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Even ‘Best places to Work’ and the ‘Most sought after employers' have those dull, dark days. The ‘Fun person to hang out with’ or the ‘most amicable boss on the planet’ becomes a demotivated employee and leaves.

There are a few indicators that might help leaders identify demotivated employees. Look out for any changes in behaviour or attitude – as a manager, building a strong relationship with your employees will help you spot when something isn’t quite right.

A drop in motivation can become contagious if the cause isn’t identified and addressed. If you become familiar with the factors that degrade staff motivation, you can design plans to combat it.

Even the best hires can become demotivated due to many influences and, just because an employee isn’t feeling 100% motivated, it doesn’t mean that they’re lazy.

In both cases, however, leaders need to be aware of the signs of low motivation and be able to assist and re-energize an employee. Not dealing with the situation can lead to a more widespread problem, loss of revenue and productivity.

10 Signs of demotivated employees in the workplace

Let’s now discuss the prominent symptoms or signs of demotivation in the workplace, which are indeed the characteristics of a demotivated employee in the new normal:

1. Absenteeism or consistent late coming

Has the management trainee who used to pull all-nighters during project deadlines turned out to be a ‘forever stuck in the traffic’ executive? Is the once ‘never absent ever’ executive generating brilliant new reasons to skip work?

A 2012 study derived that the highest positive correlator of ‘conservation of time’ is ‘work mindedness.’ This was amongst the 21 organizational factors presented to 402 employees from across five companies in NCR, Delhi.

The study thus indicates that those punctual people out there - are business drivers, too. Time to carve a plan of employee engagement and motivation if your employees have daily hassles with traffic.

2. Apathetic attitude

Is one of your team members acting the way your partner does when in a bad mood? As if all they want to be is left alone? This is happening even during the increment season when the rest of the team is out with their spectacular selves? Better check this person up.

S. Bishvas’s 2010 study surveyed 357 managers/executives from manufacturing and service sector companies, studied their responses on five factors - psychological climate, job satisfaction, job involvement, turnover intention, and organizational effectiveness – and concluded that there was a high positive influence of psychological stress climate over job satisfaction.

In other words, if there are any indications of psychological stress in an employee - it is also a red flag for the leader.

3. Conflict with peers/ boss

An employee retention study by Iowa State University showed that stayers engaged in more positive behaviors than leavers. Has suddenly the rights become too vast or flexibility too undefined?

Do you feel portrayed like a capitalist every time you fulfill your job responsibilities in team performance management? Time for a reconciliation conference.

4. Constantly stressed/ bored

H J Carla’s study of 700 employees across medium and large-sized agencies in South Carolina indicates that employee engagement is key to retaining today’s workers.

If you know that there is not enough work for any of your team members to be on the desk ALL the time and if this person would not take their regular breaks, it is essential to find out why.

No, they are not having a heated break-up discussion over messages - which you are sympathetic about – they are scoring high in a recently downloaded arcade game over your office wifi. Better check out their scores!

5. Leads negative discussions

S. Biswas elaborates his observations in a 2010 study. He says:

"The amount of involvement an individual will have with his/her job will depend upon the affirmative strength with which he/she psychologically perceives the various facets of his/her job and job environment."

Thus, when your team member is detected to be increasingly cynical about the company’s sustainability and management initiatives – it is undoubtedly time for a deeper dig.

6. Decrease in productivity and lousy quality of work

Bakotić’s study on 40 large- and medium-sized Croatian companies derived significant correlations between job satisfaction and financial indicators of organizational productivity.

Incomplete reports, erroneous datasheets, and too much idle time are general indicators for an interim review meeting. It could also be for a possible broken spirit– better find out.

7. Withdraws from employee engagement events

Erdila et al's study on 195 employees who worked under a supervisor in İstanbul empirically shows that workplace fun is positively related to engagement and taking charge.

Is the social butterfly now an indoor moth? You either need to re-look at the inclusivity of your employee programs or have a chat with the butterfly.

8. Does not undertake new initiatives

Harte et al, in their study conducted across 36 companies and with 198514 respondents, concluded that employee engagement is related to meaningful business outcomes at a significant magnitude across companies.

Look at that dusty old file titled ‘Methods to maximize efficiencies of the asynchronous processes in congruence with the business process cycle,’ and leave a heavy sigh on how intensive a no pay intern’s projects could be. No initiatives from the same ‘then- interns -now associate? Time up for intense one on ones.

9. Increased activity on professional networking sites

A statistic published by Linkedin tells that out of the 200 million who log in to Linkedin daily, 22 million apply for a job.

Seeing frequent notifications on updates in your team member’s professional page? It also does not seem like a harmless status update but an entire profile relaunch? The high chances are that the 22 Million now has a plus one.

10. Does not responsibly contribute to discussions

Has the ‘can’t-stop-asking-questions’ person turned to a ‘can’t-keep-eyes-open’ person? Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory famously quotes ‘responsibility, opportunity to do something meaningful’ as prime motivation factors.

The absence of initiative to engage in such opportunities provided by the organization indicates that the person no longer considers it a motivation factor.


Every leader within a business should learn the ability to spot signs of demotivation within their teams.

Building relationships with employees is an important element of any manager’s role and helps identify when employees are demoralized. Once a problem is identified, it can be dealt with for the good of both the employee and the business.

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Karishma Bhatnagar

Karishma Bhatnagar LinkedIn

Karishma is a passionate blogger who comes with a deep understanding of SEO tactics. When she isn’t working, you’ll find her in the mountains, experiencing the fresh breeze & chirping sounds of birds.