Jobs change, so must employees, or risk not meeting “minimum requirements”

Dear Joan:

I have a question about people who just want to do their jobs and go home at the end of the day and not worry about their responsibilities. They don’t want to move up or get ahead. How do I motivate these types of people?  

I am a person who always tries to learn more and keep my skills up to date. I write personal goals and I’ve gotten to my current position (I’m a manager of customer service in a large company) by always doing more than what was expected of me.  

I am personally frustrated by several employees who don’t want to move ahead and who only do the minimum. Some of these same employees are the ones who want to leave early for family responsibilities and who also want a big raise at the end of the year. Any advice?


Your question touches on what the employee must do versus what the employee can choose to do.  

If an employee doesn’t wish to move up or take on more responsibility, that is his or her choice—to a point. 

The situation you raise gets at the heart of the unspoken employer/employee contract. Every employee is expected to meet the “minimum standards” of the job. Those minimum standards are those things the employee agreed to perform, in exchange for compensation.  

The problem is no job stays the same from year to year. It evolves, as the needs of the organization change. Technology improves, customers’ demands change, the economy swings, the leadership of the organization changes… No job is inert. If the employee can’t at least keep pace as the job evolves, he or she won’t be able to meet the basic standards. In effect, they would then violate their part of the deal.  

For example, sometimes employees resist new technology that will make their jobs more efficient. “Why can’t I just do things the way I always did them? It worked just fine the old way,” they say. The answer is that the job is evolving and they must evolve with it or risk losing it. 

The same could be said of changing customer demands or the need to work more collaboratively with other departments or on a team with coworkers. As their manager, you’re challenge is to clearly explain why the change is necessary and how it will help the goals of the business.  

In your case, you will need to explain clearly what the expectations are for getting a raise. During the last few years, most companies gave raises of up to 4 percent of salary. Don’t assume your employees already understand what it takes to get a raise. Spell out what outstanding performance would look like: doing everything that is expected, plus going above and beyond to take on more responsibility. Also explain that it means working a full work week, as well as staying late when the workload requires it. Make it clear that length of time on a job is not the measure you use to award big raises. 

So, at the end of the performance review for these individuals, when you get to the career growth and development discussion for the coming year, consider asking this question: “What do you want to work on next year, to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date?” If someone thinks they are already as good as they can get—and you disagree—you are within your right as their manager to mandate some personal development that will bring their skills to the standards the job requires. 

These employees are probably good employees who have worked there a long time. You will need to be firm and clear about the changes they must make. Every employee doesn’t have to have ambition to move up but they do have to keep up or move on to a job that requires less.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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