3 Ways to Manage an Unmotivated Millennial Employee

unmotivated millennial

The evidence is clear and abundant- 71% of Millennials, according to Gallup Research are not engaged in the workplace.

So, what do managers usually do when they deal with younger employees who are not engaged or motivated?  Complain, read about them online, and for the more ambitious, go to Human Resources and ask them to find better candidates.

The irony is, managers usually conclude the cause before they diagnosis the problem. Most of the time, managers decided that the employee does not care about their job, or worse, they are just entitled. (How to manage entitled employees here). Versus looking into the problem further. Analogously, that’s assuming that if a car won’t run, when it just needs a new battery, that you should just get a new car. No reason to throw the car out when a $50 repair is all it will take to fix it.

When an employee is unmotivated, people need to run a diagnosis to ensure they apply the solution remedy.

But why should managers take the time? Well, according to the Society of Human Resources, to replace an employee it costs roughly $4,000. In the unfortunate case where a company is trying to replace a manager, that price can run in the tens of thousands. And if you want to hire a recruiting firm to do it for you, you can expect to pay the equivalent of a new car to find the right person. Hence, firing disengaged employees without trying to keep them first will cost a company an enormous amount of money.

3 Questions to Determine the Source of Disengagement

When an employer is dealing with an unmotivated Millennial, they should start their diagnosis process with three important questions. Each question is designed to determine if the employee is having a knowledge gap or a motivation gap. By answering each question, you will obtain the ability to determine what remedy needs to be applied, instead of tossing the Millennial out with the proverbial bath water:


Question 1: Source- No Knowledge and No Motivation

Do they not know how to perform the task and also not motivated?

If you answered yes, most people would assume that you are in a tough situation where you need to start firing a few disengaged employees. However, that would be an erroneous assumption.motivation cycle

When employee first begin working in a company, they have little to no knowledge of how to perform a task up to the company’s standards. If the employee does not learn the information, they will lose interest in the task, leading to disengagement. A manager’s job is to ensure that the ramp up process, gets the employee to a level of contribution.

If the employee lacks the ability to learn the on-ramping information to become a team contributor (even with assistance), then chances are they are not a good fit for the team, and they should be consequently let go.


Question 2: Source – Knowledge, but no Motivation

Do they know how to perform the task, but lack motivation?

In this situation, there is a psychological barrier that is limiting their performance. This psychological barrier can be one of many causes:

  •      Fear of performing the task incorrectly.
  •      Existential- how does this relate to the larger picture of my life?
  •      Misaligned incentivizes, paid hourly when it should be performance.

This situation is by far the most complex to overcome because the source to this question can range from an employee’s meaning of life to simply being worried that their boss won’t accept the quality of their work.

In order to start peeling back the layers to this performance issue, a manager should sit down with their employee and walk through the task and listen to what is limiting language their direct report is using. Unfortunately, a lot of manager’s don’t have an education in psychotherapy, so managers should look at the system first, then see if their employee has anxiety with their performance. Versus drilling into the existential aspects of their life.


Question 3: Source – No Knowledge, But Motivated

Do they not know how to perform the task, but they show some signs of motivation?

Lucky you if you answered yes to this question. All what this means is that you need to take a closer look at the onboarding process and training materials. There is a knowledge gap and you need to find it. Once you find it, the employee will learn the necessary information to performance well again. When you can encounter an employee  without the right tools, others might be struggling as well.

Now you might be wondering if this article is about managing unmotivated employees, why in this question would we assume that they are motivated? The problem is, usually when an employee is not performing people associate that with lack of motivation. However, many times an employee expresses interest in accomplishing the task, but they just don’t know how.

By finding the gap, not only will be help the disengaged employee, but you will also be making it easier for others to accomplish the task. However, if you neglect to close the knowledge gap, the employee could lose motivation and eventually give up.

Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.


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