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Sometimes, even employees who have a track record of excellent work can have bad days. But when bad days become bad weeks or even months, leaders should take the time to investigate. However, because it could be a sensitive situation, it may be best to take it slow and follow a few key steps.
Our founder and managing partner, Terry Tateossian, gives her take on the subject as well. You could read her opinion under number 1. Be A Human First
Below, seven leaders from Young Entrepreneur Council discuss some of the first steps they’d recommend taking when trying to figure out why a normally high-performing employee is suddenly off their game and what you can do to help them get back on track.
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Offer to take the employee out for coffee, dinner, lunch or maybe a spa day or some retreat. A different environment offers us the opportunity to connect and possibly lose the anxiety associated with work performance and daily stress. Honest conversations are always easier after a good meal and genuine connection as human beings. At the end of the day, the most important things we have are our people and our teams. Their health should be your top priority. As an extra special treat, give that person a few days off. They probably need it. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media
2. Start A Conversation Immediately
Once you notice something is different, you’ll want to have a one-on-one conversation with the high-performing employee. It’s our job as leaders to know our employees, be there through the good and the bad and help them navigate through the evolving times. Inform the employee you’ve observed them and state specific behaviors that make you concerned. Have an open conversation about how you can help. Oftentimes, employees are unaware, while other times they just want someone to listen. Always ask if they want advice or a listening ear before you jump in to try to solve the issue. Focus on how things can change for the better. – Nicole Smartt Serres, Star Staffing
3. Reevaluate Their Tasks
High performers are prone to burnout. Their productivity can also be their downfall, so it’s important to take a look at their tasks and find out what they are most passionate about. See if there is a way to leverage their focus to those core tasks so they can do those at 100% instead of the tasks that they start to underperform on. – Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.
4. Be Gentle And Understanding
When you notice an employee is off their game and not performing at their best, it’s important to hold space for what they might tell you. This is where compassion and understanding come into play. They might be going through something personal that’s taking a toll on their productivity, so it’s crucial to be gentle and understanding first and foremost. Their well-being matters more than anything, and to get to the root of the problem, you need to listen with open ears. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
5. Adopt A Personal Check-In Approach
Have an honest conversation. Don’t approach it from a “you’re slacking” perspective, but from more of a personal check-in perspective. We all have ups and downs and it could be something completely personal and unrelated to the job. However, it could also be a red flag that the employee is becoming disengaged. A high performer is usually self-driven and thrives on overachieving. So when this stops, there’s something bigger happening. The best thing is to discuss how things are going and pinpoint any potential issues such as personal issues, co-worker issues, burnout or anything else. The idea is to identify the problem and find a solution. They’ll also appreciate that you care enough to notice and to find out what the problem may be. – Maria Thimothy, OneIMS
6. Suggest Other Helpful Resources They Could Use
You can spend hours trying to think through what could be going on with them or trying to guide them back on track, but if you don’t know what the underlying cause of the change was, it will not be impactful. This is why building trust with your team members is so important, because in moments like these you need to have trust to be able to ask them if there is anything going on that is impacting work and if they are open to discussing it. If someone does not want to open up about what is causing the change, then suggesting other resources they can tap into (whether that be HR, a counselor, etc.) may be helpful. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
7. Show You Care By Asking The Right Questions
The best thing you can do is talk to the person. If you can’t go to lunch with them or sit and have a coffee or some wine, then simply sit down next to them and have a conversation. If an in-person meeting isn’t possible, then pick up the phone and talk to them. If they won’t give you any information, then make sure that you are doing the best you can to support them. They need to know they can trust you. It might be something simple like some miscommunication where they didn’t feel appreciated or something rubbed them the wrong way, or it could be something more serious. Show you care and ask the right questions, but be careful from an HR standpoint that you don’t ask something that you shouldn’t. – Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc