5 Ways to Find Motivation at Work

unmotivated at work

Are you sleepwalking through your workday? You’re not alone.

Studies show that scores of employees aren’t actively engaged at work for a variety of reasons, which results in poor productivity and a sinking bottom line.

The ownership of employee engagement typically starts at the top.

Executive leadership and management should take responsibility for establishing a positive culture by understanding what motivates employees and by taking steps to cultivate an enthusiastic workforce.

Employee engagement is a two-way street, but what can you do if your employer is not doing its fair share?

In my career, I’ve been blessed with wonderful opportunities at corporations that fully understand the value of employee engagement.

An “all hands” meeting felt as if John Wooden led it during halftime at UCLA. We felt invigorated, inspired and full of energy. At other jobs, we were left to find our own guiding light. Both experiences taught me a few tricks for taking control and finding motivation along this journey.

With some ingenuity and inspiration, you can take control of your enthusiasm and fulfillment at work — even if your employer is not doing its part. Keep reading to learn some of the reasons for low motivation and a strategy to take control.

1. Ambiguous and Ever Changing Roles

To be engaged in the workplace, it’s important that you understand your role and responsibilities as well as how you’re personally responsible for helping the organization fulfill its goals and reach its purpose. However small your contribution might feel, when you understand the significance that it ultimately provides, your motivation soars.

In business, like a successful sports team, key roles and positions must be fulfilled or there’s imminent failure. Even if you have a superstar quarterback, he’s only effective if everyone’s role is properly understood.

For example, the offensive coordinator calls the plays, the offensive line blocks and provides enough time for the team to execute the plays, and the wide receiver effectively runs its routes and gets free enough to ultimately catch the ball. If any of these roles are misunderstood, your team doesn’t score and it ultimately loses the game.

Failure to understand your role and your authority to make decisions results in low motivation, confusion and inefficiencies.

What can you do? If your role is ambiguous or ever-changing, discuss it with your supervisor. Ask how your role fits within the overarching strategy of the organization. Ask for a job description and clarification.

2. Poor Workplace Relationships

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend nearly nine hours a day working. Clearly, we spend a lot of our lives at work. Studies show that people who have good relationships are happier and healthier — and might even live longer. Being lonely at work can make you feel disconnected and emotionally cut off.

Workplace friendships can make work more enjoyable, which results in happier employees. Happy employees are engaged and productive.

They help one another and share commitment and passion for their jobs. They bounce ideas off one another, and they provide mutual support — both personally and professionally.

Considering the amount of time we spend at work, it can often be relatively easy to find friends. Make an effort to spend time at lunch with coworkers. Share ideas with coworkers. Find mentors or mentor junior employees.

3. Little or No Feedback

Lack of feedback from your supervisor and peers, especially positive feedback, can take a toll on your motivation. Everyone likes to know if they’ve done a good job from the perspective of others. It’s human nature.

When appropriate, ask your coworkers for their feedback. Set up a weekly one-on-one meeting with your supervisor and actively solicit feedback.

Understand that you will probably receive criticism if you’re currently checked out or if you’re unclear about your roles and responsibilities in the organization. If you’ve hit rock bottom, consider that you can only go up from there. Build an action plan for improvement.

4. Low Involvement

Employees who steer committees show their value as a leader, which generates self-confidence — others take notice. Joining activities and committees builds relationships with peers and gives you a sense of purpose at work.

Not only are these opportunities excellent team-building exercises, many opportunities such as 5Ks and local community charities help you to build your company’s brand.

Most workplaces have social events and committees that you can join and lead. Whether it’s a softball team, party planning committee or charity opportunities, there are plenty of ways to get involved.

If your workplace doesn’t offer these opportunities, talk to human resources and discuss your ideas. What do you have to lose?

5. Stifled Environment

Often when you trace back to the root cause of lack of motivation and indifference at work, it’s related to cross-functional team politics, a stifling environment or a lack of leadership.

This results in a lack of trust across the organization, and the consequence is low productivity and poor motivation.

Identify opportunities to make improvements or to accomplish success for the business that are within your control — even if those accomplishments are just small steps.

This helps to eliminate some of the frustration of working in an environment that’s unwilling to accept change and is weighing down upon those that are instigating change.

In this environment, understand your role and decision-making authority. Focus on taking pride in doing the very best things that are part of your everyday job.

Communicate your wins to your supervisor in a positive way. This gives you at least a small sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, knowing that you perform your job responsibilities with high quality and efficiency.

William Shakespeare once said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” This statement still rings true today. Understanding that we can take control of our workplace engagement empowers us to deliver value in our day-to-day activities and to feel a sense of worth and contribution.

What about you? Please share your ideas for improving workplace engagement.

Marilyn Rogers is the Marketing Director and Blog Editor at LightArrow.com, makers of apps for personal organization and business productivity — including the popular LifeTopix app. She’s been writing everything from technical manuals to website copy in the tech industry for over 20 years and considers herself a jack of all trades in marketing. Her expertise is focused on personal productivity, search engine optimization, marketing operations and project management. On the weekend, you’ll find her riding horses, walking dogs, and making lists and checking them twice. Find her on Twitter @Marilynsrogers or @LightArrowInc.


  1. MonsieurJ on the 6th November

    Hi guys,
    nice article !
    The lack of feedback resonates with me and my practice of management with my team !
    come and check out what I say on Youtube about that !
    3 tips to motivate your teams : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1fro2eMd5E
    thanx !

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