I have a employee who recently joined us. I know he has the skills, but unfortunately he seems to be busy gossiping rather than getting actual work done. He has made all the money he wanted to from his ancestors, and has no aspiration to work for.

How do I motivate someone who "doesn't give a darn about anything". I am very close to firing him, but I want to understand what I need to learn before I do so. Firing someone is easy, but I want to think it through.

  • 4
    Did you talk to this person? Did you ask for their motivation to have a job at all?
    – Oded
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 16:53
  • 3
    Did he go through your usual hiring process (and it failed to catch this), or is this somebody's relative who got in the back door, or what? Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 17:01
  • Have you asked about why he gossips? There could be a motivator in that though this depends on if you want to see that versus being locked-in on the idea of firing him and eliminating the issue that way.
    – JB King
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 18:42
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    You failed to mention an important point - is this employees quality and quantity of work up to scratch? Some people can spend a lot of time chatting and still do adequate work. Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 18:59
  • 2
    but I want to get an opinion before I do so this is not the place for that. Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 21:03

4 Answers 4


"He has made all the money he wanted to from his ancestors, and has no aspiration to work for."

This is a bias and is likely skewing or prejudicing your assessment of him. Try to remove that from your thinking the best you can.

Everyone has unproductive time at work. Estimates range from 40% to 75% productivity in any given full day of work.

So the first question you should ask yourself is your perception of his wealth and the observed unproductive time linked.

That said, it comes to something measurable. If you can show he is behind his peers in performance with measurable results, then have that cometojesus meeting and set a recovery plan with, again, measurable milestones. If he fails, send him packing.

"How did this answer the question?" EDIT: First, I am challenging the OP in taking a look at the possible bias that could be skewing the his/her initial assessment of the employee. Bringing up someone's wealth is not relevant and is a sign, to me, of a potential interfering bias. Second, since the employee is near being fired, the ONLY motivators of any value at this stage is the basic, bare bones milestones in a recovery plan. Meet these or leave. That's it. The finer points of motivation, those that promote intrinsic desire to achieve--autonomy, mastery, and purpose--are things down the road. This guy just needs to keep his job if he wants it.


Why is the employee this way?

Motivations for work are a complex arena at best, and are (almost) never solely driven by financial means alone – I would suggest watching this to get a quick overview into some of the other factors. Therefore your employee may not be giving 100% because their autonomy and self-developmental needs remain unfulfilled – I would advise speaking to them to see what on-going development / autonomy needs they have, as this may give you scope to turn their performance around by appealing to their personal motivations.

The way in which you phrase this suggests a level of assumption around their personal circumstances, and the fact that you say you are close to firing them almost certainly will be a factor in how you interact with them. Have you put as much effort into their ongoing development as your other subordinates? It could be that you are assuming they do not wish to develop when in fact they are waiting to be asked.

How can you respond?

Fundamentally, not wanting to be at work is almost irrelevant to the firing process – you need to be sure that they are underperforming from a results-orientated perspective. In your question you did not specify whether or not their results were notably sub-standard, and this is really the only benchmark that should be used. I have worked with many people who are happy to stay exactly where they are in terms of role and have yet consistently delivered results.

Making assumptions about personal circumstances and how these relate to on-the-job performance is dangerous as this can result in any dismissal being illegal (naturally dependent on country context), so make sure that you go through a rigorous review of their work before any action is taken and I would heartily advise you to speak to them to see if this can be rectified!


Obviously, this person did not take this job to get out of the rain. Apparently he can afford to be elsewhere. You have to put consequences to this behavior. Not getting your work done and disrupting others from doing their's is grounds for dismissal.

Formally document some of these problems and present it to this person. Workout some sort of acceptable goal. If he fails to meet expectations he needs to go.

You may be surprised to find that this person may to what it takes to keep his job. As of now, he doesn't have to do anything. You've given him free money and should consider yourself to be the problem. There are probably others that are partially guilty of this as well (Or does he gossip to himself?).


It might be time to have a talk with him about why he wants to be at your company. If you can understand his motivations then it should be easier to deal with him. If he really doesn't know why, then maybe you can even talk him in to leaving on his own while he figures out what it is he wants to do.

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