Even with their college days behind them, many employees fall victim to the sophomore slump. The honeymoon phase is over, and work isn’t as fresh and exciting as it was during their first days on the job.
"Many times new employees enter the workplace during their first year aggressive and motivated; they knock it out of the park going 100 mph," Tom Gimbel, founder of staffing firm LaSalle Network, writes in Fast Company. "Then year two comes along and they ease their foot off the pedal, slow down, and hit a lull."
Employees who are stuck in a rut don’t have to go it alone. Managers play a key role in motivating star performers whose morale is heading south.
The first step in tackling a slump is to acknowledge the problem and communicate with the lethargic colleague. "A slump never just happens: The first thing to do is find the cause," business technology writer Minda Zetlin tells Inc. A slump could result from trouble at home, or a grudge with a colleague. Once managers root out the cause, they’ll likely know what action to take, Zetlin says.
6 ways to get out of a rut
Once managers understand the issue, there are certain steps they can take to support employees who are in a funk. Gimbel offers six tips:
- Schedule face time: Don’t assume employees will come out of a slump on their own. Check in to discuss current projects and future goals.
- Move desks: A burnt out employee can be reinvigorated by an enthusiastic worker who sits at the next desk.
- Mix up the mundane: It’s unrealistic to expect different results when you do the same things over and over. Try new meeting times or communication methods.
- Offer training: Encourage and pay for employees to attend classes and workshops in their field.
- Celebrate small wins: Showing small signs of appreciation keeps employees engaged.
- Re-evaluate: If changes like afternoon meetings instead of morning ones don’t work, or they make matters worse, don’t be afraid to go back to the old ways.
Even the best performers hit a wall from time to time, but it’s often a temporary situation, Peter Economy, author of "Managing for Dummies," tells Inc. Managers should be supportive, but not overbearing for employees in a slump. "This is not the time to start micromanaging his or her every move and questioning every decision," he says.
Sophomore slump is a deceptive term. Lack of motivation isn’t unique to second year employees. Managers who recognize when employees of any tenure are feeling unmotivated can help spur the comeback of the year.