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Heidi Tillmanns

Handling Employees Whose Enthusiasm Has Faded

Crucial conversations are needed to resolve these issues.

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AH, THE ART OF recruitment: where one must master time, energy, and where a smidgen of sanity is sacrificed. You’ve finally cracked the code and welcomed that missing puzzle piece into your team. As they settle in, things are sailing smoothly. They’ve slid into their role, things are sizzling along, and even the learning curve seems more like a gently rolling hill. At the three-month probation review, both of you are still floating in that honeymoon bubble. You’re all grins; they’re all grins. The mutual decision: They’re staying and they’re stoked about it. Pure magic, right?

Fast forward another three months or even a calendar year. A tiny shift in their daily attitude appears to have changed. They’re not exactly discontented nor are they fumbling in their tasks, but something isn’t the same. You respect their privacy, letting any potential issue simmer behind closed doors. However, it’s slowly evolving into a puzzle you’re itching to solve. What gives? What’s the deal? Well, what you need is to have a conversation.

Yes, work and personal lives are like neighboring planets, each deserving its orbit. Personal matters can cast shadows on professional performance, and it’s your cue to seek insights. You don’t need a dossier on their personal affairs, but a brief glimpse can help you guide through the transitions. The magic lies in creating a place where they feel safe to speak. Your team dedicates substantial hours under your leadership, and understanding their struggles is leadership at its finest.

Recently, I sensed a shift in my new hire. Their smiles had dimmed and stress seemed to be their new sidekick. I’m all for an open-door policy, a space where they can chat about whatever they need to. It came to light that beneath their admiration for the organization and its leadership team lay a truth: The role wasn’t aligning with their expectations and they felt it wasn’t the best fit. Kudos to their courage and professionalism — it takes guts to voice this. I take pride in fostering an environment where employees can open up. While I want them to stick around, I won’t chain them to a desk they’ve outgrown. Their enthusiasm, creativity and stellar performance deserve a stage where they shine willingly.

These are my takeaways from these exchanges:

  • Farewell, Judgment Zone: Avoid shooting their feelings with a “You’re not supposed to feel that way” quip. This is their journey, not a critique session. Your role is to guide, not judge.
  • Building Bonds with Banter: To me, it’s about being available, approachable and personable. A sprinkle of humor and regular acknowledgments can turn everyday interactions into genuine connections.
  • Secrets Stay with You: Trust is a delicate thread. If you’re expecting them to share, you need to be a vault. Need to unload? Find a mentor, a friend, a punching bag — not someone else on your team.
  • Long Live the Conversation: Tough chats aren’t one-offs. Keep the dialogue alive with follow-ups and check-ins. If opportunities within the organization beckon, it’s a win-win. After all, career growth isn’t a solo journey.

As it turned out, my recruit simply needed a heart-to-heart. They valued the open dialogue and my support for whichever path they chose. As for me, I was glad they confided, as it allowed me to plan ahead instead of scrambling last minute to replace a much-needed resource. So, there you have it — a story of connection, a lesson in listening and a nod to empathy as the perfect recipe for a harmonious workplace.

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