Numb Employees

10346000_sI wanted to share a recent discussion that I had with a past team mate of mine. We were discussing how teams can get into a funk. To describe what “funk” means – the team was struggling with meeting expectations, teamwork was low and overall morale was even lower. Team mates were calling out, coming in late and going through the motions. It was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

Brainstorming the causes of the “funk” were fun (we have a solid case study).

  • Unclear expectations
  • Performance issues not being addressed
  • Poor communication up and down the management chain of command
  • Command and control structure – where everything is forced downward.
  • Policy changes mandates without proper change management for buy-in
  • Director intimidation
  • Undefined training of new hires – some new hires started without communication to shift supervisor.
  • Total lack of “we” in any communication.

I remembered a TedxHouston talk by Brene Brown on The Power of Vulnerability. The link takes you directly to the part of her talk that hits home with why the team was in the “funk” and not doing well. She talks about, if you are numbing yourself emotionally to something that bothers you, you have to numb yourself on all other levels as well. 

I truly believe that because of some of the actions that were being forced onto the team, each person was numbing themselves from the negative feelings and just going about attempting to do their job (without feeling). My goal when I took the team was to turn this around… my highest priority was not to “motivate” anyone. That, I knew, was a given. I felt that getting top performance out of my “team” was to remove any irritants that might force them to “numb up” and drop their preferred ultra-high performance level in order to survive my work environment. 

What did I (and the team) do:

  • I listened to each team member individually communicate to me what was good, bad and ugly.
  • I started to remove some of those bad and ugly irritants that I felt I had control over.
  • I acted as a buffer for my team. I felt it was extremely important to demonstrate that I was in this with them and we will get to the right level of success together.
  • We measured our performance daily! We discussed what we did well and how we could get better.
  • We started to get some fun back into the work environment.
  • With help from my team, we put together some straw man plans to review with management on proposed training and organizational development.

Overall performance was up! Morale was getting better, there was now laughter and visible teamwork among the team. Negative feedback from customers was not coming in as fast as before. The key indicators were moving in the right direction!

Look for those causes that could be numbing your team and putting them in a “funk.” You have to remember that no one can selectively numb one item. Ask your team was is up. Listen to them and don’t get defensive. Work together to make it better. Work on it everyday! The team will start to trust each other move.

Good Luck!

Image via: Copyright: andreykr / 123RF Stock Photo

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