Ask Barb: Motivating Your Team

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Oct 17, 2012

Dear Barb:

How to you motivate people who just focus on what’s not going right all day long? I’ve got an office full of whiners and complainers and even my manager is starting to give me excuses. When I talk to other owners in my city, they are doing a whole lot better than we are. I don’t work a desk any more but I swear I feel I could do more than the whole bunch of them. I’ve tried contests and no one qualifies, I’ve tried treating them nice or then threatening them and I tell you nothing works. Two of them were really good producers for me until 2009, but now they complain just as much as everyone else.

I’m too old to start over, but I can’t keep putting in my own money to meet payroll. How do I get them to do what I need for them to do?

Frank H., Tampa, FL

Dear Frank:

You are going to have to make some very difficult decisions, if you want to get your company profitable. You can’t motivate people who refuse to be motivated. I like to refer to negative people as the “noise” in my life and I’ve learned to ignore it or get rid of it.

It sounds like you need to put everyone who is not hitting their goals on indefinite probation with a plan on how to turn things around. As the owner, you need to provide direction on which hot orders to work and make sure you are managing by each individual’s numbers, stats, and ratios vs. emotion.

Often an experienced recruiter who has “quit and stayed” can ruin the morale of an entire office. If the passion is gone, it’s impossible to succeed at our career. This person stays because they don’t know what else to do and you’re still paying them without consequences.

It’s time to take control of your business and get it off your back. You may have some resignations when you put people on probation – but if they are not producing, that may not be the worst scenario.

When you put employees on probation it is important that you give them a plan to follow in order to get out of their slump. You need to micromanage and check numbers daily. Also, find out what each of your employees is trying to achieve. They will produce more for their own reasons – not yours. If they want something for themselves or the people they love, that is when you see production increase. Have each of your employees write down 10 non-negotiable goals with 4-5 dated action items after each goal.

If you do not see improvement, you then find experienced sales people who will make you money. As an owner you are in business to make money — not provide jobs for the people who work for you. You need to stop depleting your personal finances to pay others who are not making you money.

There is something important for you to realize:

You can make excuses or you can make money; you can’t make both! You retain the employees who turn around and you ‘upgrade’ the people who don’t. You are currently carrying your entire business on your back and that has to stop, starting now.

Barbara J. Bruno, CPC, CTS

Would you like to Ask Barb a question? Email her at Each month in The Fordyce Letter print edition, Barbara Bruno answers questions from individuals in the Recruiting Profession. We will bring you some of these Q&A responses from Barb each week on

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