11 Surprising Things That Lower Employee Productivity

Productivity measures the output gained per unit of input. You are more productive when you give more output while using the least possible amount of resources including time. But, do we just need the output in terms of quantity to be productive? No, we need to meet quality standards as well.

Organizations strive to be productive because they want to minimize their cost and maximize their output. There’s plenty of research out there that outlines the factors affecting organizational productivity, examples are: employee satisfaction, organizational culture, HR policies and reward systems, employee engagement, work-life balance, using technology tools that improve productivity, etc.

However, staying productive is a challenging task because sometimes the changes associated with the hope of a surge in productivity take time to be accepted and become a part of the culture.

Let’s have a look at some of the factors that can make your employee perform below their potential, or in other words, lower their productivity.

Employee Productivity

1. Lack of Employee Motivation and Opportunities

When you’re part of an organization that provides excellent training, skill-development opportunities and you have room for growth in both educational and financial terms, you will certainly feel more energetic and motivated towards your work.

You will have better output and efficiency because you know the system is based on transparency and justice, therefore it’s worth investing your time and effort.

This is supported by research concluding that an unhappy worker is less productive. Happiness is a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic satisfaction here.

2. Lack of Project Engagement

It is generally observed that when your team members feel valued, their engagement with the project and their output skyrockets. The reason is that engagement brings a sense of ownership and you feel bound by heart and emotions to accomplish company goals.

It is also seen that some people will be more willing to do some overtime. Eventually, a satisfied employee will come to think that the project’s success or failure correlates with their own individual work.

The opposite of this behavior is a lack of engagement that leads to less interest from team members, slower output, and less focus on quality because they’re just following orders and not integrating the business’ interests.

3. Lack of Feedback

When you keep on giving constant feedback to your employees on their good work and seek their input as well, they feel privileged and empowered. Empowering your employees to take on leadership or be autonomous derives in performance boost. Also, their doubts and misunderstandings are cleared up and they know what exactly they have to do. This minimizes the chances of errors and wasted time.

In contrast, a lack of feedback leads to lower productivity since your team will not feel they need to constantly out-do themselves, plus they won’t be thinking about the specific things they can do to make a better job.

4. Complicated Organizational Policies

Rules, handbooks and company policies should be widely known and embraced. Everyone needs to understand that the whole team is under a common set of rules, under which every member is treated equally.

However, there must be a balance because sometimes it can become too strict or too bureaucratic. For example, doing a lot of paperwork to get a permission or make a claim, etc. Surprisingly, a company policy that is too restrictive, or inflexible can deter productivity. Employees would be less focused into work and concerned more about unnecessary policies.

5. Too Much Work Pressure

Having no work assignments or an excessive workload are the two negative extremes you must avoid. If you have a long list of work to do and very limited time, you get confused, feel pressured, and stressed. Thus, your work speed is negatively affected.

Managers who assign some team members more workload because they do it right should know that this does not pay in the long run and the right distribution of workload enhances productivity both at the individual and at the team level.

6. Lack of Acknowledgement

There are always a few brilliant team members, and managers are well aware of it. Their ideas and input can help you stay on the right track or perform better. Also, many of them work harder than others and they deserve acknowledgment and appreciation for their work.

In case your team is performing well, based on the hard work of a few members and they are not given credit for it, it will most likely lead to the first point outlined here: lack of motivation, and their productivity will eventually decline.

7. Poor Health and Stress

Personal problems, work stress, bad sleep, poor health conditions, and laziness are some other factors that may lead to less productivity on the part of employees. Organizations tackle this problem by planning and implementing work-life balance programs and activities.

8. Complex Hierarchy System

In some organizations, you will find subordinates struggling to make too many bosses and supervisors happy. When you have a complex organizational structure and people don’t know who they should report to, or managers give contradictory instructions, lower productivity is the result.

Hierarchies in your company should be well established, there should be manuals so that everyone knows who’s in charge of what, and all processes are streamlined. Keep in mind not to overcomplicate things here, everything should be clear and easy to understand, don’t forget complex organizational policies can also act against you. It’s all about finding balance and harmony between each team and each process.

9. Bad Relationship with Managers

Sometimes, we may find bad managers on our way. They give their subordinates a tough time due to several reasons such as bad experiences in the past, zero emotional intelligence or no assertiveness when giving instructions.

For example, if you have a hard-to-please manager that constantly criticizes people’s work negatively, your employees won’t want to exert any extra effort, because they would be discouraged thinking that the manager won’t appreciate it, or they may not get any credit for it in the end.

Managers need to be trained on how to handle subordinates and how to foster better relationships with the team. Additionally, empathic listening, assertiveness and ethical behavior are skills that any manager should develop further.

10. Ineffective Communication

Communication is the key to success for the organization. A clear, precise message leads to a better understanding of work and its quality. As a result, you will get the output that you wanted. Communication failure or gaps may lead to confusion about work standards and you may end up wasting time.

11. Too Many Distractions

Consider that you are a remote worker and write blogs. Kids are crying around and there is a mess all over. Someone is calling you or some guests have arrived who want to meet you too. Your focus is shifted and again when you come back and start working, you have a deadline to meet in an hour. Time is taken to accomplish a task and the quality of work both will suffer. This suggests that distractions can affect your output and lower your productivity.

This is the reason why the organization provides a comfortable work environment without noise and ensure cleanliness so that you don’t get distracted and produce as much as is expected.


Employee productivity is an interesting and vast topic and businesses are continuously figuring out ways on how to improve it.

Productivity helps organizations remain competitive, increase their revenue, and reduce cost. Therefore, the above article will help determine the factors affecting employee productivity and find ways to cater to the problems that lower output.

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