Sack the slackers? Identifying the difference between lazy and just demotivated

A radical reform of employment law, currently being considered by David Cameron, could make it easier for employers to sack ‘lazy’ staff. If enforced, this rule change would help abolish red tape and prevent workers from claiming unfair dismissal against their employers.

The objective of the proposed reform is to enable businesses to oust the ‘slackers’ to bring in harder workers  – which in turn would help to boost the stifled economy. Currently, it’s claimed that the existing rules make it very hard to prove someone deserves to be dismissed.

All very well some might say; if an employee is not pulling their weight perhaps they deserve to be sent packing.  On the other hand, who defines ‘lazy’? How can we truly and fairly identify a ‘slacker’ in an organisation and where does the real blame lie for an underachieving staff member?

Unmotivated employees are not a rarity and they’re certainly not all actively looking to ‘slack off’ at any given opportunity. Lazy and unmotivated are not always the same thing and it’s important to truly find the source of underachievement before immediately dishing out the P45.

With that in mind, it’s worth considering this – the news of this possible reform comes in the same week as a survey reveals that nearly half of workers feel they’re being under-used.

The survey, conducted by multi-sector recruiter Randstad, shows that 44% of workers feel their skills are not being fully utilised and that they’re not achieving their true potential. How is it possible for a business to identify a lazy worker if that same business is not encouraging and supporting its staff in achieving maximum potential?

There are several approaches to take in determining the root of underachievement. Firstly, on-going, open dialogue and feedback is essential in understanding employee motivation, satisfaction and engagement.  For example, there may be some inefficient and detrimental line management at play that’s causing a drop in a team’s or an individual’s productivity.

Secondly, all employees need to feel that their abilities are being recognised and developed to feel motivated and committed. All workers need to feel a sense of progression in their career and the security that their skills are maximised.

Career visioning can be extremely effective when integrated within a performance management and development planning process.  By exploring personal talents, skills and aspirations to form clear, future-focussed career goals – you can help empower and motivate your employees to ensure they give their best to your organisation.

If you feel that under-productivity and under-achievement is holding your business back – identify where motivation is lacking, establish the cause and work with employees and managers in a structured way to build a sense of career security and fully utilise your talent pool.

Small businesses may welcome this new reform, but sacking their staff might completely neglect some serious underlying issues in their company and may only ever be a short-term solution.

Read more about the career visioning programme at Talent Innovations by clicking here, or emailing the team on

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