5 Ways to Motivate Your Staff to Do the Bare Minimum

Like industry leaders decades before them, those in charge of an organization or team must remain vigilant about the newest ways to motivate their staff to go above and beyond their core responsibilities, thus producing some benefit to the company. However, the methodology by which individuals do so, or should do so, has never been hazier. Although many popular methods often fail or lack measurable evidence they improve performance, they remain prevalent and result in staff diligently distracting other co-workers with time-consuming, but objectively adorable, cat videos.

The world’s best boss—at wasting time and money—that comes to mind is Michael Scott. In this blog we assess his strategies for ensuring his employees stay confused, unproductive and generally bored. 

1.Set unclear expectations. It is critical to keep job responsibilities broad and leave room for individual interpretation. This allows leaders to understand as little as possible about their employees’ roles while focusing on the “big picture.”   

2. Set Hard to Reach Goals. Popular culture long supports this method, and for good reason. Stretch goals allow your employees to constantly strive for a challenging goal while never actually reaching the goal, which helps strengthen character (we guess?). Expecting your employees to reach a goal with rewards 12-18 months in the future is a surefire way to keep employees working on their daily tasks in the hopes that, one day, maybe, if their copy machine ever sets them up to complete projects on time, they too will receive a reward at their yearly performance review. Sure, small goals provide more opportunities for achievement, but does that instill grit? 

3. Employee of the Month Programs. This is the most common form of recognition and an excellent strategy to spotlight only one employee in the entire company while simultaneously announcing all other employees are mediocre for the month. If staff appear unmotivated by this supremely efficient performance strategy, assure them the award will, inevitably, make its rounds. Within approximately 10 years, every employee will have a chance at acknowledgement, if they continue to work hard. 

4. Be inconsistent across employees. Job requirements and company policies and procedures are good for average employees, but should high performers have to follow the same rules? So your marketing guru zips by wearing jogger pants (not company dress code) while passing out curt demands. She is talented at increasing brand awareness. Treat your best people extra special, they deserve it. This practice allows leaders to reward the best employees while inadvertently punishing the average folks, which will likely motivate them to improve their performance on their own accord without feelings of resentment or hostility. 

5. Sandwich Feedback. Having crucial conversations about staff performance is difficult, especially when you’d rather be liked than feared. When giving specific, corrective feedback, sandwich it between two positive statements.  They have probably never heard of this strategy, so it will likely improve their performance without leaving them feeling infantilized or generally terrible. This method allows leaders to comfortably deliver feedback and fade into the background while this tactic takes hold. If staff get confused about whether you were reprimanding or praising them, then take advantage of another opportunity to serve a hearty sh!t sandwich. 



Daniels, A. C. (n.d.). OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time & Money (and what to do instead).

Gianna Biscontini