How to Stay Motivated at Work

It’s hard to stay motivated in a toxic work environment. But if you can’t leave, you need to find ways to stay motivated despite the problems on the job.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #214

Reader Alfred writes:

“Recently my boss has been putting me down in front of other managers, despite my stellar performance evaluations from him for the last 5 years. I still take pride in my work, but I'm finding it hard to stay motivated working for someone who is undermining me. What can I do?”

In First, Break All the Rules, the Gallup Organization found that your boss is super-important to job satisfaction. Even if you work for a loving, gentle company that gives you free neck rubs when you're feeling down, having a bad boss will lead you to quit your job. And even if you work for an evil, polluting company whose demonic executives live by drinking children's tears, having a good boss will make you eager to come to work each day. (And these days, it's just $0.69 for earplugs to shut out the sound of children crying in the feeding areas.)

Here are 7 things you can do to make your work life more palatable.

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Tip #1: Keep Detailed Records

If your boss is giving you positive evaluations and then putting you down elsewhere, that's called slander, and it's illegal, especially if you can show it's malicious and can harm your career. I received outstanding performance reviews in one of my early jobs. I quit, and was later informed by several people that my boss was so upset about my leaving that he insulted me and my work in front of my colleagues. I kept track of the incidents I heard about, just in case I ever decided to pursue the matter legally. Sheldon, if you're listening, it's never too late to apologize.

Tip #2: Transfer Work Groups

Some companies are genuinely concerned about their employees. You can go to your Human Resources department and file a complaint against your boss and ask that you be transferred to another group. If you have glowing performance evaluations in writing from this same boss, another group should be thrilled to have you join.

Start by building ties to other departments. Find out their interests and help them. Early in my career, I discovered my company's tech support department was struggling to help customers with certain problems. I arranged for one of our product developers to create a tool for tech support to handle those customer problems. It helped the company and helped me build strong ties to the tech support department.

Tip #3: Keep Yourself Amused

What fuels misery at work is when you dwell on the awful bits. Instead, dwell on the fun bits. You must have taken the job for a reason. There is something about it you like—the people, the customers, the industry, etc.—so dwell on that. Check out my article on this very topic, How to Find Passion at Work.

If there's nothing you like about the job, invent something. Ask yourself what opportunities or activities would be satisfying, and find ways to incorporate those into your workday. That's how buzzword bingo got started. People who thought business buzzwords were silly, made a bingo game out of it. If it takes playing buzzword bingo to make it through a stultifying meeting, then give that a try. (You can also send your meeting facilitator to my article on how to run effective meetings.)


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.