At some stage, you may have had to deal with a staff member who is off their game. Their work is not up to scratch and their attitude has shifted. And quite often it’s one of your best performing employees.

There are a number of factors that may lead to disengagement from staff; such as:

  • Stressful work environment & burnout
  • Management issues
  • Staff conflict
  • Lack of recognition
  • External personal circumstances

Some of the warning signs that may indicate that you have a disengaged employee include:

Productivity has taken a hit
This could be a noticeable change in the quality of their work. The work they are producing is not up to their usual standards, tasks are taking longer to complete than they normally do, and there appears to be no care from the employee.

Withdrawn from others
Someone who is normally quite an outgoing person, always involved in water cooler discussions or actively participating in meetings may now seem distracted, disinterested and not willing to speak up or contribute.

Increase in absenteeism
Staff taking an unusual amount of leave and consistently calling in sick is a red flag that can’t be ignored. This might not be directly related to work, however, the flow on effect of having someone who is unreliable leads to missed deadlines and can also affect other team members, leading to resentment.

Change in attitude
They may start to appear more negative and frustrated. Perhaps, by things that have never affected them that way in the past. They may be missing deadlines, not turning up to work on time, taking longer lunch breaks and showing a general lack of interest in being at work.

Whole team culture has shifted
A disengaged staff member can disrupt your whole team if not addressed early on. You can be sure that other staff are also noticing the changes in behaviour and if they aren’t seeing any actions taken to address this, it can start to cause resentment and dissatisfaction across the whole team.

So, what do you do? The most important thing is to address it as soon as possible. You cannot sweep it under the rug and hope that they will eventually sort themselves out and everything will go back to normal.

Bring them in for a one-on-one meeting to check in. Tell them you have noticed a change in their behaviour and that you want to talk it through to find a solution.

Some different options that you could explore, for an agreed period of time, are:

  • Shorter work hours – could you change their work hours from a full day to a half or reduced day? This might allow for them to be able to attend outside commitments that have them currently distracted.
  • Review their current workload – Go through what their current workload looks like with them. Are your expectations too high? Are they close to burnout? Do you need to reallocate some of their workload to allow them to catch up?
  • Alter start/finish times – Review their current start and finish times and alter them if needed. Do they need extra time in the morning? Would they prefer to work later into the day? Explore these options. It could be as simple as allowing them to start work one hour later which then changes everything for them.
  • Change in their environment – Is the current work environment not conducive to them performing well? Could working from home be an option? Or perhaps a combination of onsite/offsite work?
  • EAP (Employee assistance program) – Do you have an EAP offering that you can put them in touch with? Having someone external to talk to can help employees to deal with work-related and personal issues that may be affecting their performance and productivity without the fear of judgement from their manager or colleagues.

How should you approach the conversation?

  • Be prepared. Don’t go into the meeting without a plan of what you need to address, and if possible, have some ideas/options that can be discussed in the meeting.
  • Be friendly and approachable, this will encourage them to engage in open and honest conversation with you.
  • Pay attention to their body language and how they are receiving the message. If you think you need to take a break, do it. Don’t force a meeting with someone who is not in the right head space.
  • Show genuine empathy; make sure they feel like they have been understood and heard.
  • Keep an open mind to what they are saying and listen to their point of view.
  • Ensure you are meeting in a comfortable and private space. Don’t do it via email or phone; face-to-face contact is crucial.
  • Follow up and continuously check in; ongoing communication is essential in arriving at a successful outcome and returning to having a productive and engaged employee.

For all your Human Resources advice, call 03 5331 1734 to book your free Inspire HQ People Hour.
For more information, visit our Human Resources page.

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About The Author
Taryn Heinrich

Taryn’s passion is working with businesses and individuals to bring out their best. Taryn developed her HR generalist skills working on investigations, strategic planning, employment contracts, and developing and implementing HR policies and procedures.

Working closely with your business and employees, Taryn has a distinctive talent for setting people up with the tools they need to do their job safely and helping your business operate successfully. If you need help with anything HR related, Taryn is your go-to person!

On the weekend, you’ll find Taryn spending time with her family and friends – she’s always the first to arrive and the last to leave.

For more useful information, follow Taryn on LinkedIn.

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