How to motivate lazy workers – Whipping Peons Into Shape

You know the struggle, “I told Bill in accounting that I needed that report two days ago and he’s still slacking on it!” or “Why does nobody clean up after themselves?” if you’re on the other end of this, you’ve been called a “lazy millennial” at least a dozen times… and there’s like a 30% you’re not even a millennial.

You might think they’re just born lazy, or maybe they just do it in spite of you, but either way I’m going to show you what really goes on behind the scenes and answer the time old question of “How do I motivate these lazy workers?”

Step into my parlor shop…

Geese and Golden Eggs – The Price of Impatience

If you don’t already know what I mean when I say Golden eggs, I’ll paraphrase.

Farmer man, circa who cares B.C. finds himself in the possession of a goose that can lay eggs made of solid gold, and as anyone else would do, he sells them and makes a small fortune for himself. Now, like most of us, he’s not always as patient as he should be and decides one day that “hell, if I can make a small fortune getting just one egg per day, imagine if I had all the eggs at once!”. And thus the troubles of B.C. farmer man started again, he strangles the golden goose, splits it open, and finds that he now has no golden goose, and worse, there are no eggs from which to take.

There ends the tale of B.C. farmer man.

Now you might be wondering what mythical golden-egg-producing geese have to do with your “lazy” peons. Allow me to give you some reference in that I have trained many a coworker in my time and they range from gods among men to absolutely worthless. You as a manager will have to do a bit of triage when it comes to new workers, the earlier the better, and learn how to differentiate between those who are capable of recovery, and those who need to be read their last rites in the form of a pink slip. It is vitally important that you understand this, like most statistics, is a bell curve. There are a few great workers, who probably need to be doing something better with their life, and there are a few workers who will make your life hell and will likely end up in prison within the next year, but the vast majority are drifting comfortably in between, and ready for you to hammer them into the position you need to fill.

The process for vetting will need to be summed up in a new article for the sake of brevity, and I’ll link it here when that’s finished.

Production and Production Capacity

So now that I have successfully transmitted the required wisdom of ages through parable, I’m going to (re)introduce you to a simple but powerful method.

1. Production: The work done.

2. Production Capacity: The ability to do the work that needs to be done, this includes the necessary resources, willpower, and desire to accomplish a task.

The relation between these two are extremely simple, production is the work you want Peon #324 to complete, and Production capacity is a sum of many variables in their ability to complete that work.

I’ve seen one manager, parent, or supervisor after the other fall into this deadly trap. You think “why don’t they just do the work, it’s not that difficult, they must be lazy”. The reality could be a number of other factors/ Keeping in mind that there are people out there who will never become anything more than they are because they’ve turned their life into a game of who has it hardest (barring the 0.2% of the population who statistically go against this despite all odds).

Let me give you some examples:

1. Lack of Desire: You might see someone who is otherwise a well-rounded individual struggling to keep up with deadlines, quotas, etc. Always keep an eye out for special interests or abilities that would be useful elsewhere. Jim loves to talk and knows how to help others sort out conflicts, possessing a keen understanding of the workplace and the politics and an uncanny sense of the environment, but has been lacking lately in his accounting job. He might just be the world’s worst accountant, but with the right training he could be a world-class HR manager.

2. Resources: I’ve been on the receiving end of this one multiple times. Never having the tools for a job can feel like an impossible uphill battle for attention. Someone is always working against a budget, even if it means the whole office has one stapler that should have been thrown out two decades ago. Another reason to keep your ears open to your workers and really try to understand their needs. As my father has said a thousand times, if you work hard for your people, your people will work hard for you.

3. Communication: If I really wanted to stretch it, I would just toss this under the resource category as something you should check on regularly, but I think it is important enough to warrant it’s own position.

The key to the first two is to have a deep desire yourself to know everything that goes on in your workplace, which all comes from communication. You won’t be able to spot talent playing on your phones in your office, and you will look like an oblivious nincompoop to every single person you ask about their day, when they’re saying “Good, and you?” it should be obvious that they’re really saying “My desk has been on fire for three hours and the bathroom is flooded, how do YOU think my day has been, Shannon?”.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

And for the Love of God, Be Honest.

Just a quick one-two finisher before I roll credits. If you’re going to take this as “I should go undercover so I can sniff out those filthy rats” don’t bother.

The ONLY way communication and understanding works is if you can be genuine in it. If you can’t make an honest effort, fake it, fake it well, and keep faking it until you make it. As long as you make sure that your goals are solid, you should be fine. Also, you should note that any time you make a change people are gonna tell you that you are a “poser” or “not being yourself”, but that’s a barrel of crabs argument and you can pitch it to the side as long as you are making a good faith effort to become a better supervisor/parent/manager.

But if you do try to cheat people, if it’s not genuine. They will smell you a mile away, and I can GUARANTEE that you will not only fail in your dishonest efforts, but you will be made into more jokes than you would like to imagine.

Show Me What You’ve Got.

So if you like the article and you want everyone to know that you do, and you should love it because why wouldn’t you, drop a comment down below. You can tell me anything, but I would prefer to keep it to stories of how you handled bad bosses or how you as a boss have employed the simple method of P/PC to help your workers. Also, if you want my opinion or for me to research another topic you can drop it in my mailbox at

Before I go, it really helps with reach whenever you share this, tell your friends, your wife, post me on your Facebook. All the advice in the world is worthless if nobody gets to see it!

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