Wishes for a falling star

June 1, 1999

Pharmaceutical Representative

When you notice that a star employee is not performing like he or she used to, what should you do?

When you see a falling star in a clear night sky, you know to close your eyes and make a wish. But when you notice that a star employee is not performing like he or she used to, what should you do?

According to Jacki Keagy, human resources consultant for Personnel Decisions International, Minneapolis, it is important to listen and understand what motivates an employee. "Identify the barriers and explore solutions that will put him or her back on track," he said.

Catch a star

Keagy recommends that managers take three steps to re-energize a star performer: acknowledge change in performance, uncover the real issues behind the change and brainstorm solutions.

Acknowledge the change in performance. Let the employee know that you have observed a change in his or her performance level, and invite the employee to share his or her perspective of his or her recent performance. Be careful not to sound accusatory. This is also a good opportunity to highlight some of the employee's past achievements.

Uncover the real issues. What is the reason for the recent change? Help the employee determine the real issues underlying the performance problem. Is there something happening in the employee's personal life? If the issues are business-related, you can probably find a solution.

A change in performance may stem from incidents that caused hurt feelings or poor morale - such as being passed over for a deserved promotion. Other reasons may be based on skills. Is the employee resisting new technology or lacking the skills necessary to do the job? Also, the employee could be just plain burnt out or may no longer feel challenged.

Brainstorm solutions. Once the problems are identified, invite the employee to develop and implement solutions that address the specific problem. For example, if the problem is skills-based, consider setting up a special training session or partnering the employee with someone experienced in the area in which he is having trouble.

Solutions that address the "burnt out" employee may include giving new and more challenging assignments, providing help with the workload or offering vacation time. Expressing appreciation is also a powerful motivator.

"Managers need to think of themselves as resources for their employees," explained Keagy. "Managers are developers of talent. Successful managers apply their function as coaches and mentors to develop, motivate and re-energize their star employees." PR

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