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How to combat the main causes of employee demotivation

2 Oct 2019

Motivation is key to success and there are some common pitfalls to avoid if retaining talent and boosting productivity are high on your list.

Something that employees and employers around the world are often challenged with is demotivation.

It can be a frustrating symptom of burnt out team members, woven into their daily routines by the stresses of poor communication, overworking or workplace hostility, to name a few factors.

In an article for Balance Careers, Suzanne Lucas outlined some of the most common causes of employee demotivation, giving us a valuable window into how to focus on combatting it.

Investing in these measures should be a management priority, given how costly and disruptive demotivation can be if it dampens morale. Research shows that demotivated workers repeatedly underperform and will leave for a new position at the earliest opportunity.


When it comes to staff salaries, it’s more about structure than figures, Lucas says.

Employees are aware of salary discrepancies and appreciate paycheque equality. If two team members are undertaking similar responsibilities, the payment they’re receiving every month should reflect that too.

And if it doesn’t, the reasoning for that needs to be communicated clearly. Management and HR can employ pay audits to prevent staff dissatisfaction around pay. Lucas suggests analysing salaries for equity and fairness each time a person is promoted internally, and to stay aware of the market rates to help in retaining talent.


Lucas cites disorganisation as one of the prevailing causes of work-related stress. When there’s no evident schedule in place, or a contingency plan for when things begin to go awry, the potential for mistakes grows.

Team members can start to work on the same task unknowingly or workloads could be spread unevenly, leading to contention and, ultimately, dips in productivity.

Overcoming disorganisation to motivate staff can be tricky and may need to be rolled out on a case-by-case basis. It should also be reviewed and evaluated regularly, so that any problems that crop up aren’t neglected.

The key advice here is acknowledging disorganisation and remaining aware of it, but also remembering to refer to those directly affected when attempting to solve it.


Company culture is a critical factor when it comes to employee motivation, and points where management can fall short include enforcing stringent rules or failing to resolve workplace bullying.

An example employed by Lucas is with clocking staff hours. If a team member heads home 30 minutes early on a Tuesday and makes up for it throughout the week, but their pay is still docked, chances are their motivation levels will drop significantly.

The same can be said for eliminating opportunities for staff to work remotely rather than in the office.

Modern workers are required to tackle modern tasks that often demand their flexibility and patience, from answering urgent queries to dealing with colleagues or clients in different time zones. Affording staff that same flexibility in return is crucial.

Lucas’ advice is to demonstrate that you trust the work your teams carry out, rather than micro-managing their every move and getting hung up on them listening to music while they complete tasks, for example.

To minimise demotivation and empower employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability, managers should be trained to embrace flexibility. Taking that route offers a steady guarantee that your company will keep its staff satisfied and productive.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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