Can you reignite an old flame? Absolutely. But it's going to take some work.
Stand-out employees have a few things in common: They are passionate about what they do and who they work for. And they genuinely want to see their employers do well, they respect their management team, and they strive to outperform themselves each day. Needless to say, these types of people are incredibly hard to find.
Those first few weeks on the job are like the honeymoon stage in a relationship. Both parties are optimistic, excited, and determined to make things work. They happily take on new projects and request critical feedback. It’s basically every leader’s dream come true.
Then time goes by, and something starts to shift. The employee who used to stay late is now out the door as soon as the clock strikes five. You notice more eye rolls. More resistance to new projects, and more errors in their work.
It’s clear that the drive and passion they once felt is dwindling, if not lost completely. So the real question is, can you reignite it or do you cut your losses and start looking for replacements?
Before you contact your recruiter, take a breath. There are some strategies you can implement in the short term to see if the employee is willing to make it in the long term. Here are five simple initiatives to try and bring back that lost job love.
1. Start the re-interview process.
Remember when you first interviewed the employee? You asked about their achievements, challenges, and goals. You found out what they like to do for fun, where they studied in college, and what they’re looking for out of an employer. It was the foundation for a great professional relationship to flourish.
Part of the reason your staff may feel less engaged is that you’ve stopped engaging with them. When they feel like their leadership team actually cares about them and their well-being, they’ll feel more invested in their role.
Ask to go for a coffee with the employee and start to pry. Be a sounding board and listen without interruption. Be prepared that they may have some negative things to say, but you’ll at least have all of the information you need to see how best to navigate a new path.
2. Stop emailing.
Emailing is isolating. Plus, it can be interpreted in a hundred different ways, many of which may be the furthest from the sender’s intent. Despite sitting a foot away from one another, we still email rather than just ask face-to-face.
Break this bad habit. Consider implementing a mandatory email-free afternoon. This will force staff to talk to one another. Even picking up the phone for an actual conversation that’s not typed out in text can do wonders for creating new bonds. Feeling alone may be part of the reason your employees feels disengaged from their role, so start fostering opportunities to build office friendships.
3. Trade places.
Sometimes, a little perspective is all people need to appreciate the role they have. This can be an eye-opening experience and perhaps even a humbling one. The grass may always seem greener on the other side, but in reality, sometimes it’s just a pile of dirt.
If your employee has lost their passion or is bored with their current responsibilities, consider having them shadow someone else in another department. This could do either of two things: make them appreciate what they have, or spark interest in a new role. Both will work in your favor.
4. Give out high fives.
Ask yourself this question: Would you be passionate about a job when your manager never acknowledges your hard work? Taking your employees for granted is a surefire way to deplete their passion.
When you notice they’re doing something well, contributed a great idea in a meeting, or hit their sales targets, personally thank them. Better yet, give them a high five and pat on the back for a job well done.
5. Level with them.
Being a leader is all about having tough conversations. So, when you notice an employee’s performance is dropping and their creativity has hit a wall, you have to be honest and upfront.
Transparency is a skill that leaders don’t use nearly enough. Write down all of the things you’ve noticed have changed, from their demeanor to their work efforts. Then, give them the floor. They may tell you that they’re bored, or even that they’re looking for new work. Or they may have something happening in their personal life that’s affecting them professionally.
These conversations will allow both of you to figure out what the next move should be, and whether their passion is something that can be rediscovered.