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What to do when you’re feeling a lack of motivation at work, as a manager?

In these troubling times, a lack of motivation at work might not only affect your employees – it can affect you as a leader, too. Consider these 5 tips.

lack of motivation at work as a manager

You don’t want to be feeling it, but there it is: A lack of motivation at work. That. You’ve noticed it bubbling up inside of you during these days of COVID-19, stronger than ever before.

Your tasks feel drudging to complete. Your attention flickers back and forth. To your kids. To the news. To your spouse. To your parents’ health. To your health.

As leaders, a lack of motivation at work is something we’re usually worried that our team will experience.

But during these troubling times, what about when you feel that lack of motivation at work as a manager, yourself?

You’re not alone. As the CEO of Know Your Team, several people asked me a version of this question, “What do I do if I’m feeling a lack of motivation as a manager?” during our Workshop Live! session I held the other day on “How to Motivate Your Team.”

Well, it’s tricky. Motivation is personal. It’s different for each person. There’s no “playbook” for when you’re feeling a lack of motivation at work.

However, there are small ways to coax yourself gently to lean into the work that is in front of you. Slowly, you can overcome your lack of motivation at work. Here’s how.

Create a wedge.

When’s the last time you took 10 minutes for yourself before diving into your work?

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? πŸ˜‰

It’s okay. Now more than ever, you can benefit from what I call a “wedge” – a small sliver of time and space you carve out for yourself only. Not talking to anyone. Not scrolling through the news on your phone. Not checking Slack.

This could be 10 minutes before you check your email in the morning, to make yourself a cup of tea and breathe.

Or maybe, it’s at the end of the day. You give yourself 5 minutes to do a set of jumping jacks. Indulge in a piece of chocolate. Read a few pages from a novel you’ve been wanting to get into.

As silly or superficial as it might seem, recognize that motivation can’t come without creating some space for yourself. And these days, with most of us working from home amidst our partners, kids, and pets, that space is scarcer than ever before.

Yet if you find a wedge – a small slice in your workday just for you – you can start to chip into the rut of heaviness that is dampening your motivation. With a wedge of time, you can give yourself space to recenter, regroup, and retap into your own intrinsic motivation.

The weight is heavy – and you’re allowed to admit it.

These are not normal times. Yet when we pretend that they are – that we can do things at the same speed, the same pace β€“ the more likely we are to grow frustrated at our own inability to meet our own expectations we’ve created for ourselves.

Rather than letting the anxiety of “Oh my god, I’m not at my best right now” build and build… Acknowledge that you’re worn thin. You’re operating with less fuel.

For example, it could be as simple as saying the phrase to yourself: “It’s okay.” Or, “You’re not alone” or “This is harder than usual right now.”

When we’re yelling at ourselves to go faster and run harder without acknowledging how much heavier the weight is, we weigh ourselves down even further. In order for the weight to feel lighter, we have to first admit that it’s heavy in the first place.

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Reconnect to the aspects of the job that energize you.

When you first said “yes” to this job as a manager, what was it about the role that excited you? What sparked your eagerness to come into work that first Monday?

Perhaps it was the possibility of learning things you’d never learned before. Or perhaps it was the caliber of the folks you got to work with. Or perhaps it was your interest in the industry itself. Whatever stoked your inner fire in those first initial months (or years!), consider how you can reconnect to those elements.

Today, during these hard times, you might find that what energizes you the most are some of the incredible folks you get to work with on your team. They inspire you, support you, or productively push you. How can you find ways to strengthen your relationships with those folks? Can you do a favor for them? Or even, can you ask them for a hand on a project? Can you make sure to schedule a video meeting to just catch up on life? Or can you leave a fun response to a Social Question in Know Your Team to build greater rapport with them?

Lean into the areas – and the people – that help us feel excited about the work again. It can be rejuvenating.

Seek out the people who benefit most from your work.

When you’re feeling a lack of motivation at work as a manager, it can be easy to forget that there are people who benefit from your work. Customers who are grateful for your services and would be bummed if you weren’t around. Remembering those folks – and perhaps even finding ways to interact with them more – can help renew your sense of motivation.

For instance, can you envision doing more customer support than you typically do? Does it make sense for you to do a few personal reach-outs to clients and see how they’re doing? Or, even going back to re-read client testimonials can help remind us why we do the work we do – and bolter our own motivation.

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Step away.

Some of the leaders who I respect the most have shared with me how paramount it is to step away from your work, a leader. Distance gives perspective. When we’re so in the weeds of the work, we cannot always accurately nor effectively see things as they are. As the saying goes: you can’t work on the business if you’re working in the business all the time.

Find a bit of time to step back, take stock, and reflect. Yes, even amidst these crazy times, you can likely find 30 minutes, to take a step back and reflect on the work, instead of just barreling forward.

I’ll never forget a mentor of mine shared with me this idea: When we’re present with our team and interacting with them, we are in fact receiving. And when we step away and taking time for ourselves, we’re in fact giving to our team.

Give to yourself and to your team by stepping away.


Our lack of motivation at work as managers during these unprecedented times are natural and expected. Don’t push the feeling away – and don’t berate yourself for it.

Rather, try approaching your situation with patience and grace. We may not quite feel 100% like ourselves, but we can reconnect with certain aspects of ourselves and our work.

The ground isn’t quite solid right now, but over time, we can regain our footing.


⭐️ Looking for ways to regain your footing as a manager? You’ll want to check out Know Your Team. Our software gives you tools to become a better manager, even if you’re not quite feeling 100% yourself. We help you run effective 1:1 meetings, build rapport with your team, and more. Give Know Your Team a try today.

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Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Know Your Team. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.

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