Motivating the Plodder

What do you do about “a Plodder”? This is a question asked of me by many a HR Manager over the years.

You know the one. They are just about doing enough but no more. They seem happy to stay where they are (which means they are actually going backwards because the world is moving forwards at ever increasing speeds!)

So, what do you do with an employee who appears to be happy plodding along? (But you’re not happy with it.)

Often there is no obvious performance management issue but with careful questioning and checking about whether it is a conduct or capability issue this can lead to new insights about what constitutes poor performance.

When I ask about “conduct” most managers see that as examples of people with an attitude problem i.e. being late, abrasive with others, slapdash. It's rarely acknowledged as a “demotivated, bored” attitude. For me this is a conduct issue. There should be an acceptable standard of positive attitude that goes alongside the job especially when dealing with customers (internal or external ones).

Capability wise, the Plodder may or may not have the skills to excel and feel engaged/enthused by the job either, so this is often worth exploring. Is it Skill or Will? (The Skill Will Matrix).

If it is about will then working on someone’s motivation is key. As a manager, you can’t actually motivate someone (they have to do that themselves) however you can and should provide the environment for motivation.

So, this leads us to What is this environment? What actually motivates people?

A study by the Industrial Society some years ago found that people were largely motivated by a variety of things other than money. (Useful in this day and age of pay caps!) They found that people were motivated by: 

4.      SALARY

Salary was fairly low down the list.

Interestingly they found that if you asked managers what motivated their people then the list was similar to this:

1.      SALARY
6.      STATUS

However, at every level of an organisation when people were actually asked what motivated them, then their answers were much more like the first list.

It seems that some inverse snobbery was going on in that managers assumed anyone lower in the hierarchy was much more interested in money, job security etc than more esoteric needs like growth, achievement and responsibility.

I have been asking people this question for the past 25 years on my leadership programmes and the answer is the same whether its in charitable organisations, private companies or the public sector. People at all levels want a sense of achievement, recognition and responsibility.

Other research has shown that what demotivates people at work is not the exact opposite of what motivates’s not two sides of the same coin. People will moan about their working conditions if they operate in a cramped office and it will demotivate them, however if this is fixed and they get new offices then they do not suddenly become motivated. Things like growth, job interest and achievement provide motivation. So as an employer you have to do both: get rid of the things that make them grumble and then add in things that make them leap out of bed in the morning and want to come to work!

If you are a manager and still need some help in motivating your staff then get in touch to discuss one to one coaching on how to improve your skills in this valuable area.


1 month ago : Aug 14, 2017

By Julia Menaul


Julia is a wonderful coaching supervisor. She has been a valuable resource on my coaching journey. Julia is incredibly generous in sharing her ideas, thoughts and resources. She also provides a wise sounding board and has provided just the right balance of challenge and support. I would highly recommend Julia as a coaching supervisor for both experienced and inexperienced coaches. Liz Scott, NewScott Coaching, Coach and Facilitator

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