After reaching certain heights in their career, people sometimes lose that sense of purpose they had from when they first started out. This can happen due to a variety of reasons. But the most common reason is achieving a certain level or goal, and not planning any new goals afterwards. Having employees in this state of mind can have a negative effect in the workplace. You can recognize if an employee is going through this, by noticing the early signs. Be on the lookout for the following patterns of behavior:
- They disengage: When an employee is excited about work, they tend to go the extra mile. For example, you might notice new employees chiming in at staff meetings with their ideas. But once an employee loses interest, they may begin showing up late for work, missing meetings or calling in sick more frequently.
- They lose interest in keeping up: People who are interested in their careers make it a point to keep current on the latest news, industry trends and newest technologies. Be observant of your team’s habits. Are your employees reading the most current journals, attending conferences or sharing information on the latest technologies in their field? If not, find out why. Analyzing their answers might help you determine a solution.
- They don’t take the initiative: Be on the lookout for those employees who stop volunteering to take on new assignments. Their disinterest may indicate that they’re fatigued or burned out. Communication is the key to success for both you and your employees. It could be that their workload is too heavy for just one person to handle.
- They keep their ideas and opinions to themselves: When people are passionate about something, they have an opinion and like to share it. When one doesn’t care anymore, he or she settles, and stops coming up with new ideas, opinions or solutions. Having too many employees who are just going with the flow can be detrimental to your business.
At this stage, it is important to understand the underlying causes of this behavior. Keep in mind that there could be many reasons for an employee to suddenly start displaying these characteristics. But if the cause is related to work-stagnation, it must be dealt with swiftly and decisively.
Who’s to blame?
A sudden decrease in employee motivation is often caused by one of two sources. There is either a rebellion from below or a negative influence from above. Each situation is unique, and the manager’s task is to understand what exactly is happening within his team. The first step is to determine which of these two typical scenarios you are dealing with.
Rebellion from below
A negative mood in a team can often start with just one dissatisfied employee. This dissatisfaction could be caused by personal problems, as well as a lack of interesting tasks and development prospects. A competent leader can notice a decrease in motivation and enthusiasm not only of an entire team, but also of an individual. Early detection can make it much easier to understand and help the employee. But if this does not happen, one demotivated worker can begin to influence others.
The “depressed mole” in the collective constantly expresses his dissatisfaction with his salary, tasks or prospects to other colleagues. The employee causes them to constantly reflect and ponder whether or not they’re satisfied with their place in the company. In psychology, this process is called negative group dynamics. That is when one dissatisfied member in a cohesive team will eventually kill the motivation of the whole group.
Influence from above
Sometimes many or even most employees can lose their motivation all at once. These types of sudden changes are usually triggered by some action or decision made by the company leadership. Common reasons might be:
- You changed the company’s policy;
- The situation in the company does not improve;
- There are no new interesting projects;
- The company has a serious financial crisis, and management does not react to it (or employees do not see the reaction);
- There was a change of leadership, and the new bosses are in no hurry to establish good relations with the team.
These are the most common reasons for a steep decline in the motivation of an entire team. If the performance of the majority of your employees has recently plummeted, you can try finding the causes of discontent by conducting an anonymous survey.
It is easier to alleviate such situations when the “negative waves” are caused by the actions of executives. More often, employees begin to lose motivation due to the actions of the leadership. Certain actions from company leadership can worry employees, especially major changes in company policy or if there are plans for downsizing.
Create a sense of transparency. Share the forecast of the future. Even if your company is experiencing financial difficulties, explaining what you are doing to solve these issues will be good for your team. This will help them have a clearer view of what is going on and they will appreciate your honesty. If there is a change in the company’s policy, simply explain what reasoning was behind the decision.
A delicate situation for a close-knit collective is the arrival of new executives from the outside. Quite often, after the arrival of the new leadership, a complete “renovation” of the team takes place. If this is your decision as a new leader, be sure to make it quickly. Do not torment the old team with uncertainty. If you do not plan on forming a new team, inform your employees that their positions in the company are safe.
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