He’s Lazy or He’s Lazy Not…

Derrick C. Darden PhD

As a manager of a large product manufacturing plant, you are reviewing the cost of operating all departments under your responsibility in order to efficiently maintain your product line. At the conclusion of your review, you discover one department is lagging behind the other departments under your control. Furthermore, the supervisor has been one of your top achievers-in years past. As you review all of the workers within the departments, you discover that the performance of one particular worker (let’s call him “Homer”) has been very poor compared with that of his peers. You wondered if this worker is receiving the proper training. Is it lack of skills?  of motivation? You don’t know, but you will soon pay a visit to Homer’s supervisor.

The following week, you pay a visit to the supervisor of the underperforming department. During casual conversation with the supervisor, you mention that the production line is not operating at the capacity of efficiency that you are used to seeing. The supervisor mentions that he has an employee who is not pulling his weight in his department. His name is Homer. The supervisor proceeds to accuse Homer of being uninterested and unmotivated, and his co-workers agree that his behavior is not energetic and is lazy. The supervisor is visibly spewing emotionally heralding negative comments about the employee. The supervisor then suggests that Homer should be fired.   

You reply to the supervisor that, in your research of the employees under his supervision, you learned that Homer had an exceptional record upon being hired; he tested higher than anyone in the present department, and the interviewer remembers him as being highly intelligent, motivated, and passionate about starting work. You tell the supervisor that his interpretation of Homer is wrong; that Homer needs to be challenged, motivated, and inspired. Homer has not been motivated and not challenged, and, as a result, he seems no longer enthusiastic about the job.

Although many speak about motivating someone, only a few really know how to engage someone to perform and challenge themselves in performing the task at hand. How do you get that individual to take ownership of the task and do so without using negative comments from the supervisor and co-workers? 

For those who find themselves in this scenario, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Communicate with your employees at all times. Tell them what you have noticed about them and ask how you can help them to further their careers. When you ask a question as such, be prepared to listen.
  2. Role model the behavior you want your employees to display on the job. Be that example your employees can model.
  3. Give employees challenging assignments or projects; don’t give them busy work.
  4. When you give out assignment or projects to your employee, explain their importance, encourage them to perform their best and how critical this assignment or project is to the job.

Remember, when employees appear less proficient on the job and less productive, perhaps the manager or supervisor needs to further examine areas of motivation and their leadership style in order to model motivation.

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