Lack of ambition and drive – Discussion feedback 1

Lack of ambition and drive – is this a problem?
I posted this article recently on the Skills Universe web site ( and posed the question – what do you think are the possible causes and potential solutions?
There were a wide variety of responses some of which missed the point but many responded to the questions asked. In an effort to make some sense of these I will do my best to summarise in the hope this will be of assistance to members of the Skills Universe family. In doing so I acknowledge these are the thoughts of the various people who responded and lay no claim to the thoughts expressed

What are the possible causes for lack of ambition and drive?

Causes arising as a result of the person

We can no longer refer to employees as a “company man” people are now more independent and enter the world of work on their own terms.
The career employees are in is not in line with their “Calling”
The employees natural capabilities and passion are not considered at the time of appointment
Lack of awareness of the need for competitiveness
We cannot blame anyone else for our personal lack of motivation or commitment We are responsible for our own happiness
People must motivate themselves, others cannot do it for them
The reason some employees are at work and lacking ambition is to pay the bills and because they haven’t found another job
People want leaders who can lead
People lack ambition, drive and/or initiative due to personal circumstances
The more inferior an employee feels the more lack of ambition and drive.
Some employees are working for the sake of working and nothing more
Some employees cant just leave the job as the economy is not at it’s best and they have commitments
Part of the problem is linked to entitlement – I ought to be given it rather than have to go and get it
Employees wait for things to be given, not because of entitlement but simply because they think they are supposed to wait, not supposed to push
Ideas put forward by junior staff and they do not get the credit. This will demotivate them as senior staff take the credit
Boredom, frustration or disillusionment with the job
Lack of confidence in their ability to succeed
Complacency and comfort zones
No benefit to them for working harder/better
No clear idea on what they can achieve
Rigid organisational systems or procedures that stifle initiative
A manager cannot create or inject ambition and drive into an employee who does not already posses it.
A willing and ambitious employee cannot thrive in an environment that does not allow it

Causes arising as a result of management

The failure to manage people in ways that has them both motivated and committed is a failure of management due to their low levels of people management skills
Narrowing the gap between “us” and “them” is not difficult to achieve, but not many companies even try
Managers do not know how and have no training on “how to manage people in order to reduce and eliminate conflict
Managers forget that “people are our competitive advantage”
Employer should choose their staff well
On the whole, management is largely devoid of the skills to manage subordinates so that they feel part of the organisation
Managers who like to tell people what to do and shows blatant favoritism and disrespect for the people
I honestly believe a workforce is as good as it’s management
Managers take no time to become familiar with the needs of individual employees
The manager has no people skills when it comes to motivating or inspiring people below them to become enthusiastic about their jobs. This could be the biggest problem of all
Management is only there to cultivate and support a willing and ambitious employee

Possible solution

Employees should encourage employees to attend more personal development courses – e.g. personal awareness
Motivation interventions to focus on the employee, the motivation should show them how they will benefit from improved productivity
Create an environment that encourages growth, development and opportunities
People before profits – go back to basics
Employees should not only be chosen on qualifications but also on ambition and integrity
Employees should be given a trial working period whereby their commitment would then be evaluated
We need to cultivate a sense responsibility and integrity by being honest with ourselves, compassionate yet firm. Put others first
Ask subordinates how they would go about finding a solution to a problem or challenge
Most people will want to contribute if the team and player issues were made evident to them
Leaders should inspire great work ethic and lead by example by being trust worthy
When people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, they out perform and surprise themselves in the process
Managers should ALWAYS remember that they are working with people
Give RESPECT in order to receive it
Don’t embarrass employees in front of others
Give the credit where and when it’s due
Know employee’s needs
Don’t employ people with a lack of ambition and drive
As a manager it is important to be positive even when facing adversity
Employ those who show a willingness to learn and grow
Create an environment in which ambition and drive is endorsed and supported
Treat employees as individuals and maintain a mutual respect in the employer, employee relationship
Be stern, polite and fair and always say please and thank you!
Encourage innovation and clarify expectations and what an employee may and may not do
Recognise those who are willing to improve themselves, increase productivity and those who have good relationships with other employees
Improve the job circumstances or develop a more motivational management style
Help employees to believe in themselves by presenting them with opportunities to succeed, and pointing their successes out
Create uncomfortable circumstances that get them out of their comfort zones to help them to realise they can do more than they thought, and reduce the fear of the unknown
Create incentives & give them something to work for
Help them create achievable, realistic goals with milestones attached; help them draw a clear distinction between where they are now and where they want to be
Allow people to think for themselves, problem-solve creatively, and work independently to help them to feel ownership and interest in the work they perform

As Joanna Housdon Cooke says
“There’s no doubt that there’s no “quick-fix” to the motivation problem. A manager may need to distinguish between people who are just going through a temporary flat period, and those who, despite concerted management supportive efforts, continually show that they don’t have potential.
A manager must bear in mind that in certain, routine jobs we need “sloggers” who don’t have much personal drive but are dependable, consistent and are happy to keep delivering year after year without the need for advancement or change”
Thank you all for the variety of contributions
Des Squire (Managing Member)

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About Des Squire

I specialise in Employment Equity and Skills Development issues. Qualified facilitator, assessor, moderator, verifier and SDF. Available for any related assignments and or freelance work. If ou have a need let's meet to discuss. Quotes for training on request.

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One thought on “Lack of ambition and drive – Discussion feedback

  • Brian Moores-Pitt

    Good Day Des,
    Of course, your list puts us back squarely in the realm of leadership – as one would have expected. There are thousands of books written on the subject and more generated every year. While there is no shortage of knowledge, the contradiction between what one finds in the books versus what one finds in most workplaces remains an enduring problem. I am of the view that, generally speaking, the gap hasn’t narrowed much in the 40-odd years I have been in the world of work. Therein lies the real challenge – to apply on a broad scale what is already well known about how to motivate and lead people. I suspect pockets of excellence might be the best one can hope.