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Ask Robina - January 24, 2023

Robina Bennion
Posted by Robina Bennion on Jan 24, 2023 7:58:31 AM

In this week's letter, Robina tackles the tough topic of employee motivation and offers steps you can take to assess and resolve employee issues.

"Hi Robina,

I own my own business and struggling with how to keep employees motivated to keep doing their best in business. What kinds of benefits or rewards can I provide them with?

Signed - Ana



Hello Ana, 

I applaud you for wanting to provide incentives to keep your team motivated, and asking the question shows you care. Without examples of what is happening within the business and the unmotivated employee(s), my answers will need to be general. 

First, congratulations on having your own business.

As a business owner, I know the amount of energy that goes into starting and maintaining an operational interaction. Not to mention navigating a business during a pandemic. Second, I am guessing your business is focused on something you love and you would rather not be handling HR matters. However, here you are with an employee or employees and having to navigate an uncomfortable conversation. Finally, while we would all love employees to be as excited and motivated about a company as the owner is, history shows us that doesn't usually happen. Truth be told, even the company owner likely feels unmotivated from time to time. 

Yet here we are, so let's try and navigate this very common dilemma together. This is so common that if you google "How to deal with unmotivated employees," you will get over 600,000 results. If an employee is bored, this article by the Young Entrepreneurial Council shares some tips with the readers of Inc. regarding the impact of monotony on employees. 

My first question would be, "Is your employee getting the job done that they were hired to do?". If not, is your question about lack of motivation or getting an employee to do their job?   

Believing an employee is (or is not) motivated is subjective. 

For discussion purposes, we will presume your employee is not completing the tasks hired to do and/or not doing them on time. Otherwise, you would likely be asking what to do about an employee that gets the job done with a "but" attached to it. And let's presume this is an ongoing issue and not a result of death, illness, birth/adoption of a child, or conflict with other employees. 

Let's start with the typical go-to employee performance questions:


Does the employee understand the expectations of a person in their role?

A job description is a great place to start. If you don't have one, you could have part of the answer. 

Is the employee performing the tasks hired to do and delivering within the allotted time?

This presumes you give a time budget for projects. Outlining the expected timeline to complete a project and asking an employee to check in after X hours is a great way to catch issues before getting too far down the road. 

If the employee is not completing tasks as assigned (the reason they were hired), do you have a list of what has or has not happened as a result? 

Documenting the repercussions of not doing what is expected will help illustrate the impact of the behavior on the company, clients, and the rest of the team.

Most importantly, Have you discussed your observations with your employee?

Owners – this doesn’t mean dancing around the topic

Have you explored the possibility the issue could be on your side or mutual responsibility?

I know this is never fun to hear but identifying a breakdown in communication, lack of instruction, or expecting the obvious without stating it can leave a lot of room for ambiguity. An employee can be equally as frustrated as the employer. 

TIP:   Block 15 – 20 minutes on your calendar to meet with the team member, provide feedback, leave space for questions, and set agreed-upon expectations. Knowing what you want to say in advance allows for conciseness and limits the chance to fill quiet time with extra stuff to make the employee (or you) feel better.


If you haven't done all the above, do them first. 

Before we proceed --- I am a true believer that employees are our most important asset. As such, compassion is one of my firm values. Giving space for people to be human helps the entire team thrive. Allowing for humanness is one thing. Blurring your boundaries and giving innumerable second chances is something different. What are your firm values? Have you shared them with the employees, and are you modeling them in how you interact internally and externally? 

Curious about how to decipher your brand's values? Visit here as a starting point. 

Employee Incentives ~ 

With the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and all the other trends in the employer/employee front, you are likely in good company in asking, "What incentives can I offer to….?" I am a big believer in building heart-driven benefits within a business versus incentives. Incentives for "good behavior" rarely work long-term and can be subjective. If getting paid isn't incentive enough, I am not sure what else you can offer to elevate motivation, and would you want to? As an example, my teenager was offered $20/hour to babysit, and he said no. It didn't matter how much money he was offered because he didn't want to babysit. If he was offered a bunch of incentives, how comfortable do you think those parents would be leaving their kids alone with him? He is a responsible teenager, and the kids would be fine but imagine the stress for the parents. The same is true for your business. How long will the artificially stimulated motivation last? 

Speaking of heart-driven benefits, we know employees are more engaged when they feel connected to the purpose, mission, and values of the employer. If you are going to add any benefits or incentives to be a part of your company, make it something you are passionate about. It doesn't have to be an earth-shattering idea or expensive. Looking for more non-cash benefits? Cathy Roth shares a few more ideas in an earlier The Woodard Report article. 

TIP: Before you jump in and implement something ask yourself if it is something you would have wanted as an employee and/or ask your employees for feedback. 

In my work with business owners, I am often asked how they can transform the norm when it comes to employee benefits. A brief survey with suggestions and room for write-in answers is generally a good way to kick off the process. Collect the feedback and commit to implementing a minimum of one. If the most popular isn't financially feasible at this moment, what changes can you make to implement in the next year? 

Firing Employees ~ 

Now we get to the part of being an employer that is never fun. Despite how great an employee is as a human, how long he/she has been with the company, or whether you are related, there comes a point when you must end the employer/employee relationship. If you have given your employee multiple chances, more money, and extra benefits, utilized performance plans, or created new roles within the company and still pondering how to get them to do their job, your answer seems clear. 

It's time for the conversation. 

“But how?” 

“Yeah, but you don’t understand.” 

Letting either of these questions stop you won't get you where you want to go. I am guessing that you are a caring employer and want nothing more for your team to succeed. You may even be the type of person to take on more work to lighten another's load so they can figure things out. You are amazing, and I celebrate you. But I also want you to be happy and your business to thrive. That can’t happen if you are doing everyone’s job. 

Kris Plachy, creator of How to CEO, recently shared in her podcast, "Firing people is extremely uncomfortable, to state the obvious. What may not be quite as obvious, however, is exactly why you're not firing them, why you should and why you should right now. Don't drag the same problems you've been having into another year." 

Get as excited about your business, my friend. Get as excited as you want your employees to be. That means loving it, protecting it, and ending relationships that keep it from thriving. When you end what isn't working, it opens the door to those that will help it work. Plus, you will find more energy to focus on what it is you love. 

Your business is worthy of being a priority, and so are you. 

My hope is this helped in some way. If it didn't speak directly to your needs, please feel free to submit a more detailed question.


Until we meet again.


With Gratitude,



Robina is a Soul, Self, Wealth Doula, Certified Money Coach, and retired CPA.  She works with leaders, companies, and business owners to align goals with reality and transform their relationship with money. If you want to know more about Robina, you can visit her at 

Do you have questions about business, navigating a career, how to create work/life alignment, money types, and mindset, goal setting, mid-life career changes, or curious about mindfulness?  Soul, Self, Wealth, Relationships, and Spirituality too?  Yes. Business is more than employees, technology, and deadlines. If it is important to you and you want to find a way to incorporate it into your business/career or are curious about what that looks like.  Submit your question to Ask Robina HERE! 

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