Watch for Signs an Employee Is Struggling

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

At times even a high performing employee can hit a wall.  It may not be evident at first, even to the employee. In time, however, they will exhibit changes in their behavior and attitude quite different from their usual self.  That’s a signal to managers or supervisors that something is wrong and they need to take action to ameliorate the situation.

Often employees are reluctant to admit there is a problem or that they need help because they are concerned it will reflect badly on their performance.  The more conscientious they are, the more likely they will try to resolve the problem on their own.  Over time, that may simply compound the problem.  It may be the employee is feeling overwhelmed by work or personal issues or both.  They may be suffering from burnout due to project demands and long work hours.  They may be losing interest in their work or feeling disengaged from the firm’s goals and mission. Or, they may be dissatisfied with their current position and are thinking about leaving the firm.

Whatever the case, there are certain telltale signs to let you know the employee is struggling with their current situation:

  • The employee has become less communicative, does not contribute during meetings, is more reserved, and is slow to respond to others’ communications.
  • The employee seems distracted, disorganized, and their productivity has begun to drop. There is a notable decrease in their creativity or ability to resolve problems.
  • The employee’s work hours become more erratic, absenteeism and tardiness increase, as do requests for time off for medical or personal appointments.
  • The employee shows little interest in their work or in engaging with co-workers.
  • The employee often seems irritated, short-tempered, and gets upset over minor details, small mistakes, or interpersonal conflicts.

Any one of these behaviors may not indicate cause for concern, but several, especially if they continue for a period of time, warrant intervention.  Let the employee know you are aware of the change in their behavior and invite them to share what is troubling them.  Offer to help alleviate the problem in whatever way seems appropriate, such as reducing their workload, giving them time off to deal with personal issues, or varying their assignments to make their work more challenging and engaging.  It often does not take much to resolve the issue, get things back on track, and avoid losing a valued employee.

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