sense of motivation among your employees, and several of the things we’ve mentioned above that help with cracking down on laziness help to address motivation, too. However, there are many other options available to help motivate your employees, too.


Responsibility can be scary, but it can also be an excellent motivator in the right hands. This is especially true for employees who are ready to accept more responsibility as they work for your company. You should always be on the lookout for these employees, as they may not feel like they’re satisfied or advancing enough if they feel their job is too easy or too meaningless.

Slacking and laziness, inevitably, can come out of not having enough to do, too. If your employees don’t have enough responsibilities, they can quickly feel like they don’t matter or their contributions aren’t really worth it. Thus, as employees work for your company for longer and longer periods of time, think about delegating additional duties to them as they develop competency.

Intelligent, ambitious, and creative employees are particularly susceptible to the boredom that monotony can bring. By changing up or adding to their responsibilities from time to time, not only are you keeping them motivated and interested, but you’re also encouraging the development of different skill sets and knowledge bases, which will be good for your company in the long run.

Besides the above, responsibility can have other beneficial effects on your employees, such as:

  • Encouraging good relationships between managers and employees
  • Helping employees handle high-stress situations
  • Helping to develop well-rounded employees who may be fit to take over other jobs or positions if necessary
  • Motivating employees to work harder and excel

However, delegating more responsibility to employees can have some drawbacks, too. Unfortunately, whether responsibility helps or hinders your employees and your workplace largely depends on the manager who’s delegating in the first place, as well as the employees’ perceptions about that person.

For example, if the manager in question isn’t well-liked, employees may view the delegation of additional responsibilities to employees as lazy or avoiding. However, if the manager is well-respected and charismatic, they may be able to get much more out of your employees.

Predictably, the type of manager who is allowed to treat their employees this way must be very carefully selected. If a manager thoughtlessly puts too much pressure on their employees, the increased responsibility might result in undue stress and unhappiness for the employees rather than motivation. Additionally, the manager needs to be able to delegate responsibility without shirking the responsibilities of their own.

If you have managers in mind at the company who you think will be able to fill this role, or if you’re specifically looking for this type of people to hire into the company this is an exceptionally effective route to take. However, it’s also clearly prone to downsides, so tread carefully.


The working environment at a company or business is a delicate, constantly-changing thing. Many different factors and actions can make small changes in this environment, all of which can add up and make bigger changes a reality. If you want to keep the work environment at your business ideal, it will require effort and care to maintain.

As such, it feels like many different little things can contribute to employee laziness in a business. In reality, it might not be possible to eradicate laziness from a company’s workforce completely, but doing so (or, at least, getting as close as possible) is always the goal. After all, when employees are lazy, it’s the same as losing profit.

That being said, your employees are the lifeblood of your company. They must be treated with respect, and you can’t force them to work productively, no matter how hard you try. Instead, you must inspire them to do so themselves, and this is the tough part. However, with enough effort, know-how, and patience, you will surely see leaps and bounds in your employees’ motivation.

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