Employee stagnation is difficult to spot. Unless you know the signs and symptoms of an unmotivated team, you could be completely unaware of the problem. And if you’re concerned that the current performance level of your team is lacking, you may have a situation.

Concerns with team motivation are rarely unwarranted. And since you’re acknowledging this hurdle, now is the ideal opportunity to take stock of how your team has been performing.

You may have started the year with a fresh mindset about your team. Four months into the year, however, everyone seems to be in a rut. If your optimism is waning at the same rate as the motivation of some of your team members, you might have a case of "employee stagnation" on your hands.

You may even have experienced it yourself: an employee is noticeably unmotivated, unenthusiastic, and displays palpable apathy. The root cause can be a number of things. In its purest form though, it’s often aligned with a lack of, or slowing of, growth.

The good news is that this stagnation is treatable. It has a set of diagnosable symptoms and is possible to cure, if you catch it in time. Employee stagnation is not only unproductive for business, but it can also be the precursor to some of your top performers leaving.

Top signs of stagnation

The new financial year and the review season are two ideal times to work out whether you have a single stagnation case or an epidemic on your hands. Here are three of the telltale signs:

  • Promotion paralysis: The person(s) in question has stopped asking, or pushing, for their next step. This might be a promotion or taking on more responsibility. Either way, they are no longer thinking about what the future looks like at your organization.
  • Competition coma: This is when an employee who was once driven and determined, is no longer showing that productive sense of competition against colleagues, other departments, or competitor businesses. While too much competition can of course go the wrong way, an environment without it can lead to people not feeling challenged and result in missed deadlines and average work.
  • Chronic complacency: This may be the most common symptom, but it is often the trickiest to turn around. When an employee adopts an apathetic attitude in regards to their daily tasks, or has stopped proactively seeking new projects to get involved in, it’s often a sign they’re not feeling engaged. This may be because they don’t believe there is a reward (i.e. a promotion) at the end of the tunnel. Or worse, they’ve already started to ‘daydream’ about working elsewhere. It’s important to uncover what’s perpetuating this complacency.

Motivation Station

If it seems like you have someone struggling with stagnation, it’s time to take action. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be drastic. Replacing team members isn’t your only option and certainly shouldn’t be your first.

Here are a few ways you can motivate employees who are showing signs of stagnation:

  • Identify whether team dynamics are contributing to, or the cause of, the stagnation.
  • Revisit your development planning process. Is it giving employees a clear path for progression and growth?
  • Consider injecting new talent. Sometimes a new team member or leader can improve morale and kick-start energy. It may also renew a sense of competition.


While change isn’t always the answer, it’s vital to reflect on where your team currently is and where it is headed.


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