Congratulations! If you’ve read my other article, then you are now as motivated as ever, ready to make the world into your oyster – which is a terrible thing to want to make the world into, by the way, since oysters are gross, but that’s the phrase. Anyway, you are locked and loaded and ready to go!

Alas, the people you’re stuck working with did not read the other article, not even when you forwarded it to them. (Thanks for that, by the way.) And so now you’re stuck trying to figure out how to motivate people who seem far more interested in scrolling through other people’s online posts than they are in getting anything useful done. Which doesn’t even make sense, since they really don’t even care about whatever it is they’re reading and most of the time don’t even fully read anything, so why do they do it in the first place?!?!

It’s difficult enough to motivate ourselves when we’re disinclined to be working, and it’s doubly hard to do it for others when they aren’t all that interested in meeting you halfway. But here are a few things you can try that will help bring your people to where you need them to be.


We discussed the importance of changing your mental (and sometimes physical) environment in the other article as a way to jumpstart your motivation, and what works for you will work for others as well. But that doesn’t mean that they feel like they have that option. So if you see someone struggling to stay focused, encourage them to step away for a while – or failing that, just drop in and have a quick five or ten minute conversation about work, or whales, or whatever comes to mind. (I hope it’s whales.) Sometimes, all it takes is a little distraction.


There is no shame in this. We do it all the time with our children, and we don’t think we’re terrible parents just because we had to give our kids a dollar to eat their vegetables or go to bed on time. In fact, sometimes we do this because it’s the only thing that works. We parents are practical, not perfect – and there’s no reason for you to expect to be any different when you’re dealing with your teammates or employees. So if you know you’ve assigned a thankless task to someone and you’re watching them struggle to find the will to get it done, don’t hesitate to offer to let them work on it from home or buy them lunch when they get it finished. Will it make them love the crappy assignment you dropped into their lap? Probably not. But sometimes “getting it done on time” is the only thing you can reasonably hope for.


What?! How can you possibly motivate someone by not being there? Well, it is possible – as long as they know the importance of what they’re doing. If people think they’re working on something meaningless, they’ll have a hard time caring enough to do the work. But if you’ve explained the importance of the work they do, then sometimes backing off is a great way to go. Everyone on the planet knows that they should eat well and exercise, but you can’t force someone to do it. But a doctor can absolutely say, “If you don’t change your diet, you’re going to probably die soon, so…you know…maybe eat less butter.” Do all patients listen to their doctors? No – but some do. So while this is definitely not the approach to take with everyone about everything, it can certainly be a way to distinguish which of your people can find the will to be self-starters and which ones can’t. And that’s a helpful thing to know when it comes time to decide who to promote.

I’m going to wrap up now, but in case you think I’m being too frilly and positive for you here, I’d like to also mention that you can often motivate people by threatening them with electric shock. After all, fear is a powerful motivator – but I’m guessing that’s illegal where you work. Silly laws. So try these ideas instead!


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