How to Save a Disengaged Employee

How to Save a Disengaged Employee

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by Greg Moore, Customer Relationship Manager

Think back to the last time you hired someone new into your organization. You went through a process, perhaps a lengthy one that that, to select and to onboard this new employee. Conversations were filled with high hopes and great expectations. She seemed delighted to be part of the team and you were happy to have someone with her skills join the organization.

After the initial euphoria ends, the focus is on the needs of the business and the contributions of the new employee. If all goes as planned, she will fit in well and make solid contributions to the success of the enterprise. That’s why you hired her, right? It’s great when it works.

Unfortunately, for some, the “honeymoon” is brief and within a few months performance issues become apparent. Regardless of whether the issues started revealing themselves “on your watch” or if they have been ignored in the past, they can’t continue to be overlooked. Whether the issue is tardiness, absenteeism, low productivity, or any of several others, it is important to begin documenting the poor performance as early as it is detected. You should hold conversations with the employee to ascertain what could be driving this behavior. Ideally, something can be discovered that will rectify the current condition and put the employee back on a good path. If not, a record of these performance discussions might become extremely important. It is even possible, should things truly deteriorate, that these documents could find their way to a courtroom or other venue.  So, document well and write for a broader audience.

Make no mistake, your goal as a manager should be to turn around the employee’s performance and help her find her way back to a maximum level of productivity. So, while the reality of the matter is the exercise of documenting any and all performance conversations could become crucial at some future date, any manager’s first efforts should go toward trying to assist this employee. You want her to succeed and you need to find out why that is not happening.

Here are some simple steps to take to make the meeting with this employee as productive as possible:

  • Hold the meeting in private without distractions and interruptions.
  • Include a third party in the meeting who could be a good listener and help offer suggestions. This person can’t be someone who is viewed as threatening by the employee.  It could be someone from Human Resources or another manager. It is not a “representative” – that is, someone who is there to speak for her and negotiate. That is a different type of meeting.
  • Assure a comfortable setting. Coffee, soda, water – whatever. Everyone should relax a bit.
  • Introduce the meeting with a simple statement such as, “Molly, I have been concerned about some things and I wanted to talk it over with you and see if we can find a better path.”
  • Prepare and present examples of the poor performance.
  • Allow the employee ample time to respond. Let her speak without interruption. Even if what you hear sounds like excuses to you – let her speak and “get it out.”
  • Document what she is saying, taking good notes as she speaks, and summarize her comments back to her saying, “So, Molly, what I hear you saying is……”
  • Ask the employee for improvement ideas – what can she do to improve?
  • Close the meeting with at least one or two clear next steps that will be taken.
  • Agree to meet again and select the time for the next meeting right here while in this meeting. This allows little confusion as to timelines – we will meet again at this time to discuss progress on these issues.

Sound easy? Sometimes. Let’s hope that all she needed was some direction and a little nudge. If not, well, more on that in a future blog.