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You’re a leader, and one of your employees isn’t engaged. What do you do?

It’s a common situation for leaders, who are faced with many options.

You can talk to the person, pair them with a high performer, give them an incentive, or try various other strategies.

I polled my followers about this situation, and the vast majority (85%) of the nearly 2,000 responses said to talk to the person.

Find out what’s going on in the employee’s life–maybe they’re experiencing stress at hope that is distracting them from work, maybe they are unclear about the expectations at work, or maybe they don’t like the projects they’ve been assigned.

Before you can help them become more engaged, you have to build a relationship and get to the root of the problem. An employee likely isn’t engaged for no reason. They could be uninterested in the work, struggling with an assignment, or feeling stressed outside of work. But you don’t know that if you don’t talk to them. You can’t create a solution without understanding the problem.

Lots of commenters noted the importance of not just talking to the employee but listening. A one-sided conversation where the person feels they are in trouble can cause them to shut down and get defensive, but a conversation where the leader listens to the employee can help them open up and work together to help the employee become more engaged. That conservation doesn’t have to happen in an office, but can be on a walk or over a cup of coffee.

I love what one commenter, Karen Zeigler, said: “People engage when they feel they have value to add or when they feel that the value they add is appreciated. So listen to them. Seek to unlock their value and watch their engagement grow by leaps and bounds.”

Talking with an unengaged employee doesn’t have to be lengthy or heavy. Start with one of these prompts:

  • “What do you enjoy most about your job? What frustrates you?”
  • “Do you feel you’re playing to your strengths at work?”
  • “Is there anything outside of work that’s impacting your performance?”
  • “Tell me about your current workload. Do we need to make any changes?”

As a leader, you’re sure to face employees who aren’t engaged. The community consensus is clear: talk to them, listen, and work together to improve their situation and engagement.

. . .

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