Sweeney Communications

Eliciting the support of demotivated staff

by Jo Ann Sweeney - 11:04 on 05 September 2013

How can I deal with staff who are demotivated and have very little time to contribute to my project?

As I read your question lots more popped into my mind; questions I would ask if we were working together:

  • What is causing these staff members to feel demotivated?
  • Do they work for you directly or indirectly?
  • How much influence do you have over what motivates them?
  • How impacted are they by your project?
  • How much influence do they have over the success of your project?
  • What do you want them to contribute and how critical is their contribution?

It is possible to turn motivation round, but this takes lots of time and effort. My questions are designed to work out whether the effort is worth making. If yes then here are some broad steps to help shape your efforts.

Engage them in conversations

These conversations can be formal or informal, planned or ad hoc whenever you bump into people. They are your chance to find out what people think of your project and the organisation in general. Also, they will give a starting point for understanding how to change attitudes and behaviours.

Ask their managers for support

People tend to focus on what their managers say is important so spend some time convincing their line managers that involvement in your project is good for the team. This could be a presentation to all managers or to small groups of managers in the various business units.

Grab their attention

Begin by acknowledging the challenges they face and how your project helps overcome these. Often we focus on how great the hardware and software are, but no one outside our project cares.

Explain the detail in plain language

Use concrete rather than abstract words to explain clearly and concisely what your project is all about, especially important when working across borders and cultures. Be specific about what you are offering them.

Explain the benefits

Have lots of communications explaining the benefits for them of getting involved in your project and speak face-to-face whenever possible. If they can’t see personal benefits why should they support you?


Call to action

Also be very specific and clear on the actions you are asking them to take. You probably will want to give them timescales - and thank them afterwards.

A UK public sector project manager asked this question during the Worth Working Summit 2013.

Though this year’s summit is now over, you can still join the discussions at our LinkedIn group Worth Working For. Please do join us and share your views.

Each week I share one small change I’ve found makes a big difference to communications through Transforming Tuesdays. Sign up for your copy here!

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