Workplace Doctor: Show enthusiasm in your job even if others don’t

I like to work hard, to be involved and part of a dynamic, driven team. But sometimes when I put my hand up for another task or say “yes” to a new project, I look around and see many of my colleagues are just coasting along. They earn the same as me, yet get away with doing the bare minimum. Should I bother putting myself forward when doing nothing appears to work just as well? MN, Abu Dhabi

There is nothing more rewarding than a hard day’s work where you are achieving alongside motivated and engaged colleagues who are coming up with ideas to push themselves and the business to new levels. Unfortunately, organisations are full of very different people who are motivated by very different things. There are those who are willing to go the extra mile, and those who are not. The best organisations develop this top 20 per cent of talent, providing them with the opportunities they crave and deserve.

You are clearly motivated by new challenges, working with others and a sense of personal and collective achievement. This kind of intrinsic employee motivation is not uncommon in high-performing organisations, as many are driven by more than just financial rewards. However, when you see people around you doing minimal levels of work, or just what they are paid for, I imagine this is frustrating and you start questioning whether you should put your hand up for the next project.

I have a vision in my mind of a classroom environment, with your hand raised after every question, while the rest of the class has their heads hidden behind their textbooks.

My first piece of advice for you is, yes, you should continue to put yourself forward, even if doing nothing seems like the approach of the majority. You seem to be a minority in this organisation, but that does not mean putting yourself forward for another task or new project is being unnoticed.

Motivation and enthusiasm is difficult to ignore, it’s almost contagious. I am sure your management has noticed your willingness, which could leave the road open for new opportunities if they do arise. Equally, if your drive is not being properly appreciated, then at least you are gaining exposure to new projects and responsibilities that will leave you in a good position if you do consider employment elsewhere.

Some organisations are very good at providing new opportunities, and others are less so. It is up to you to consider whether you feel you will get the opportunities you desire in your current company, or if you should find an organisation that proactively opens doors.

There are certainly many out there, and you may benefit from being in a more innovative environment where everyone raises their hand to questions and puts themselves forward for challenges.

If you decide to stay, I suggest trying to use your energy to encourage some of your colleagues. Someone with your work ethic will no doubt develop in their career, and a key leadership skill is the ability to motivate and inspire others.

How can you use this challenge to explore what motivates the people around you? Without inquiring you won’t find out which colleagues are coasting and those whose motivation is not being tapped into appropriately. There may be someone around you who is actually willing to do more, but the tasks they are being given are mundane and repetitive, or they may not have the confidence to put their hand up in the same way as you do.

Doctor’s prescription:

Continue putting yourself forward, as your energy and work ethic is refreshing for most employers. But take a long hard look at whether you think, in the long run, the organisation truly values your enthusiasm and will provide you with the opportunities you deserve. If they do, I suggest thinking about how you can motivate those around you to create the dynamic team you need. If they don’t, I would seriously consider whether you need to find an organisation that matches your own aspirations and where stepping forward is the norm.

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.

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