“That’s just the way it is.” Ever said those words to an employee?
A friend recently admitted she’s started looking for a new job. She’s been with her company for a little over a year. She loves what she’s doing, has a strong work ethic and takes great pride in her work. Because the organization is based in Ireland, communication has been a challenge from the start, albeit one she was aware of when she took the job. The problem is, her team includes a couple of Irish co-workers, and one in particular is difficult. He skips meetings, doesn’t communicate with the team, consistently misses deadlines and is unapproachable (condescending of Americans).
Delays are leading to frustration and unnecessary last minute adjustments for the whole team. A mature, experienced worker, this friend has addressed the problem with her boss several times. The response is always the same, “he’s been there a long time and that’s just the way he is.”
Many companies have rigid procedures and stick to systems that have proven successful in the past. But sticking with employees who frustrate entire teams can lead to apathy and/or create high turnover.
When frustrating situations are beyond an employee’s control, several things happen. The affected employee might just give up and take on the same apathetic attitude: “No one else seems to care. Why should I?” Good employees with strong work ethics and a deep sense of pride in their work are more likely to leave than to deal with the stress or attach their names to substandard work.
Are you managing frustrated workers?
Frustration in the workplace is often quiet. Great employees struggle every day from diverse causes:
- Difficult or unmotivated co-workers
- Being micromanaged
- No clear vision or future plans from leaders
- Poor communication
- Lack of progress on a project
- Growing workloads with no end in sight
Frustration is an inherently unstable state, cautions a cnbc.com article. A frustrated employee may be hesitant to speak up. Or maybe they have spoken up and feel no one is listening or responding …
The same cnbc.com article suggests that employees will respond in one of three ways—usually in 12 months or less:
- Break through the barriers. Some employees will find ways to work around the situations that bar their progress or frustrate them in other ways (i.e., they will find a way to make their high motivation levels match their work).
- Decrease their own motivation. They will reduce efforts to match their limited opportunities and support (i.e., they will stop trying so hard).
- Leave. High-performing employees may be unable or unwilling to reduce their own effort. The only way for them to correct the mismatch between their motivation and the work environment they’re in will be to look for a job somewhere else.
Keys to quickly managing a frustrated, but valuable employee:
- Listen without minimizing, cajoling or threatening, suggests leadershipfreak.blog
- Thank them for speaking up—even if it should have happened sooner. Better yet, notice frustration on your own and reach out to the employee first.
- Stay calm
- Investigate the issue on your own
- Identify solutions or compromises. When possible, get input and suggestions from the employee.
- Stay involved in the results of your solution by checking back with the frustrated employee (or others involved)
Listen to frustrated employees, especially those who are or have been highly productive in the past. Their frustrations might point out weaknesses in your organization. Calmly get to bottom of the frustration and move to resolve it, before they lose momentum or jump ship.