Encouraging A “Bare Minimum” Employee To Improve & Engage

November 25, 2014

Businessman in funky socks. Confident businessman holding his leOne of the hardest tasks organisational leaders can be faced with is managing a burnt out, exhausted employee who just doesn’t have it in them to perform beyond the bare minimum. While everybody has bad days here and there, any employee who consistently sticks to the bare minimum should be actively encouraged to engage with their job and increase their performance.

Regardless of reason for their lacklustre performance, any employee experiencing a slump in productivity deserves the respect of a productive performance appraisal. Leaders should schedule a performance review, providing employees a few days of advanced warning to prepare, and work to positively address issues. Performance standards should be discussed only in terms of what the employee can do moving forward, with the employee taking an active role as a self-assessor.

More often than not, a brief discussion will reveal that the employee is simply unmotivated to do more than the minimum required to keep their jobs. If the employee states that they are bored with their basic job tasks, they may be lacking in internal motivation. This can be counteracted by implementing job rotation, training the employee for new tasks, or expanding their position to take on more responsibilities and increased challenges.

Some employees may respond that the job itself is interesting and engaging, but their compensation is so minimal that it affects their motivation. Managers may find these cases harder to handle, as salary negotiations following periods of decreased performance rarely go well for the employee. Offering to re-evaluate salary against mutually agreed-upon standards after a reasonable time frame – ideally no longer than six months – can help employees to feel a greater sense of motivation to pick up the slack.

Many employees struggling to perform above the bare minimum will simply state that they just don’t see the point in putting in the effort. These employees assume that putting in extra work will not get them further up the corporate ladder, and for salaried or contract employees, extra hours will not lead to extra pay. As a result, they see performing above and beyond the bare minimum as a waste of time and effort that will only raise expectations and lower their averaged hourly pay.

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few professional magazines and self-help seminars that actively reinforce the belief that employees should do the bare minimum due to these salary concerns, or in the name of work-life balance and reduced job stress. However, many experienced managers will attest that once this disengaged attitude becomes a habit, job satisfaction will plummet and the employee will wind up experiencing more distress than before.

For these employees, increasing motivation and performance may be a real challenge. They will actively resist putting in more work, as they often feel “used” as it is, but cannot be promoted while only doing the bare minimum. Setting up a tangible and achievable reward system, office-wide if necessary to avoid singling out one employee, can often get the ball rolling for these “intentionally lazy” employees.

By the end of the meeting, the employee should have clear expectations laid out regarding performance benchmarks and the methods in which they will be assessed, and an action plan laid out for achieving these goals. The more active the employee is in planning their change process the more dedicated they will be to becoming a proactive member of the team.

Many Thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

Mark Williams 3