10 Common Demotivators in the Workplace: How to Avoid Them

10 Common Demotivators in the Workplace: How to Avoid Them
Page content

The Top Ten

As a business owner and former HR Director, I’m often surprised at how many of us out there don’t realize even the simplest of words or actions can be demotivators in the workplace and here, by reading this top ten list, you may find some familiar actions you are guilty of all the time.

1. Favoritism

No Favorites

Many the small business owner claims he doesn’t favor one worker over another but in reality that’s not the case. If you’re always patting John on the back and offering up extra incentives, others do notice. Isn’t it your job to help all your workers to grow and achieve success? Instead of always focusing on the strong, why not encourage and train the weaker?

2. Job Duty Confusion

When you hire an employee do you offer up a detailed job description so she knows what’s expected from her? Or, do you show her to her work area and say, “Have at it!” When employees are confused about what is expected, they often fail to perform. Take time to write job descriptions and answer any questions during the new hire orientation period. Offer a mentor if you can.

3. Wages


No matter how hard you try, the subject of wages and the need for more money will come up—even during a salary freeze. To sway this demotivator in the workplace, prepare in advance total benefit packages that include not only wages but the cost the company pays for taxes, vehicles, health and dental care and even retirement contributions. If an employee can see the total package, often he’ll realize the pay is fair. Remember, there will be some employees you will never be able to please.

4. Benefits

Having any type of employee benefit program is expensive. Employers do hear those words, “The guy down the street has a benefit package better than ours!” De-fuse these situations by telling employees there are many companies with no benefit packages at all. Also ask them what they’d like to see in the benefit plan—include them, and promise to reevaluate the plan regularly based on comments and feedback. Shop your benefit package every year to see what you can afford to offer.

5. Technology


If you’ve got outdated technology, expect complaints and unhappy workers. Some employees may even have more advanced technology in their own homes than what you provide. Sure, it’s expensive to replace and update–but if you want productivity, you need to weigh the expenses versus the unhappy workers. Invest in new technology using a budget—even if you do it one step at a time. Don’t just update one department; be fair across the board.

6. Lack of Recognition

Having no incentive or employee reward program is not a good idea. Perhaps as the business owner it’s fine with you—setting your own hours, taking days off or enjoying long lunches—even buying a corporate box to sporting events—but what do you give back to your employees? Believe me, they do notice; and in cases such as these, silence is not golden. Develop an employee incentive or rewards program attainable for all levels of employees and, above all, once you start the program, don’t stop it. You can change the program, but never abruptly end it.

7. Violence and Harassment


Do you look the other way when the workplace bully is on a roll? Do you dismiss complaints about any type of harassment, sexual or otherwise? Not only can issues such as these land you in court, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe working environment. Develop safety policies and deal with all types of bullies swiftly. A workplace one fears is not an acceptable or desired environment.

8. Burn-Out and No Advancement

Have you downsized? If so, are you expecting the remaining employees to take on large workloads they can never complete on time? If you must cut down on staff, divvy up work across the board. Don’t expect one or two people to pick up the slack or you’ll burn out a great employee. When downsizing occurs, take another look at job descriptions and see what departments can handle the extra work.

In addition, if you offer no opportunity for advancement, you’ll soon find office turnover at high levels. Offer new job openings to existing workers and allow them to show you what they can do before hiring outside of the company.

9. Personal Days

Offer Personal Time

Many companies do offer paid vacations but not personal days. If you look at this from the employee’s side, why would you want to use a vacation day to go to the dentist or a child’s school play or other activity? Consider personal days. You’ll find if you offer them employees will use them wisely. Implement a program where a number of hours worked equals so many hours of personal time.

10. Generational Gaps

Young entrepreneurs are quick to deny the older worker and listen more to the hip and the young. Older entrepreneurs want the tried and true of age experience. Most likely you’ve got employees of all generations, so treat them fairly, understand their wants, needs, and expectations, and encourage both the young and the old to work together—they may learn something they didn’t know.

Be Realistic

So, after reading these top ten demotivators in the workplace, can you spot yourself? If not, you’re not being a realistic employer. Read the list again and make a commitment to be fair—after all, every work environment must be an Equal Opportunity environment. By putting in a little effort and time, you can develop programs, training and the technology your workers want and need to perform tasks at the highest of levels. Above all, use employee feedback via questionnaires to see what workers want. This type of feedback is invaluable when attempting to turn your unmotivated staff into a happy, productive staff.


Jean Scheid has been a business owner for over 17 years and holds a degree in HR management.

Image Credits:

Ten - Morguefile/alvinmann

Star - MorgueFile/gillianfoley

Wages - MorgueFile/Deegolden

Computer - MorgueFile/cohdra

Argue - MorgueFile/mzacha

Lazy - MorgueFile/marykbaird