How do I motivate my bored staff?


I have recently been promoted to manageress of a small but busy shop after the last manager unexpectedly passed away. Recently the owner expanded the shop so i now have two shops (within the same shopping centre) to manage with two employees.

One employee is 18yrs old and does not seem to take me seriously when i ask her to do anything. She just says something like "don't stress about it we've got all day to do it" .

I've tried to explain to her that if we keep on top of the work when other jobs come in we'll be able to do them with ease instead of not completing them, but to no avail. I always seem to end up working alone late to complete the tasks!

The other employee (50yr old male) has flatly told me that he doesn't want to work, he wants to sit at home and play guitar, while his wife earns the wages! He has also asked me to give him a written warning when I have asked him about his behaviour (sullen, un co-operative) because if he gets three warnings he'll be dismissed. I asked why he didn't just give his notice to leave if he felt that way and he said he can't because his wife wants him working and contributing to the household!

How can i get these workers to actually do some work without resorting to shouting and bullying them - which is gets three warnings he'll be dismissed. I asked why he didn't just give his notice to leave if he felt that way and he said he can't because his wife wants him working and contributing to the household!

Elizabeth, England

Need some help with a problem at work? Drop us an email to: [info | at |] entitled "Advice Clinic" and we'll try to help.

We can't answer every question we receive, but we'll do our best to respond to those that we think will resonate with our audience. And we can't offer legal advice. If We think you need a lawyer, we'll tell you. All names and locations are changed for publication.

Charles Helliwell's Answer:

You've inherited a right old 'Tweedledum' and 'Tweedledee' haven't you?

With regard to the headstrong eighteen year-old, do you remember just how headstrong you were at eighteen? You probably knew everything, wanted to change to World, had better ideas than anyone else and probably found taking advice from others a bit boring and tiresome.

Certainly, a logical, rational and businesslike approach is going to cut very little slack with your eighteen year-old. So, what you should do is to appeal to her sense of worth and sense of value, given what you know about makes eighteen year-olds tick.

If she thinks she knows better than you, give her that feeling of authority and responsibility. Make out a list or schedule of what is required in that shop each day and then tell her that it's up to her to figure out the way she wants to do it.

You hand it over, just like that and then take a step back. You tell her that it's up to her how she chooses to perform those tasks but you're not going to tell her how, unless or until she chooses to ask you.

Forcing her to take authority and responsibility will surely prompt one or two responses. Either she will take that responsibility and show you what she's capable of or she will default back to you and tell you that it's not her responsibility; in which case then, you have the perfect right to tell her what to do and how to do it.

If she fails to do what you tell her, then you can start the process of verbal warnings, written warnings and dismissal.

With regard to the fifty-something male, he's actually having a negative impact on your shop and the revenue potential of the business. In this instance, I would be speaking to the owner to advise them to let this employee go.

If he's still on probation you can follow employment law guidelines and terminate his employment under statutory law. If he's full-time you will have to follow the guidelines for verbal and written warnings, before proceeding to dismissal.

In the meantime, I would be inclined to set him some very rigid goals and targets and force him to choose between the anger and disappointment of his incredibly tolerant wife versus the stress and pressure of actually having to face up to working for a living. I think you'll find he'll vote with his feet more quickly than you will imagine.


About our Expert

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.