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I'm a team lead and I have a team member who has a little more than an year's experience. He is basically smart and capable but he has been having an issue for couple of months and I have not been able to pull him out of that state successfully, so I'm asking here to may be get some ideas.

Our team has been under much work load, so I have not been able to properly strategize or give enough attention to each members morale. Hopefully we will be getting some new resources, but in the mean time I need each team member at their best, and I need to enable this particular resource who is not taking much interest in even high priority tasks assigned to him.

His main issue is that he does not find the main task of the team sufficient for skill building and learning. Well, our team's main task is of a certain nature, but there is that specific goal we have to reach to and then there are many ways to get to that and we have to constantly try to improve and find more ways of getting to that.

In order to keep him interested in his work I have assigned him different kind of tasks and taken away the task which he had originally gotten fed up with. The tasks I assigned him are all important, and have skill building capacity, each task involving different tool and techniques, but he has not really delivered much, some highly important tasks have not even been touched others are just being dragged , and some other tasks he delivers always have errors here and there so I always have to double check them before sending them to the client.

He and I have discussed his concern couple of times, and the answer from my side has been that I either assign him some tasks which are important for the team and require learning new stuff, I have also given him other kind of ideas to look into. I have also told him to let me know if he has any new ideas although he has not brought any.

To me looks like, he got burn out while working on his initial task which was not a productive task(still high priority for clients and has room for improvements). That task had been going on before I joined their team. Well, anyways it has been months that he has been moved from that task.

He has applied for masters studies, if he gets accepted then he will leave but its about 9-11 months till next MS batch starts. So he is for sure here for that much time.

How do I motivate him to be productive till he is here

  • I think it might be better for him and the team if he moves to a different team( well best scenario still is revival of his motivation...), but I can not bring myself to suggest that because if can seem like I am kicking him out or something...I do not know why he himself is not looking into other teams...well I guess he is looking forward to his MS plans – blackfyre Dec 1 '16 at 23:07
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    "and I need to enable this particular resource who..." If I ever heard myself or a co-worker being referred to as a "resource" by a manager, it would certainly make me think twice about the manager. – Prodnegel Dec 2 '16 at 0:30
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    @Prodnegel, well that's just a terminology thing. Mine is a non-English speaking country, and a company which works as an offshore office, "resource" is the term officially and openly used here, but employee do have proper rights and hardly ever get fired – blackfyre Dec 2 '16 at 0:44
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    "I think it might be better for him and the team if he moves to a different team" I agree with this. As a manager you need to make the best of your "resources", and this includes him. For the company I doubt that it matters where he is stationed, for as long as he helps the company move forward. So I see no reason not to discuss this with him and then afterwards other managers and departments. See what he enjoys doing untill his MS. – Migz Dec 2 '16 at 11:01
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    Sounds like a focus or even ADD issue. A lot of enthusiasm during the initial, faster moving and new/novel stages of work, but really poor follow-through, especially as one moves to the more tedious, detailed "loose end tie-up" portions of work, as well as completion. That attention to small details in terms of accuracy sounds like this too. Trying to find a task that will keep their attention to completion might be a futile endeavor, which might make this more an issue of expectations, formal discipline and required follow-through and updates to keep the person on track with the work assigned – PoloHoleSet Oct 10 '17 at 17:13
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If he's blown off multiple types of tasks for an extended period of time despite your repeatedly informing him that his performance is unacceptable, I think he's probably a lost cause and you should be thinking in terms of how to let him go instead. Depending on your level of authority, either fire him immediately or put him on a performance improvement plan and be ready to fire in the near future in the likely event that he doesn't improve, or build the documentation you need to have his line manager or HR do the same.

If he'd expressed a strong interest in joining a different team, I'd suggest letting him attempt to transfer over. Even then you'd need to make sure his potential new boss was aware of his recent performance problems; and was willing to take a chance on him. Playing pass the trash - as you seem to be considering - is a good way to burn your internal capital and reputation when the person you pass turns out to be a dud again and you didn't warn the recipient.

The fact that he's probably going to leave in a year anyway also leans towards firing him and hiring a replacement now. In the best case, if you can turn him around, you'll still need to hire a replacement within a year; at which point you're back to training up a junior staff member. And I'm skeptical that he is salvageable in any case.

  • I agree with what you said about firing, his stay is problematic. But in my country and especially in my office we do not have the firing culture. We do not fire unless something extremely drastic happens. You have to use the current resource under one project or another. – blackfyre Dec 2 '16 at 0:20
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    +1. If the employee is balking at tasks and mentioning that he'll be leaving, then it sounds like he's already written this job off. – Omegacron Jul 6 '17 at 15:13
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It would be beneficial to sit down with the employee and share exactly what you're feeling and sharing with us. Tell him that from your perspective, he is underperforming and you suspect that it may be because he is feeling burnt out. Ask him if this is the case or if there is another reason. Then work with him towards a solution where he can either be productive on your team, or (more likely, from the sounds of it) be productive on another team within your organization.

I've been in his position, your position, and the position of an observer a few times throughout my career, and it really is the best course for everyone to sit down and have the discussion as to how to maximize the output of the employee, even though it may be a difficult discussion to start. In the long term, you'll end up with an employee that's productive as well as an employee that now understands that his management is interested in him getting to a place that he's happy, instead of just 'saying' they want that.

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Find him a mentor and have them work together on projects. They can sit side by side when doing anything non-trivial.

This will keep show the employee what the work expectation is and also keep them on task. It may also improve the mentor's work as well.

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