The Effects of Low Productivity in the Workplace

by Neil Kokemuller; Updated September 26, 2017
woman balancing a pineapple on her head

Low productivity in the workplace refers to a condition where one or more workers complete tasks, processes, production or sales inefficiently. Low productivity has a number of negative impacts on a workplace, including economic effects on profitability and systemic implications for worker morale.

Low Profitability

Productivity and profit have a strong correlation. The people and equipment required for production cost a certain amount of money. When these resources produce a relatively low amount of goods, services or sales for the money spent on them, the profit margin for the company is low. In some cases, company leaders react by implementing salary freezes or even cuts. These measures may stem the tide of rising costs, but they don't do much to increase productivity. Managers must explore cultural solutions to compel higher production.

Downsizing and Low Morale

Low productivity also contributes to downsizing, which most often means layoffs. When a company has a broad productivity problem, leaders may respond by letting a number of random workers go. This doesn't do much to improve productivity, but it cuts labor costs. However, the employees left after such moves often suffer from low morale based on lost relationships and fear of losing their own jobs. A better approach is to set goals with employees and work teams and address productivity shortfalls on a worker-by-worker basis.

Work Avoidance and Turnover

Low productivity and low motivation often go hand-in-hand. Workers who don't care to optimize productivity on the job are also likely to skip out whenever possible. Companies with low productivity often suffer from high rates of absenteeism and turnover. Unmotivated, low-producing workers may call in sick periodically based on a limited perception of the value of their roles. Turnover results when employees aren't motivated or don't feel that their contributions are valued. Improved training to instill confidence and customized motivational strategies that match each worker may help.

Suffocating Benchmarks and Standards

Rigid production benchmarks and performance standards are common responses of some company leaders to broad productivity problems. For dedicated employees who already perform well, benchmarks provide a quantified target to reach. However, employees already struggling with motivation to work hard often wilt under the pressure of challenging benchmarks. Collectively, the pinch felt by such workers only exacerbates the problems of low morale and poor productivity. A manager must find the distinct factors that motivate each worker for such benchmarks to succeed.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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