This article was originally posted on November 9, 2016, and has been updated.
“I’m done.” If an employee is telling you this, it means she has reached her limit. For one reason or another.
It could have nothing to do with low morale, lack of opportunity, or a dislike of her job.
She may be ready to move up, move on or begin a new chapter in her life.
All perfectly reasonable reasons to leave a position.
However, she may have shut down or become apathetic. Or maybe she is sucking the life out of her co-workers by being negative day in and day out.
Also known as a “dead wood employee”.
Consider this Oxford dictionary definition of “dead wood”: “People or things that are no longer useful or productive.”
For leaders, does this mean that it’s impossible to motivate an employee who has either become uninspired, unproductive or uncooperative?
Not necessarily.Four key considerations when determining if an employee is in fact “dead wood,” or if you—as their leader—can do more to inspire them. Click To Tweet
While there is little doubt that a lack of motivation manifests in various forms, there are often underlying issues that can be addressed positively and proactively.
When an employee stops producing on the job and/or creates havoc for supervisors and team members, it is critical for leaders to get to the source of the issue.
With the following four key thoughts in mind, you can determine if someone is in fact a dead wood employee, or if you—as their leader—can do more to inspire them:
1. “Usefulness” is a primary motivator for employees.
Organizations place an enormous focus on attracting great people.
But once they’re on board, less attention is given to creating an environment where people want to stay.
When an employee receives genuine acknowledgement for their contributions, they feel motivated to continue making a difference.
Many people become dissatisfied in their jobs because being heard, valued, and acknowledged is a lower priority than the work itself.
2. Practice preventative maintenance.
For the most part, a decline in employee motivation and productivity isn’t a sudden, isolated occurrence.
There may be myriad factors to attribute to a performance slump, attitude shift, or discontentment.
When we’re attuned to our team members’ concerns and invest in building trusting relationships, we are positioned to get to the heart of the issue.
Leaders who are aware of the impact of organizational change on their teams, who anticipate reactions, and take proactive steps to communicate changes in advance can mitigate negative employee responses.If the opportunity exists to re-energize and re-engage an employee, conversations regarding performance problems require planning, skill, and objectivity. Click To Tweet
If the opportunity exists to re-energize and re-engage an employee, conversations regarding performance problems require planning, skill, and objectivity.
It’s important to create a dialogue, rather than perform a monologue.
3. “Dead Wood” scenarios aren’t black and white.
Not all “dead wood” should be perceived as “useless wood.”
A high performing employee can lose motivation and passion for a variety of reasons.
These include corporate takeovers, changes in leadership or job function, relocation, economic downturn, or a difficult personal challenge.
As a result, he or she may feel uninspired and disheartened to the point where productivity halts and absenteeism increases.
A leader who understands the impact of unexpected events (whether personal or business related) can practice patience and offer support and guidance.
4. Know when to let go.
There is a big difference between people who have problems and people who are problems.
It’s a mistake to place all unmotivated employees in the same basket.
Individuals who fall into the first category may not remain permanently uninspired. With the right support and encouragement from a leader who motivates them, they may reconnect with their vocation.
Individuals in the “are problems” category are a different case altogether.
They have disconnected entirely and have the potential to destabilize or poison the work environment.
In addition, resentment can builds among high performing employees when a “no accountability” culture becomes permissible.
A leader must take action to prevent “dead wood” situations.
Leadership inaction in dead wood situations can have immeasurable consequences on productivity, morale, and the bottom line.
Developing acuity regarding an employee’s specific motivation problem, along with implementing a solution, is possible.
Let it start with you.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a passionate leader who guides with heart and soul, let’s get in touch!
You can learn more about my consulting and coaching services here.
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