Feeling unmotivated at work? Here are the most common reasons why & what to do

Krista Krumina 20.07.2022
unmotivated at work

Feeling unmotivated at work? We’ve all been there. In fact, research shows that as much as 70% of employees consider themselves to be disengaged at work. This affects their productivity, creativity, and quality of work. 

Look – no one is 100% motivated all the time. 

There are days when you jump out of bed before the alarm clock, excited to start working. And there are days when you procrastinate all-day long, struggling to find motivation even for simple tasks. This is all normal – our motivation is affected by a number of biological, emotional, social, and cognitive conditions. And some days, these conditions just aren’t right.

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What I’m saying is:

Feeling unmotivated to work and having a slow day or week is totally okay. But what if you’ve been feeling uninspired to work for some time already? 

Before looking for a solution, it is important to understand the types of motivations and reasons behind your prolonged lack of motivation.

Types of motivation

There are two types of motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic motivations arise from outside of you and often involve rewards – praise, fame, money, etc. For example, being paid to do a job, hearing positive feedback for the work done, or receiving a promotion are all examples of extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivations, on the other hand, are those coming from within the individual. Doing something for fun or signing up for a challenging task purely for the personal gratification of getting it done are examples of intrinsic motivation.

Depending on how long you’ve been doing your job, one type of motivation may be more pronounced than the other. 

For example, when you start a new job, your eagerness to learn new things (intrinsic) can be stronger than the salary offered (extrinsic). Over time, once you’ve gained the experience or mastered a specific skill, you may want higher pay and/or promotion (extrinsic), as well as new challenges to prove yourself (intrinsic). If such opportunities are not offered, you may begin feeling disengaged and uninspired at work.

unmotivated at work

7 reasons why we feel unmotivated at work & what to do

So, if you don’t feel like working, it means that you lack either extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. Here are the most frequent reasons why you feel unmotivated to work and what you can do to get over this feeling.

1. Lack of flexibility

A number of studies have found that there’s a link between flexibility at work and employee job satisfaction and motivation. In a modern workplace, people want the option to work whenever and from wherever they want. If they’re not allowed to do it, they may not want to work at all.

To do: 

First, understand what kind of flexibility you want and whether it suits the company you’re working for and the position you’re in. For example – if you want to work remotely, can you do it as a sales manager? If you’re selling software, then probably yes. If you’re selling cars – not really. 

Once you know what is reasonable to ask for, get ready to negotiate your requests with your manager – prepare a specific offer, highlight the win-wins, and be ready to compromise.

2. Feeling undervalued

Managers way too often let accomplishments go unrecognized, whereas a survey found that 53% would stay longer in the company if received more appreciation from their bosses.

To do: 

Before you act, evaluate whether you’re being realistic about the amount of appreciation you expect. If you’re still sure that your efforts are not recognized enough, invite your boss for a chat and offer to discuss your strengths and where you could improve your performance. Make sure you’ve prepared specific examples that will help your boss realize your value to the company.

3. Lack of growth

Not receiving the desired promotion, not seeing any future growth opportunities within the company, and lack of challenges to learn new skills all are factors that make employees feel unmotivated at work.

To do: 

Jot down ideas of what can be done, if anything, to improve the situation. If you see that there are growth opportunities in the company where you’d be a good fit, speak up. Document your achievements and when the right timing comes, negotiate a promotion. If you don’t feel challenged at work, look for new challenges outside of it. And if nothing changes and you still feel stuck and unmotivated, consider leaving your dead-end job.

4. Unreasonable workload 

According to a study, excessive workload causes a decrease in morale and motivation. This also affects employee wellbeing. When tired and stressed out – especially if they feel this way for a long time – people can lose motivation to strive.

To do: 

Take a look at how you spend your time at work – use reliable time tracking software to analyze where your time goes. Then, see what you can eliminate, automate or delegate to someone else. 

For example, maybe you spend hours a day creating offers to clients – a simple task that, perhaps, some colleague could do for you. Or maybe you can recommend adding a pricing page to the company’s website where you could direct all the potential clients? 

When this is done, but you still feel you have too much work for an eight-hour work day, talk to your boss. Again, use the data from your time tracking software to illustrate how much time certain tasks actually take instead of allowing them to make (wrong) assumptions.

5. Low and/or unequal pay

Salary may not be the determining factor for your motivation, but let’s be real – it does matter. Besides, studies also show that employees not only want to be compensated well, but they also want to be compensated equally. If not, it reduces everyone’s motivation – even those who’re paid more.

To do:

If you feel underpaid or paid unequally, start by doing your research – find out how much others are making in similar positions, industries, and locations. If possible, talk to your colleagues who do the same job and are at the same seniority level as you. Once you have enough proof that you’re being underpaid, talk to your manager and present your findings. 

The best time to ask for a raise is either after you’ve just accomplished something big or during your yearly performance review. That said, if you feel that everyone else is making more than you and you’re just being paid unequally, don’t wait and start the conversation right away. 

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6. Managers tolerating poor performance

If some colleagues are slacking and the management tolerates it, others lose the motivation to excel or even get the job done in the first place.

To do:

There can be several reasons why managers tolerate poor performance – the underperforming colleague may be their friend or relative, they may seek to avoid conflicts, or they just don’t want all the hassle of hiring a new colleague. But none of these reasons are legitimate for accepting poor performance.

If this bothers you and you’re feeling unmotivated to work because of this colleague, talk to your manager and explain how tolerating this colleague’s poor performance affects the team and the company’s bottom line. If replacing this colleague is not an option, you can suggest transferring them to another department.

7. Wrong career choice

This happens to many – after their studies, people are so eager to start working that they take any job that they can get. Then, years later, they realize that they’ve never gotten to do what they really wanted and feel stuck in the wrong career that they hate. 

To do:

It’s never too late to change a career – no matter whether you’re in your 30ies or 50ies. It may be scary, but it’s also exciting to finally start doing something you’ve always wanted.

Sometimes, however, the risks of changing the career may seem too high. For example, your family may not be able to afford the lower pay that you’d have starting at a junior-lever position. Then, try to look for additional responsibilities that align with your career goals within the company. Alternatively, you can start pursuing your dream job as a side hustle. 

Don’t tolerate feeling unmotivated at work

If employees feel unmotivated at work, it’s not only the company that suffers – it’s the employees, too. 

People who feel uninspired at work may feel the same way outside of work. We spend eight hours of our day at work – that’s a large part of our lives and has a big impact on how we feel about ourselves in general. If you go to work every day feeling unmotivated, you can also start suffering from low energy and low self-esteem. Don’t do it to yourself – follow our tips, take action, and regain your motivation!

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