Lazy Days Are Gone

By Stephanie Goddard  |   Submitted On March 05, 2017

Today, someone called me lazy. This happened in one of the Facebook groups I'm in, so the person doesn't really know me. But it got me thinking. Is being lazy really a thing? I believe lazy isn't possible. And here's why:

Interest can't be manufactured. You're either interested in something or you are not. You're either naturally interested in math or you're not. You either naturally gravitate toward football or you don't. Now, we can definitely make it possible for you to FAKE interest in these topics if we choose to do so. This is done through praise or punishment; in other words, the carrot or the stick.

If you don't have a natural interest in coming into work every day at 8am, are you lazy? I'd say no. I'd call that normal. Regardless, the employer needs you there at 8am. So she ensures that happens unnaturally by bribing you (giving you a salary---a carrot). Otherwise, you'd never do it. And if you take that carrot and you still don't find the motivation to get there by 8am? Well, now it's time for the stick: You'll probably be written-up, punished, docked pay and even fired for not faking your interest better than you did.

But make no mistake: The word "lazy" is just another stick. It's meant to shame so that a person will act when they have no natural interest in the first place. The real question is: Do you want a person to act because you "beat" them with a stick or do you want them to act (against their true interest) because you tempted them with a carrot?

Whenever you are in charge or supervising another person (be it a child or an employee), you have the choice of presenting the stick or the carrot to activate this person. As we all know, you can't make someone do something they don't want to do, and you can't change a person who doesn't want to change---but you CAN get them to do it anyway, in the short run, to avoid the consequences or to increase the benefits.

Ultimately, this is an article about extrinsic motivation vs. intrinsic motivation. The former is the stuff of "carrot and stick." The latter is where a person has learned to create the carrot and the stick for themselves, so an outside person doesn't have to. They may belittle themselves mentally, they may snap a rubber band against their wrist, they may commit to putting money in a swear jar. The carrot internally looks like buying yourself a new outfit for succeeding in achieving a goal or asking friends to "celebrate" your success at a restaurant or bar.

But in the end, please be clear, that none of this is about a person being good or bad. If your child doesn't naturally want to clean their room, it doesn't mean that they are bad, lazy or destined for a life of squalor. If we're honest, no one really wants to clean a house. Aside from some temporary satisfaction, soon erased by daily living, this task has very few rewards. To suggest a child, therefore, should want to clean your home as a matter of pride or family commitment is beyond unreasonable. You are actually doing damage to your child's self-image, and ultimately your relationship, all under the heading of "a clean house is a requirement." Is it worth it?

Similarly, shaming your employees will result in turnover ultimately. Praising them or tempting them to act toward implementing goals is the healthiest first step. If this doesn't work? Well, then it's time for the stick. Some people (due to severe parenting) only respond to the stick. But the damage to your relationship is inherent in this choice. You will be managing through fear rather than leadership.

Likewise, with a child, you will be parenting through fear vs. parenting through love and acceptance. And this will inform your relationship once your child is an adult.

Stephanie Goddard is considered a subject matter expert in workplace communications and specializes in leadership and interpersonal skills training.

Frequently appearing as a guest on radio programs and published in numerous articles on workplace communications, Stephanie is also a nationally certified trainer for Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People; DDI programs; Ridge's People Skills for Managers and Individual Contributors; Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; Franklin Covey's Project Management and master certified in Achieve Global's Management Programs; as well as an instructor with the American Management Association.

Go to her website for even more articles at

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