I can’t be bothered anymore!

Author: Kate Cross

Feeling ‘meh’? Lost your zest? Uninspired? Struggling to get your work done?


Worker demotivation is a problem Psychiatrist Dr Frank Chow sees “very often”.


The director of an occupational psychiatry and psychology service says that often demotivated workers land up seeking his help for one of two reasons: one, the workplace or situation is conflicting with the person’s intrinsic motivators (their goals, values, interests), but they haven’t recognised the problem; or two, the issue lies with the person’s extrinsic motivators (e.g. money, titles, promotions). 


“The most common reasons people get demotivated in a workplace are usually related to money, lack of opportunities to learn, lack of good working environment and culture,” he says.


Adds Organisational Psychologist and Executive Coach Dr Mike Allan: shifting expectations and uncertainty don’t help worker motivation either.


“Individuals are generally motivated to work and deliver targets … based on … expectations … of how their career or work life [will] progress,” he says.


When the goal posts change, he adds it can be “frustrating and demotivating”.


How to turn your ‘meh’ into ‘yeah!’


To revive your will to work, experts suggest you:


  • Tune in to your intrinsic and extrinsic motivators – Also be prepared to reassess them regularly to maintain motivation, says Dr Chow.

  • Embrace change – Learning to be comfortable with change and having a contingency plan if things aren’t working out the way you’d like them to can help, says Dr Chow.  

  • Have goals – Be them short- and long-term, says Dr Allan. For example, “short-term goals provide a sense of achievement and control”, he explains.

  • Prioritise recovery – Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Arnold Bakker has researched the interplay between work and non-work life. He says, “if employees engage in evening leisure activities that foster relaxation, psychological detachment, and mastery, they feel more energetic during the next morning, and are more engaged at work during the day”. Activities, he explains, “that work particularly well” are sports and exercise, including walking; hobbies; and social activities.  

  • Stay connected – This means keeping in touch with your network; who knows what opportunities might come along, says Dr Chow.  


How leaders can help


The onus isn’t just on employees to get their groove back. In fact, there’s a lot leaders can do too. 


Dr Allan advocates checking in with your workers and reminding them of the mental health support that is available, from, for example, GPs or Employee Assistance Programs.


He also recommends communicating clearly and providing targets to motivate and give purpose. “Leaders need to provide employees with clarity, goals and a sense of direction, even if it’s on a daily/weekly basis,” he says.


Lastly, don't forget to ensure aspects of your employees’ work are stimulating and thank them for a job well done. After all, the Australian Psychological Society states: “Recognising employee efforts and achievements has been shown to increase engagement, motivation and job performance.”


If low motivation levels refuse to budge, consider consulting your manager or a mental health professional.




© 2020. All rights reserved.  |  Last updated: 15 • 02 • 2021