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25 Jul 2017 By Cathryn Newbery

A programmer’s apathy and lack of motivation are harming his productivity

The problem

Computer programmer Peter Gibbons is frustrated and bored by the daily grind of working at Initech. After a relaxing hypnotherapy session, he reveals to downsizing consultants that “in a given week, I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual work… It’s not that I’m lazy, I just don’t care.” Can HR bring Peter back from the brink of boredom?

The solution

There’s no simple quick-fix for motivational problems, says Meg Peppin, founder and managing director of MP Partnership. Nor is it something for HR alone to solve, she adds – it’s up to manager Bill Lumbergh to coach and support his employee.

“Peter needs tailored support, which could be anything from encouragement and coaching to more formal performance management,” says Peppin. “Bill could create working conditions that mean Peter’s apathy is quite visible – to himself, and to his peers – so that he realises he needs to take responsibility for his actions. One approach is to agree shared goals within the team and, through open and transparent progress reviews, peer pressure could stimulate Peter’s enthusiasm.

“If a manager believes everyone has potential, and has a vision for approaching a problem, even the most ‘difficult’ employees can become more engaged.

“Bill could ask Peter when he feels really good about work, and when his energy is really good, so that he can create opportunities that will stimulate Peter.”

But, warns Peppin: “If, despite this support and encouragement, Peter is still apathetic about work, he might realise it’s time to leave Initech altogether.”

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