A person procrastinating
There's more to laziness; it's a deeper psychological problem that involves various fears and negative thoughts that translate into behavioural patterns. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Could demotivation be masquerading as laziness?

The question plagues workplaces. Lekha Anand, a Dubai-based public relations professional and manager tries to explain. “It could also mean someone who just doesn’t enjoy what they do. They have no passion and are forced into something to secure their livelihood,” she says, relating stories of watching many listless individuals in her company, who seem to function on autopilot.

However, Katherine Hurst, an American Dubai-based beauty entrepreneur retaliates: “That’s sad for them, but won’t their demotivation at work bring down the productivity of a team and the company as a whole? At the end of the day, it’s a business that people running. You need to find a way to work on yourself or leave for a job you like, because staying on isn’t helping anyone.” Other people will end up seeing you as lazy.

“Laziness is a preference. Demotivation isn’t,” adds Chandan Roy, an Abu Dhabi-based photographer, who has had his share of ‘demotivated’ days in different companies owing to difficult managers, as he says.

However, it might be a lot more complicated than that.

‘The term laziness is far too simplistic’

Upset person
There could be a lack of confidence behind a person's supposed laziness; it can be a heavy burden to carry, leading to procrastination. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Laziness is a lazy way to describe human behaviour. Shaila Joshi, a Dubai-based psychologist finds the word particularly unhelpful and a tad callous, even. “It’s a surface-level term applied for a person who isn’t working according to their potential,” she maintains. It’s just a hasty way of describing someone’s lack of interest in something. You can use it casually when someone wishes to just relax or ‘laze’ after a taxing day, but not apply it as a personal characteristic.

There’s more to what meets the eye. There could be several deeper and innate reasons why someone doesn’t want to work. “There could be a sense of fear that’s holding them back. They don’t believe that they are capable enough of doing something,” she explains. This lack of confidence can be a heavy burden to carry, leading to procrastination. “It’s a clear avoidance tactic, as they have a limiting view of themselves,” explains Joshi.

So, they can’t cultivate discipline for themselves. “We can do what we set our minds to. However, when your mind is your worst enemy, how do you overcome that rut? That’s what will keep us from committing to a task and following through with it,” she says. “There is a deeply, intricate layer of negative thoughts that are programmed into us, and which resurface as ‘laziness’ for others.” It manifests as an air of pessimism and cynicism, or a rebellion, which is instantly perceived as laziness. People need an empathetic touch, not labels.

Moreover, the lack of a supportive environment could fragment a person’s self-esteem as well. People also need to feel that they would be rewarded emotionally or in a material sense for what they do. “We always need to feel a sense of appreciation and recognition, where we are. When you don’t have that, you begin to wonder ‘Why should I even do this?’” she says. When you start believing that anything you do amounts for nothing, you get slowly consumed by a sense of hopelessness.

And so as she says, laziness is intertwined with demotivation.

Demotivation: A deeper psychological problem

Sad person
A demotivated person feels listless, restless and could possibly be slipping into depression. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Listlessness. Perhaps restlessness. The inability to focus, and a feeling of hollowness. Katherine Lawrence, a Dubai-based psychologist describes demotivation as such, perhaps, with elements of possible depression.

“A demotivated person is someone who doesn’t have passion for what they do. They might even try to function at work, but at a bare minimum,” she says. It’s a deeper, more complex psychological problem and could arise due to various reasons. A person might lose interest at work, owing to a hostile environment, or the fear that they are not living up to their own expectations or of their parents for that matter. They turn unproductive as a manner of escapism; not as a method of enjoyment, which is what usually happens in laziness, as she points out. They procrastinate, because they have no interest in the assignment, she adds.

There’s a sense of sluggishness and dullness, according to Charlotte Thawne, a Dubai-based stress specialist. This could also manifest into depression, if left unchecked. “A person lapses into depression, when they just have no will to find any meaning in life. They have no interest in their responsibilities. This feeling is far out of their control,” she says. Such a person feels a sense of emptiness. Their tolerance levels are far lowered and they have difficulty in concentrating or making decisions,” she says.

The ‘lazy’ employee

Upset woman
There’s a sense of sluggishness and dullness. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi-based Hiral Mehta, an academic researcher, admits that she was always considered as a ‘lazy soul’. Not just for one organisation, but for several. She detested the career path of public relations, but plunged into it, to earn money. “I spent two years, just floating from one organisation to another. I really wanted to work, but I didn’t like anything that I was doing. So I dropped tasks, procrastinated, got yelled at, and I started believing that I wasn’t good at anything,” she adds.

The term lazy was attached to her. “My parents thought that I was being lazy and giving up too easily,” she says. She slipped into depression, pushing herself to do a job that she didn’t do. She got laid off, and she finally had time to understand what she really wanted. “I needed to heal myself first. I needed to believe that I wasn’t useless, or any term that people had begun to throw at me,” she says. And so, she decided to pursue her education again. “I did my Master’s degree, and finally, so many options opened up for me,” she says.

Mehta doesn’t like looking back too much. Yet, it ‘riles’ her when she hears someone being called lazy. “There’s always so much more to the story than what others know,” she says.

Overcoming demotivation

It’s time to do some tough talking with yourself.

“Are you just tired, or is there a deeper need for inspiration and joy that's not being met,” asks Noona Nafousi, a Dubai-based wellness expert. Recognising low motivation starts with noticing those moments when you're avoiding tasks, feeling indifferent towards activities you used to enjoy, or simply can't find the energy to get started, she adds.

Are you just tired, or is there a deeper need for inspiration and joy that's not being met? If you're craving inspiration or joy, it might be time to mix things up — change of scenery, plan something exciting, or change your daily routine to include more of what makes you happy and brings you a deep sense of joy.

- Noona Nafousi, wellness expert

You need to find the root of the issue. “If you're just tired, maybe it's time to look at your rest and self-care routines and your internal dialogue,” she explains. On the other hand, if you're craving inspiration or joy, it might be time to mix things up — change of scenery, plan something exciting, or change your daily routine to include more of what makes you happy and brings you a deep sense of joy. You need to take responsibility for yourself. Own it, and find different ways to increase your own grit, she says. Work on eliminating your distractions, like your phone time and social media.

You need to find ways to increase your drive, explains Thawne. Examine why you’re unsure of your own goals and answer questions to yourself:

• Why did you set these goals to begin with?

• What was your main reason for wanting to achieve them?

• How will your life or the lives of others be different once you reach them?

“Increasing your motivation involves setting goals that resonate with your values and you. Break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks that don't feel overwhelming,” says Nafousi. Reframe your own narrative and be kinder to yourself. “Figure out what's missing or what needs changing. Once you've got a handle on that, setting and achieving your desires becomes a much more straightforward path,” she says.

Signs at the workplace

For managers, if you do spot someone at the workplace who seems listless and is unable to carry out the tasks you’ve assigned, you need to address it a firm but non-abrasive manner, says Thawne, the stress specialist. This ‘laziness’ could be in the form of delaying tasks, or not completing them at all. The person will appear to have a rather disinterested and disengaged air. However, before forming any judgments or making a decision, try talking to them first.

“If you attack such a person by calling them lazy, they will be further pushed into the corner and perhaps become more demotivated. You need to take the time out to talk to them and see how the issue can be addressed,” Thawne advises.