Employee Engagement - Sad Employee

Every employer’s nightmare is the demotivated employee. They aren’t bad enough that they can be disciplined for bad behavior that goes against anything in the employee handbook. They aren’t missing deadlines. They haven’t been rude, or late – in fact, they haven’t been much of anything.

When a previous superstar, perhaps someone you hired yourself goes from a glowing bright employee who bends over backward to help suddenly checks out of the whole process of work, you need to act fast.

These are the conversations that feel tough. Just like in the TV shows that denote police custody, with the suspect saying ‘no comment’ after each question, you too can feel like an investigator, hunting out the root cause of demotivation. Unfroatunetly, you’ve probably been unlikely to be trained in the art of psychoanalysis.

So, what are the ways you can tackle this?

1.Keep it private

Whilst you might want to explode or make comments such as ‘What’s wrong today?’ or ‘You don’t seem very perky!’ It’s best that you leave conversations with demotivated individuals to take place in private – never in front of other staff members or managers.

2. Catch them on the fly

Whilst the employee might put a stone wall up when it comes to a meeting, or their behavior will decline further, it’s best to try and humanize. See if they have a minute to talk. Try and approach them with a smile and go to a private settee or a small meeting room.

3. Explain you have noticed a change

Notice the behavior, not the person. Instead of asking why their workload has decreased, keep on the positive – You don’t seem to be performing to the high level you used to. You don’t appear to be as interested in the job. You appear to have lost a bit of the passion. “Hi Sarah, have you got a minute for a chat?” The aim here is to sound informal and approachable.

Raise your voice so it is a question. Their body language and facial expressions will say a lot!“Hi Sarah, have you got a minute for a chat?” The aim here is to sound informal and approachable.

4. Give examples

You have to be prepared for the employee to look shocked, confused or to not understand. Many misunderstandings have arisen in the workplace, so give some casual examples.

“You normally say good morning but recently you have been sitting down with your headphones in- I’ve noticed it all this week.”

“You used to be keen to offer ideas and solutions but I’ve noticed you tend to stay quiet, like the other week with Steve’s new project – you have so much expertise in this area!”

5. Take the lead

If they agree, they may not even know why they have acted in this way. Sometimes, activity follows emotion, but we don’t stop to pinpoint the why. Try and come up with some ideas. Perhaps a new team member has joined, the office has changed processes, perhaps there is a big project ending?  They may latch onto an idea. They may also have a clear grievance or issue. Don’t agree to solve it. Acknowledge it, and then let them know the next steps.

If you over promise and under deliver, you may make the situation worse. Thank them for their honesty, and leave the meeting together, moving onto a neutral topic. Don’t rush away from your desk upstairs to the senior team straight away, a move that looks gossipy. Stay put, create notes, and then work towards a solution.

What are your tips for having those difficult chats?

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