There has been a palpable sense of stress creeping into offices in recent years.  People do not smile.  Nerves tend to be frayed.  Managers and support staff appear to be mid marathon, getting in early, working through all breaks and staying well beyond the end of a normal day.  Amazingly, productivity is slipping and even simple tasks remain undone.

It really should not be a shock, wild activity and rushing around does not equate to productivity.  You may actually have cynical, disengaged and underproductive employees on your team and you need to figure out how to handle the problem.  Discipline is not the answer, particularly if this is an employee or several employees who manage to normally be quite productive.  Is it burnout?  Is the team overwhelmed?

Loss of productivity can stem from too much work, a feeling of dissatisfaction with repetitive tasks or an employee simply may not feel challenged.  The question is, how you deal with waning productivity before it has a chance to develop into a full-fledged epidemic?

If a member of your team feels they are not challenged by repetitive tasks, consider changing things by assigning challenging tasks with attainable outcomes and expectations.  It is important that both the goal and deadline be set in stone because the employee will regulate their work to meet your goals.  Think of it in terms of assigning an employee the task of building buzz and sales associated with a particular product, knowing the goal will keep the employee attuned to that goal.  Apathy and disinterest will fall by the wayside.

The best team is a team that is eagerly making suggestions, offering ideas and collaborating with one another to meet and tackle obstacles.  This is a team that is excited about work at and the prospect of the future.  It makes sense that when an employee is feeling the strain of too much work, he or she will pull away from team activity.  Expected behavior includes refusal to communicate, offering few trail blazing ideas and he will not even ask you questions.

Pulling your team member back from the edge can seem difficult but you can work on improving the situation by asking what it will take to make them want to “stay.”  Make a conscious decision to talk to the team members on their respective hire dates, engage them in a meaningful way and let him or her know that you do want to make work meaningful.  Take what you learn from the conversations and use it to make work better by streamlining if someone explains that a particular process is overly complicated.  If an employee explains that he or she is now tired of dealing with telephone customer complaints, offer an opportunity to help build a better experience for customers.  In short, find a way to break through the walls that are overwhelming everyone.

It is important to understand that disengagement does not discriminate.  The only factor that changes is what drives an employee over the edge.  Are they playing catch-up because they have grown bored by the grind?  Is productivity being stalled by team members who feel the process is too difficult to complete?  No matter the ultimate cause of disinterest, the resolution can be found in creative problem solving and posing questions!

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