Good Employees Gone Bad

by Dave Goranson
Goranson Consulting, Inc.

In today’s working world, things have clearly changed and will continue to do so. Some of that is good. Some of that creates a unique set of challenges. The phrase used most often with me by my clients is: “Whatever happened to the person I hired?” And when drilling down with them further, the real message and concern was that a good-to-great employee was now suddenly off-track—big time. What happened? Why did it happen? How do I fix it?

All of these are great questions. And while there is no clear-cut answer at first, the common theme I run into the most is one thing: change. Something has changed, and it has created a significant challenge for the formerly good-to-great performer. You need to find out ASAP what that might be!

The types of change to look for that can impact performance are as follows:

  1. A new boss.
  2. A new focus for the organization or team, whether product, service, mission, etc.
  3. Cutbacks resulting in fewer employees, but the same amount of work to be done. Additional duties added on to what an employee already has on their plate.
  4. Personal impacts outside of work.

There is a vast array of other possibilities, but these are the key areas most often addressed in my role as a professional development coach. And it should not come as a surprise to anyone. Today’s employees, whether at the top, middle or bottom of the organizational chart, often feel that if they are asked to wear one more hat, they’re going to need a bigger hat rack. They are at their limits with stress, peaked on the hours they can work productively, and are now often doing things they: a) hate to do, or b) aren’t trained or equipped to handle properly and effectively.

New boss
A new boss always means change. If you are the new kid on the block and leading your team, how well do you know them? Realize and understand that the sooner they get to know you, your style, your clear expectations of them…the better. Now more than ever, people need to feel like more than just a cog in the machine. Build better relationships at work, and the better chance you will have of maintaining morale, productivity and focus with your people. In any study out there, pay has never been rated the No. 1 reason for dissatisfaction or disengagement. The key drivers have always been based on better, clearer communication and understanding of each other and what motivates us and makes us “tick.”

New focus
Okay, you’ve just changed something with regard to what your organization or team does, sells, works on, whatever. Did you have individual and team meetings to pre-plan and discuss? Did you conduct Q&A or town-hall style meetings with your people? If so, did you follow up with them afterwards to see how it really went and how they really feel? Is training needed? What are the expectations of them on Day One, Week One, Month One with this new undertaking or focus? What’s the plan?

Additional duties due to cutbacks
This is so common, yet handled so poorly so often, it’s amazing there are not more problems in the workplace than there seem to be right now. Almost every single organization out there has experienced this—a little or a lot. And while you may have no choice but to divide the work among your surviving staff, a few key points need to be considered and explored first.

Who might have the expertise, or even more importantly, the passion or interest for the new duties? Does it fit their thinking and learning style, their hard-wired behavioral traits and tendencies? It’s all about job fit and job match. The areas of thinking style, behavioral traits and interests are the building blocks for getting that right—if you know the answers to those. If not, you need to find out, as soon as possible. There are some great tools out there to help you figure that out, without just going with your gut. If I could pick the No. 1 area in which organizations miss the mark and as result, experience the good employee-gone-bad scenario, this is it!

Personal impacts outside of the workplace
This is happening to all of us. If we are experiencing massive change in our workplace, our friends and family are as well. It’s all connected. Don’t just assume that what may seem to be the rare “perfect workplace” is not actually filled with insecurities, fear and stress. Obviously, if people in our lives outside of work are going through what the vast majority of the world is experiencing, even if it has not occurred at your organization, the creeping fear that “it’s only a matter of time” is there like the white elephant in the room. Stop ignoring the elephant and address it head on—honestly, openly, regularly, in a genuine style true to you as a leader. Once again, this will help you build a much stronger and valuable working relationship with your team. And that is just another way to keep the good ones from going bad on you. iBi

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