Workplace Doctor: How to get back in the groove when demotivated by your job

I’ve lost interest at work. I’ve been in the same job for seven years and while nothing has changed about my position as such, I just feel bored and demotivated. I also suffer from terrible Sunday morning blues. This starts on Saturday evening as I realise the weekend is over and stretches well into Sunday afternoon. How can I get my office mojo back again? GJ, Dubai

Losing your mojo at work is not uncommon; we all have episodes where we feel our motivation is fleeting and that some kind of change is needed. Some, like you, lose interest because they have been in the same job for a number of years and although it may feel comfortable, it can start to become too familiar, monotonous or even boring.

On the other hand, others may be in a job which is simply too busy; barely treading water until the next wave comes in. Too much stress and pressure can lead to what is called “burnout”, but dull and repetitive work can be just as bad, as we almost “rust out” from lack of stimulation.

Motivation is the process that encourages and guides behaviour. It is the “why” buried deep beneath the “what” we do and typically differs between people. Some of us just need a sprinkle of motivation to get up in the morning and get ourselves to work, and for others it is a massive uphill struggle.

Many would organise what typically motivates people into a hierarchy of human needs. Once you have the basics like food, shelter and safety, you then look to fulfil social needs, such as being part of an organisation or having supportive colleagues. After that you want the opportunity to express your own personality and identity. Once you achieve this you then seek to be your true self, satisfied with yourself in your entirety. Think of your own motivation like a seed, you cannot make it grow but you can ensure you are in the right environment, doing the right work, with the right people around you, so over time it slowly flourishes.

Before Ashridge, I was a psychologist in the prison service in the UK. Criminal behaviour was something I had always been interested in since studying psychology in college. When I started the job, I was thrilled. I bought all the textbooks and bounced in on my first day. The first few months were interesting and novel. However, after about nine months I realised that something just didn’t feel right. The environment didn’t seem to suit me, I enjoyed some elements of the work but not others. The people were nice but we just didn’t click. I then looked into my own career drivers and realised I had a strong need for autonomy and freedom, so of course I would find it hard in an institution governed by rules, routine and structure. I decided after about a year to move on.

If you have been able to stay in your role for seven years (unlike me in the prison service), there probably was a time when you felt like you were in the right place. However, as times change so do we and it could be what motivated you in the past may not do so any more.

There are some steps you can take to get your mojo back, so try these over the next few weeks. Firstly, try to make a genuine commitment to personal excellence. If you look at how most people work, they tend to be happy by simply getting the job done. If, in the short term, you make the decision to do everything as well as you can (in the time available) and fully engage, you may find you crank up your personal motivation as you begin to feel good about yourself again.

Also instead of focusing on all the reasons you really don’t want to go to work, try focusing on the positive parts, such as colleagues, the benefits for your family or that one project you really enjoy. Instead of feeling ungrateful about the work you do, try counting the reasons you have to be thankful to help put things in perspective.

Most importantly, you need to reconnect with your own motives, values, preferences and interests. You can take an online questionnaire to look into this, talk to people who know you well or look into yourself to understand what your real strengths are. You then need to think about how much of your current role allows you to play to these. If not much, then have a think about what changes you need to make, either in your current role, or by finding a new one.

Doctor’s prescription

We all want to be interested and engaged at work, but our motivation tends to peak and dip over time, especially if we have been in the same job for a number of years. Feeling bored and demotivated can be as stressful as being completely overworked. Standing still won’t help, but understanding your own motivation and what drives you will. Think broadly about what you enjoy doing and when you last felt at your best. If you think this current role won’t allow you to achieve this again any time soon, then maybe it is time for a change.

Alex Davda is a business psychologist and consultant at Ashridge Business School, based in the Middle East. Email him at for advice on any work issues.


Business RSS feed - The National

About Author

You may also like

ADFF Introduces New Award for Environmental Films

  • Sep 09, 2011
WAM Abu Dhabi, Sept. 6th, 2011 (WAM) -- The Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF), organized by Abu Dhabi Authority for

DCL analyzes thousands of food and environmental samples

  • Sep 09, 2011
Tue 06-09-2011 22:08 PM WAM Dubai, Sept. 6th, 2011 (WAM) -- Food and Environment Laboratory Section of Dubai Central Laboratory