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How To Help Your Struggling Employee

Tasks vs People

As a leader, you are probably highly skilled at accomplishing important tasks. It’s likely that this skill has played a large part in your career development and has helped you accomplish many of your goals.

There is one problem though, to put it in the words of a popular television series: “all magic comes at a price.”

The price of being a well-oiled task completion machine is that one might focus on the results too much. It may be the case that your drive to succeed, to clear the next hurdle, or to finish the next project is resulting in feelings of alienation and insignificance for your employees.

Even if you tend to stay in the trenches with your head down, you are certain to face times when you notice an employee struggling with a task or assignment, or just their attitude in general - and you have to decide what you are going to do about it. Sometimes you have to let your task-oriented focus take a backseat to a more people-oriented approach.  

Here are 3 strategies that you can implement to help struggling Millennial employees:

  • Be transparent about issues. Don’t hint that you see something off, say it directly in a non-accusatory manner. This is the old axiom, you share first, then other people will share with you.

Your honesty will encourage their vulnerability.

  • Once you have encouraged discussion, ensure you validate their concerns and their efforts to overcome the situation. This could be a personal problem or could be a work problem - either way as a human, you’ve been through struggles of your own, and you should be able to empathize. Maybe you have advice… or maybe you just listen.
  • Finally, even if you perceive it as an unremarkable issue, make a plan with the employee to rise above and make progress overcoming the struggle. Remember, conquering obstacles together is the key to creating a tight-knit, winning culture. 

And you’ll be the hero.

Equip your team with resources such as counseling and/or mentorship as possible to solve problems beyond your capability.

Think about these steps as you approach conversations and remember to put the person ahead of the project.

People > Tasks

The Harvard Business Review published a few strategies to implement when assisting a coworker cope during a crisis, and many of the solutions here can be modified to fit the leader-employee dynamic.

Nothing will make your team feel more marginalized, more quickly, than to make it known that your primary concern is a result. Common wisdom says “you are here to do a job and that job is priority number one,” but the truth is that unless you are in the unlikely scenario that this one project is actually a make-or-break for your organization, valuing the individual is far more likely to be effective.

What I mean is that the project, the revenue, or the outcome should always take a back seat to the relationship.

If you are holding a young Millennial team hostage to results and using what are essentially the scare tactics of anger, sanction, and shaming, you will suffer long-term losses

Losses in morale, losses in employees and talent (turnover), losses in productivity and engagement, and ultimately, losses in brand sentiment and revenue.

In an article for Inc.com, human capital specialist Michael Schneider describes encouraging words as a powerful tool to enhance performance and motivation and shares some insight into why many bosses refuse to do it anyway.

I will continue to say it because it will continue to be true: it is no accident that we use the word “invest” when we talk about taking the time to help the next generation grow and succeed.

It is an investment, and if you steward that investment well, it will pay large dividends.

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