At some point, every leader has dealt with a person — or, worse, a group of people — who has lost motivation. It is frustrating, isn’t it? As much as we have been there ourselves, sometimes it is hard to sympathise with others who are disengaged from work and unproductive as a result. To overcome this unpleasant situation, many managers focus on how they can motivate their employees; hoping that they will make up their mental “bug” and get their motivation back.

However, most organisations have it all wrong. They don’t have to motivate their employees. They have to stop demotivating them! Research shows that the great majority of employees are very motived when they first start a new job – but in less than a year that motivation drops dramatically.

So the question at hand is, what demotivate employees and how can managers stop employees from feeling demotivated? Of course, everyone needs to feel they are treated fairly in areas such as pay and benefits. But there are also several other ways that management unintentionally demotivates employees and diminishes, if not destroys, enthusiasm.

Employees generally receive inadequate recognition and reward. Some managers are afraid that too much recognition can make employees complacent. But receiving recognition for achievements is one of the most fundamental human needs and it reinforces accomplishments.

Management also often inadvertently makes it difficult for employees to do their jobs. Excessive levels of required approvals, endless paperwork, insufficient training, failure to communicate, infrequent delegation of authority, and a lack of a credible vision contribute to employees’ frustration.

So before you look at increasing motivation by introducing new processes and incentives, look first at how to stop demotivating by clarifying your purpose, simplifying your systems, while at the same time recognising good achievements around you. By doing so, you will achieve much more in much less time.

BCW Sports practice is the sport unit of global advisory firm Burson-Marsteller. We provide strategy and communication advice for sport clients around the world. For more information: