“Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.” ~ Storm Jameson (1891-1986), author

You’re the department head and under you sense that your group is not in sync and delivering as expected.  Are you dealing with an employee (or employees) who:

  • Comes in late on most days
  • Whines about every little thing
  • Seem to have lost their passion and enthusiasm
  • Slows down other employees because of their bad attitude or as an effect of his poor performance
  • Acts like he’s indispensible because of his seniority
  • Does things only when you ask, never acting proactively or beyond what is asked

If at least one of the above is true for your people, you’re dealing with someone who is no longer motivated to do well – something that you should be taking seriously, immediately.  One unhappy employee in the group is like having a bad apple in the basket – spoiling the whole bunch is not a far-fetched possibility.  Managing a dissatisfied member can be very tricky, which is why it’s best to arrest the situation early on, before it gets out of hand.

Source: DreamsTime.com

How can a manager breathe new life into employees who are no longer into the job?

1.  First thing to do is get into the root of the matter. Talk to your employee and find out exactly where the problem lies.  Dissatisfaction can come from many factors and reasons – pay grade, work load, colleagues, work expectations, domestic situations, etc.  You can address the situation better when you know the root of the problem.  Once identified, you’ll know how to better help your employee.

2.  Keep your ear on the floor. It pays to listen in on the grapevine for signs of discontent among your employees.  Observe your employees’ attitudes and pay attention to disgruntled comments or complaints.  This does not mean you have to give weight to each and every complaint that comes your way.  If there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, the employees’ grapevine may know about it long before you do.

3.  Have a good heart-to-heart with your employee. Set a talk with the employee concerned in your office at the last business hour.  Setting it close to “going home” time will keep your discussion straight to the point and free of unnecessary gossip or unhelpful insights.  Talking at the end of the day will also allow the employee to go home and reflect on your one-on-one through the night.

4.  Listen to what your employee has to say. Your employee’s problem may be on your management style and how your method is rubbing him the wrong way.  Pay attention and consider that what he’s saying may be a learning point for you as well, a chance to improve yourself and how you handle people.  Try to see how you can resolve the issue in a way that you can both continue to work together professionally.

5.  Keep your marbles. An unhappy employee may become emotional or riled up once you get him talking about his issues.  Don’t aggravate the situation with your equally emotional reaction.  If he starts shouting and is provoking a fight, wait until he’s done and calmly say that you didn’t call him in to argue.  Give him a day or two to cool down and come back to you when he’s ready to talk rationally.

Most factors of employee dissatisfaction are rooted in the work environment – the boss, his colleagues, or the job per se.  Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs directly correlates satisfaction with motivation.  As the superior, you should be able to identify what it is exactly that your employee is dissatisfied about.  What is making him unhappy, and what can possibly change this current state of his.

How then can you motivate someone whose heart is no longer into the job?

1.  Let him know he’s valued.  A pat on the back or a compliment about a job well done goes a long way in boosting employee pride and morale.  For the employee, a grateful and appreciative boss makes his hard work worth his time and effort.

2.  Recognize employee efforts publicly.  Public recognition through a simple citation or email announcement does a lot of wonders for an employee who worked hard and delivered results.  A public acknowledgement, even without material compensation, can keep your employee enthusiastic.

3.  Let your employee shine.  Give the people under you opportunities to showcase themselves and their strengths.  Moments that allow employees to demonstrate what they can do can give them that sense of satisfaction that they crave.

4.  Let them know you care.  Working for a boss who takes the effort to know what’s going on in his employee’s “world” creates an intangible superior-employee bond.  An employee will happily do anything, or go the extra mile, for the boss he considers to be a good person, or at best, a friend.

Half-hearted employees are in that state because they are no longer motivated.  They are unhappy or dissatisfied.  Quickly find out why and what, and work on resolving the matter.  Find ways to renew his enthusiasm and re-ignite his passion. Doing so may prevent the possible loss of an excellent employee who makes definite contributions to your organization.

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Paul Bailey

Paul is a highly experienced Business Coach, Mentor and Personal Development Specialist. He works with people to enhance business and personal performance through a process of supported self-awareness and self- development. Paul is the Co-Author of the book 80 Tips.