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Low Motivation - Give Up

As the popular saying goes, “ignorance is bliss”, but this isn’t the case when it comes to your team. Perceptive leaders are sure to stay alert for signs of trouble.

One of the biggest challenges many leaders face is in motivating their teams. But it’s not always easy to know whether your team members have low motivation, unless you pay attention to the signs.

Here are the top five indicators I look for to see whether I have low motivation in my teams.

1. Low Motivation = Not Speaking Up

Motivated people are quite a talkative bunch. They speak up with their ideas and problems. When they think you’ve got it wrong, they’ll tell you.


Because motivated people care about doing a good job, and they want to contribute to the direction of the team. When there is low motivation, you’ll start to see a drop off in communication.

Low Motivation - Not Speaking Up

Eventually, your team members will just follow orders, instead of trying to influence you to get a better outcome. When this happens, your team members have been defeated, and you’re likely to see low motivation.

Related: Click here to learn more about creating open communication in your team.

2. Poor Body Language

I love to look at body language in meetings. Over the years, I’ve found it to be quite a useful way to see signs of different issues in the workplace.

You do have to be a bit careful with body language, as people behave in different ways. Someone who crosses their arms *might* actually just be cold or they find crossed arms more comfortable, so be careful not to judge motivation on these signs alone.

When it comes to low motivation, here are the body language signs that I look for:

Low Motivation - Crossed Arms

Crossed Arms and Legs

Crossed arms and legs are regarded as a common sign of “guarded” or protective behaviour.

However, this article from Psychology Today says it’s not necessarily about blocking people out, but more likely to be about comforting yourself, showing self-restraint or it might be a way to better handle emotional distress.

This may be a sign of low motivation, especially when coupled with Point 1 above. If people aren’t speaking their mind, and they tend to have their arms and legs crossed, it may be that they are showing restraint, so as not to have an unprofessional outburst.

Once again, this may mean they are feeling defeated and are now low on motivation.

Eye Rolling

Low Motivation - Eye RollEye rolling is a great sign that someone doesn’t believe what you’re saying, or is telling you “Here we go again”. They may be saying “I’ll do what you say, but I won’t like it”.

I usually see this as a sign of frustration or contempt. But if someone is rolling their eyes and not saying anything, this is a passive sign of defeat.

They aren’t speaking up, but they can’t resist showing you their frustration.

Big Sighs

People who let out big sighs sometimes do this unconsciously. When I hear a big sigh, I hear “Oh well”, “Here we go again” or “What a waste of time”.

Some people may do this intentionally, but you’d be surprised just how many times a sigh can slip out accidentally.


When somebody shrugs, you can often substitute this for “Whatever”, “Who cares?” or “It doesn’t matter”. I’ve found that when people shrug, it can mean that they feel like their current situation is out of their control.

When people feel as if they are losing control, low motivation is sure to follow.

3. Low Motivation Stops People from Striving

When you set a deadline, you want your team trying their best to achieve it. If you start to see people missing deadlines, without even trying to come close, you’ve got a problem.

When people stop striving, it might be that:

  • They feel like they are trying to reach an unachievable goal
  • They don’t have the ability or resources to do what is expected of them; or
  • The outcome of achieving the goal doesn’t matter to them.

Whatever the case, it’s a bad sign when team members stop striving to achieve their targets.

Related: Click here to learn how to Improve Motivation In Your Team With Simple Motivation Theory.

Related: Click here to understand the 3 Simple Reasons Your Team is Missing Deadlines and How to Fix It.

4. Low Motivation Causes People to Work to the Clock, Not the Task

If your team members are always going home at exactly 5pm without fail, this can be a sign of low motivation, especially when something important is due.

While it is true that work never ends and there is always more to do, some tasks have more urgency than others. If people are dropping their work immediately at the end of the regular work day, it generally means they aren’t too invested in their work.

Ideally, team members will work harder or longer to finish an important task when it is needed. At the times when there is no impending deadline, this is when people can relax and potentially leave early to make up for the extra time they spent the week before.

Low Motivation - Effort Against Milestones

There is no perfect equation, but I generally see that in a motivated team, team members’ start and end times ebb and flow depending on the urgency of any upcoming deadlines.

Tip: Does this sound like your team, just waiting for the work day to end? Thoughtful Leader can help. Check out the Motivating Your Team Audiobook, for tools and techniques to get the best out of your team members. Don’t settle for a lazy, disinterested team… try the audiobook today.

5. Team Members With Low Motivation Are Reactive, Not Proactive

When people are unmotivated, they often feel like they lack control of the world around them. To them, it may feel as if no matter what they do, they struggle to succeed.

As such, instead of bothering to proactively prevent issues, they tend to wait until they occur and then simply react.

I’ve found this is particularly common in chaotic workplaces, where people aren’t working well together. Team members learn that it’s almost impossible to stop problems occurring, so they simply wait until they happen before acting.

To help this situation, help team members regain some sense of control by clarifying roles and responsibilities and helping them focus on valuable work.

Related: Click here to learn how to clarify unclear roles and responsibilities.

Related: Click here to read about the 3 reasons you can’t keep your team focused on the real work.

What are some other signs of low motivation you have seen in the workplace? Let me know in the comments below!

Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.

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