How to Help a Team Member Get Out of a Work Slump


Do you have a rock star team member who is stuck in a rut? It happens all too often, and few people know how to break out of it. So, what can you do to help your team member get out of their rut?

1) Understand the problem

How do you know if a team member is having a rough time and is in a work slump? Common signs include:

  • Increased client complaints
  • Frequent tardiness
  • Missing work a lot
  • Visible changes in attitude
  • Decrease in quality of work

Even the most motivated team members can have rough days and become disengaged. Sometimes, the reason for their work slump is obvious, other times not so much. You may never find the root cause, but you can try to better understand the team member. Try encouraging the team member to be introspective and evaluate what could be causing the rut. 1

2) Understand the levels of team member engagement

There are three levels of team member engagement:

  • Engaged: These team members are passionate about their work and feel a strong connection to the company they work for. About 30% of the workforce is engaged. 2
  • Not engaged: These team members basically “check out” while they’re at work. They go through the motions but aren’t actively involved in the company. About 53% of the workforce is not engaged. 2
  • Actively disengaged: These team members are more than unhappy and they make their unhappiness known to everyone around them. These team members undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish. About 17% of the workforce is actively disengaged. 2

Identify which level your team member is currently at, then begin to lead them toward a level of higher engagement. Start by helping them remember why they are at the company, how they contribute towards the growth and betterment of the company, and how they provide value to your clients. Sometimes we all need to step back from the daily grind and remind ourselves why we’re here. 1

Are there any upcoming projects or new responsibilities that the team member can take on that will help them reconnect with their passion and the reason they’re here? Most people want to grow and if they’re not getting that, or don’t see it happening in the future, they can fall into a rut. 1

3) Communicate regularly

Lack of communication can contribute to team members falling into a rut, therefore, improving communication in the workplace can increase engagement and help bring a team member out of a rut. A team member who is not engaged or is actively disengaged may think it’s okay to let down their boss if they feel like they’re just another pawn in the game. However, when you show them that you are partners in the process, you’re encouraging them to take accountability and ownership in their role.

It’s important to have regular conversations with your team, even if it’s just a quick high-five or informal chat in the hall. 1

4) Don’t rely on rewards, make sure you feed their needs

Rewards are great, but people need to be heard and understood, be meaningfully involved, and feel supported. These needs are important to recognize and address. Research shows that people are much more likely to stay with a company when they are intrinsically motivated in their position. These team members are given autonomy, have a say, are heard and involved, and they are trusted to run with their ideas. 1

5) Cultivate culture

“Culture is king.”
“Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

There are many different ways to say it, but the bottom line is: culture is crucial to the success of a company.

If the culture at your company is one that creates and allows social pain, such as the embarrassment felt when a leader criticizes a team member in front of the rest of the team, that’s the wrong kind of culture — it will have a negative impact on the entire group. Psychological safety has been shown to be the number one predictive indicator of high-performing teams.

Team members want to feel safe to take risks and ask questions in front of one another without the fear that it’ll hurt their career or relationships. 1

1 Employee stuck in a rut? How to get out of a work slump in 7 steps

2 The 3 levels of employee engagement and how they impact your bottom line

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