How To Motivate the Unmotivated

Most developers have, at one point in their career, worked in a group; it’s inevitable if you’re working on a large project. If you’ve worked in a large group you most likely have met one developer that has been less motivated than the others and this post is for you.

Motivating the unmotivated can be a difficult task for a manager. You have to know how to motivate them and not make them feel unwanted. If you try to hard, the programmer will feel like you’re trying to push them away, but if you don’t try hard enough the developer isn’t doing everything they could be.

Here are a few tips on motivating developers.

Know What They’re Capable Of

As a good manager, you should always know what your team is capable. Knowing an individuals strengths and weaknesses will make life easier for you and for them because you’ll have an idea of what you can assign them.

Knowing what the unmotivated developer is capable of will allow you to plan for what you can give them and how you’ll be able to motivate them. If you don’t know what they can do, you’ll be shooting blanks when you try to help them.

Give Them Smaller Tasks

Giving them smaller tasks will help boost their esteem and hopefully get them excited to complete larger, more involved tasks. When I was working in a group earlier this year we had a couple of programmers that weren’t motivated to code at all. It was like pulling teeth to get them to participate in anything (meetings, writing code, etc…). One thing that I found worked the best was giving them small tasks to accomplish like writing tests for a specific method or running regression tests (at the beginning of the project).

When you give them small tasks, its doesn’t take a lot of effort for them to complete them. Once they’ve completed the tasks they feel good about themselves and are often more ready to take on larger tasks than before.

Reward Them For Their Successes

Rewarding your developers is always a good thing whether it be with yearly raises, throwing a party from time to time or giving everyone dual monitors. While most developers don’t need daily, or even hourly rewards, unmotivated ones might. If you find you have a developer who just can’t get motivated to code, try rewarding them when they’ve completed their first small task. This will hopefully get them more motivated to do other things.

These rewards don’t have to be extravagant, they don’t even need to cost money. Simple verbal rewards will be more than enough to motivate people.

Hopefully these tips will help you motivate your developers.

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  1. 1 08.07.08
    9:27 am

    Most people are settled into a comfortable status quo and resist and resent being challenged to break out.

  2. 2 08.07.08
    10:33 pm

    @Give Away: This can be very true, however those kind of people are not always helpful to the team. Especially if they are a developer. A stagnant developer is prone to making the same mistakes over and over again, not to mention their attitude could start to rub off on the rest of the team.

    These are the people that need the challenges the most. Start off small with them and work up to bigger challenges as they can handle it. The purpose of a challenge is not to promote failure, but growth through an attainable goal that still requires work and self improvement to reach.

  3. 3 08.09.08
    1:19 am

    Besides knowing what developers are capable of, it’s also a good idea to know what they are interested in doing. A “reward” could be getting a task that a particular developer enjoys the most.

    Not everybody likes to write tests. Some developer might really enjoy tinkering with a certain module of the application.

    So while ideally you’d want each developer to be working on the area they enjoy the most, it might not always be possible (small teams, large projects, etc) — so it’s important to balance what needs to be done with what wants to be done.

  4. 4 08.09.08
    11:38 am

    [...] How To Motivate the Unmotivated [...]

  5. 5 08.12.08
    3:27 pm

    Excellent point. Keeping people interested is the best way to keeping them motivated.

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