Are employee problems festering at your organization or has a good employee “gone bad”? Recognizing whether certain controllable factors in the workplace are playing a role is key. Here are six (6) common causes of employee problems and ways you can manage these.
1. Stale job responsibilities
One of the major reasons that employees’ performance suffers is lack of self-motivation, which is usually most influenced by the work they do. An employee may become bored or disinterested in their work, especially if they’ve been doing the same job for awhile. To keep their jobs from becoming stale, consider ways to challenge all of your employees and keep their jobs interesting. Involve them on a new project. Create new goals. Cross-train them on a coworker’s responsibilities or give them a new responsibility. Add a new duty to each employee’s job description each year. Make professional development a requirement so that they keep developing new skills. Let them take initiative and lead a new project. We’re often quick to give these opportunities to managers, but extend the same invitation to your non-management staff.
2. Scarce rewards
Many employees are motivated by rewards, but consider whether the rewards you offer are meaningful enough to motivate high performance. For example, do employees feel that they have a good shot at receiving an incentive? If funds for incentives or pay increases are traditionally low and reserved for a small percentage of employees (and typically at the manager or leadership level), employees may believe that the rewards are not worth the extra effort. Additionally, how long has it been since you advanced an employee? Do employees believe that they have the opportunity to advance and develop in your organization? If your organization doesn’t share how people can advance or provide tangible steps and strategies to help your people advance, and makes advancement decisions in a vacuum without any transparency, you may be creating a host of motivational issues. Plus, scarce rewards can lend themselves to other issues like conflict, lack of teamwork, and unhealthy competition.
3. Inadequate training
Sometimes employees just haven’t had the right training or skills to do their job effectively and this gets overlooked in the hiring process. We may find that they don’t know how to do their job or parts of their job. They may have gaps in experience or knowledge that prevent them from performing well, or they may be scared or ashamed to admit that they need guidance to do certain tasks. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest performance problems to fix, because skills are usually trainable or coachable. Your job is to figure out what those gaps are and find ways to close them by recommending and coordinating training, coaching them through issues, and encouraging and making it safe for employees to ask questions if they don’t understand something. Similarly, employees may be in the wrong job for their skill set and need a better fit. Recognize the unique talents of each employee and put them where they will excel, if possible. As often as we work on employees’ weaknesses, it’s important to notice their strengths and how they can add value to our organizations. When employees are using their best skills and abilities, we encounter far fewer performance problems.
4. Not enough resources
Resources don’t just include supplies, equipment, and technology, but also time, people, and money. Lack of resources and increasing demands over an extended period of time can drain the energy and motivation out of your employees, leading to mistakes, errors, and missed deadlines and opportunities. If you suspect that lack of resources are preventing your employees from being successful, invest time in re-evaluating your (and their) priorities, re-distributing workloads, adding staff, and making efforts to ensure that they have all the right resources and support to do their job efficiently.
5. Personal problems
Many workplaces have the philosophy that employees should leave their personal problems at the door, but we all know that they seep into the workplace and affect performance. Child care issues, marital problems, grief and bereavement, illness or injury, and life changes may unavoidably lead to performance and attendance problems for our employees. Our workplace policies and management styles may not allow employees to take the appropriate time to deal with their issues or provide the support that our employees need. If we give our employees the tools and resources to manage their personal lives more flexibly via generous leave, flexible schedules, employee assistance programs, and supportive management, we generally find that employees can better manage their personal life and work results. You can still expect great results and hold employees accountable for high performance while treating them like the adults they are.
6. Missing the basics
Finally, be sure your organization excels at the basics. When the basics are missing, motivation and performance can really suffer. The basics include making sure that employees are treated respectfully, managed well, appreciated, compensated fairly, and provided with appropriate direction and communication. If any of these are lacking, the workplace culture can become a minefield of negative emotions created by employees who feel that they’ve been treated wrongly and undervalued. This undermines your efforts to create a high performance and productive work environment.
When we start exploring the nature and cause of our problems with employees, we usually find that one of these reasons is contributing to the issues and that there are effective ways to manage and fix them without jumping immediately to termination or disciplinary actions. As employers, we need to recognize how our workplaces contribute to problems with our employees and fix those core issues for the betterment of our organizations.
Learn more about our Supervisory & Leadership Training programs and courses here.